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March 31, 2015

Super-salad me

Courtesy hiren.info

Courtesy hiren.info

Call me the Morgan Spurlock of the UMass crowd, only substitute McDonald’s with vegetables, and 30 days with seven. That’s right, for a whole week, I went vegan.

In an attempt to broaden my culinary horizons, I thought it would be interesting to live my life as a vegan for a week. I never thought that this idea was going to endanger my sanity.

And I didn’t even get amazing psychic powers. It’s not my fault I didn’t have the money for Vegan Academy.

Part of the idea came from all of the food documentaries I have watched recently. Without going into too much detail, most of what we put in our bodies is absolutely disgusting and comes from vile, putrid places. Yet, I’m a hypocrite, and many of us are. We know where this food comes from, and how it’s inhumane to animals, but still eat it – mostly because it tastes good. Hey, out of sight, out of mind.

The rules sound simple enough. If it looks good, you probably can’t eat it.

Joking aside, a vegan cannot eat any product that comes from or is made of an animal. No one was holding me to this, but being stubborn beyond belief, I wasn’t going to give up easily. Spending money on food was out of the option, as well. If I’m paying $2,000 a semester for food, then I’m going to get my money’s worth.

I frequent Franklin Dining Common, and when I actually paid attention to what I was grabbing, the results weren’t as good as expected. Almost everything from the entree line, the pasta bar, the grill and the pizza bar had milk or eggs in it. My options were severely limited; a person can only eat so many salads. It was also no help that I can’t stand the only three dressings I could actually eat.

What really was confusing to me was the vegetarian section. Almost all of the items contained milk, which works for vegetarians, but being vegan, I couldn’t touch them.

I found over and over again that I was forcing down the same bland salads with no taste, eating the same cereals with soy milk, or grabbing starch-filled items. When you’re forced to abide by certain rules, you really pay attention to what you are grabbing. I just wish there were more options. It didn’t help that I’m a picky eater…

Because I didn’t get the fatty acids I needed, or direct sources of protein, I was constantly hungry. I did frequently visit the gym, but not enough to be consistently starving all day long. And truth be told, I didn’t want to keep stuffing my face with green leaves or more bread. With the exception of a few items, I really did not enjoy any of the food. My brain and tongue have been programmed to enjoy the things that are horrible for me.

I’m pretty sure at one point I went through a bacon withdrawal. The scent of the glorious bacon was taunting me, plaguing my mind slowly.

Of course a trip to the store would have solved all of the problems – no offense, but UMass isn’t an ideal place for vegans to dine. When presented with the many choices tailored to vegans, personal shopping is most likely to make the chore that much easier.

I learned that I needed to be crafty. I grabbed things I actually could eat and blended them with other items, and I found that with some creativity, some delicious vegan items could be made.

I would have liked to say that I got a complete vegan experience, but that’s definitely far from the truth. I’m pretty sure I ate cereal with soy milk and salads every day – not exactly revolutionary. I didn’t even notice a change in my health, I didn’t feel any different, but I probably didn’t do it right either.

This isn’t to say I didn’t pull anything away from all of this. Soy milk grew on me in a way, and so did a few items from the vegetarian section. I guess it doesn’t hurt to eat healthy.

I’m not calling out vegans. It’s pretty respectable that some people have the willpower and smarts to pull it off. It’s just not for me in any way at all.

I ended my madness with a midnight run to Taco Bell, my Nirvana. It’s healthy enough. Besides, it’s not that bad, it’s only 36 percent meat.

Tim Jones is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at timothyj@student.umass.edu.

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