Sorry, I can’t eat that
Second-year global studies student Jordana McLeod has been a vegetarian for nearly two years, since the Fall of 2009 after watching the film Earthlings, a documentary that looks at the various industries in the world which use animals for profit.
“The video is horrific and fairly nauseating,” said McLeod. “I haven’t eaten meat since.” She clarified, “My main reasons aren’t purely about animal rights. While that’s a huge part, it’s also dietary, it’s also political and it’s a large part environmental.”
McLeod has also made various attempts at a vegan lifestyle but found that campus restrictions have made it too difficult to commit fully.
“Honestly, campus struggles are part of the reason why I’m no longer vegan,” she admitted. “It was harder to eat healthy food. You get reduced to eating fries.”
McLeod’s restrictions are fairly simple: she will not eat beef, pork or poultry. She also limits her intake of eggs and milk products, though she said she will consume cheese from time to time.
While some vegetarians opt to eat fish, McLeod also refuses fish and gelatin.
She also commits heavily to checking labels on food. “I label-read like a fiend,” she said. “I recently picked up a carton of Oasis orange juice and it said ‘now dairy-free.’ How the Hell is there dairy in orange juice to begin with?”
With moderating her diet so heavily, McLeod said that others often suspect she is deficient of protein. However, she says, “It’s actually really easy to get enough protein. You only need about 50 grams a day as an average-sized woman. A slice of whole-grain bread and peanut butter is already about 6 grams.”
For those considering a vegetarian diet, McLeod recommends shopping at international food stores for a wide variety of food at reasonable prices. She also highly recommends downtown Kitchener restaurant Café Pyrus, which serves mostly vegan food with organic cheese and milk for non-vegans.
“I love food,” she said. “If anything, becoming a vegetarian has increased the variety of food I eat… I’ve learned to cook so many different things, try different things, and generally be more accepting about what other people eat.”
Fourth-year cultural studies and film studies student Jacqueline Twomey has been living as a vegan for nearly one year without breaking from her strict diet of no meat, eggs, dairy products or gluten.
“My first reason is animal rights,” she explained, “then the environment and then health.”
Despite restrictions, Twomey is fond of all kinds of food and loves trying new things, especially from different nationalities. “I love Thai food. So I’ll make some and throw in tofu instead of meat.”
Also gluten-intolerant, Twomey has reactions to wheat proteins and must eat gluten-free bread. The intolerance puts her in an awkward position at times, she said. “People think I’m really picky,” she joked.
Twomey noted that her job at Union Market allows her to easily accommodate her dietary choices on campus. “It really helps that I work at Union Market, because we have a chef there… I’m able to make suggestions to her, like for example, ‘Hey, let’s try making the stuffed bell peppers without cheese.’”
However, she noted, once she leaves Union Market, the rest of campus is less than accommodating. “Oh, it sucks,” she said plainly. “It’s nowhere near what I have in my house. I’d have to spend way more [money] to make a good meal at my house.”
Like McLeod, Twomey also had high praise for Café Pyrus in downtown Kitchener for affordable vegan cuisine.
She also told The Cord about her love of quinoa, a gluten-free seed that “you can add to just about anything… it’s got all your amino acids, and it’s naturally derived.”
With all that she chooses not to eat, Twomey still admits a weakness for grilled cheese. “I’ll have it on gluten-free bread with vegan cheese,” she explained. “You can be a vegan and still have comfort food.”
Second-year student Kenny Goldman was never overly serious about Judaism while growing up. “It was more secular,” he told The Cord. So when he begun his first year of university in September of 2010 and became involved with Hillel Waterloo and other Jewish organizations, Goldman made the decision to become more serious about his religion and to start keeping kosher.
Goldman started small, cutting all pork products out of his diet. Unlike vegetarians and vegans, Goldman stated that keeping kosher – at least abstaining from pork products – is relatively easy on campus.
“There were a lot of options… It was as simple as getting a slice of cheese pizza or getting a sandwich without bacon,” Goldman explained. Goldman also expressed gratitude to the rabbi on campus, who would host various get-togethers where Goldman would eat kosher food and hang out with fellow Jewish students.
“They have Friday night dinners, or for holidays we’ll all get together,” he explained. Though he said he is still unaware of good restaurants to eat kosher in Waterloo, he told The Cord that many grocery stores sell kosher food.
“I know at places like Zehr’s and Sobey’s they have sections of certified kosher food.”
Recently, after a year of successfully staying away from pork products, Goldman decided to take his commitment a step further by consuming dairy and meat in separate meals.
“One basic rule that’s important is that after you eat any sort of dairy meal, you have to eat one full hour before you can eat any sort of meat,” he explained. “And any time you eat any sort of meat meal, you have to wait six hours before you eat any dairy… simply because it takes your body a long time to digest meat, it might get stuck in your teeth, the meat stays in your body longer.”
Though Goldman is serious about his choices, he is also proud of the fact that he came to those decisions himself. “I know a lot of people think religion is something you were raised with that is kind of manipulating,” he said. “Deciding to keep some aspects of kosher were solely my idea.”
In fact, Goldman said, the rest of his immediate family does not follow the same kosher diet that he does. “It’s a bit difficult at home… I’m trying to keep to it as much as I can, not that I’ve broken it. Sometimes I end up making my own meals.”
Despite all his seriousness about keeping kosher, Goldman is not shut out from society. “I still participate in night life, activities, and other things,” he said. “I am not cut out from society, but I do sacrifice small things.”