Vegan in the Deece (Vassar’s Dining Hall)

The Deece: the hub of Vassar College’s dining scene. Officially deemed the All-Campus Dining Center, abbreviation-centric students first shortened the name to ACDC, then further reduced it to Deece after realizing that in the whirwind of college life, time spent pronouncing extra syllables serves as time wasted. In my last post regaling my transitional eating experiences during the first two weeks of freshman year, I briefly mentioned the surprising bounty of vegan options available in the Deece, though have now decided to expand upon Vassar’s veg-friendliness with an insider’s tour of its main dining hall.

Upon entering the Deece, the vegan-minded student finds his or herself among an array of stations, each boasting food of a certain theme or category. Turn to the right and they may partake in freshly baked bread, as well as two varieties of soup that rotate daily, one of which always satisfies a vegan’s needs. Journey to the left and they can pile a plate high with the aromatics (such as garlic and ginger), veggies, leafy greens, tofu, legumes, and/or whole grains of their choosing, then stir-fry it all in their personal wok on individual gas burners. Along the back wall, an entirely vegan station provides hearty salads of beans and whole grains, as well as warm dishes like ratatouille; a hot foods bar dependably includes freshly simmered beans and brown rice; and a veggie station offers a plethora of delightfully roasted or sauteed vegetables. On their way to the communal seating area, vegans shan’t forgo the mixed greens, raw veggies, chickpeas, mung bean sprouts, tofu, cold-roasted beets, and hummus available at the well-stocked salad bar.

Even if I don’t want to enjoy a stir fry on a particular night, I always head to the station to choose from an even wider array of vegetables than available at the salad bar, including kale, broccoli rabe, baby white turnips, and zucchini.

My lovely model Kain displays the individual burners.

Kain is thrilled to find a white bean and potato salad at the vegan station tonight! I recently enjoyed a tangy salad of chickpeas, red onions, and cucumbers, as well as a succulent stew of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and onions.

The hot foods bar serves as a great place to provide bulk to a vegan meal.

Elle shows off my personal favorite station, chock full of brightly colored vegetables every night.

At the veggie station, I’ve enjoyed gingery roasted beets, broccoli sauteed with lemon, peppery and meltingly tender roasted butternut squash, steamed spinach and swiss chard, summer squash sauteed with dill, sweet corn, and roasted brussels sprouts–the king of all roasted vegetables.

Always eager to incorporate raw veggies into my meals, I partake in some form of salad every night, though I’ve not yet discovered a vegan dressing available that doesn’t include sugar or other questionable ingredients.

Last night’s heaping Deece meal consisted of ginger roasted beets, purple kale, steamed broccoli, mixed salad greens, brown rice, mung bean sprouts, and chickpeas.

As I explained in my previous post about dining at Vassar, I certainly do not rely on the Deece to provide all of my sustenance, crafting my own smoothies for breakfast and salads for lunch, but it feels thoroughly welcoming to live and learn in an environment conscious of the needs of its students who choose compassionate lifestyles through their eating habits. The Vassar dining facilities also devote themselves to environmental sustainability by composting all food waste, implementing trayless dining, and utilizing mostly organic produce, while they maintain a close relationship with local farms and highlight food grown on nearby land, including the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, whenever possible. The Vassar community holds a deep passion, both among students and faculty, for environmental sustainability through food, and considers itself at the forefront of these issues within the realm of college education, which certainly translates in its impressive dining options. However, I’d love to see less emphasis on the “local dairies” and “free roaming chickens” exploited in the Deece that clash with true sustainability and humane values.

Comment Provoking Questions: What were your college eating experiences like? Did your dining hall provide adequate vegan options? Did they utilize local and organic produce?

Until next time, Ali.

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