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Group makes meatless meals at RPAC

Photo courtesy of ISKCON Yoga Circle

Students woke up to song, dance and a free, fully prepared vegan breakfast on Saturday in a meeting room at the RPAC.

The “Vegan Reflection Sessions” invite students to have a meal, listen to live Mantra rock, a genre of Indian music, and discuss the benefits of a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, said Gurjeet Babbar, coordinator for the ISKCON Yoga Circle, the organization leading the event.

“We decided to offer these because I feel like diet is a very integral part for a person that is trying to follow a life of compassion and trying to live a healthy life,” Babbar said. “You just become more conscious of what you eat and the living entity, and I really believe in the saying, ‘You are what you eat.'”

She said 10 to 15 students typically attend the sessions, and past non-dairy and non-meat menus have included muffins with scrambled tofu, buckwheat pancakes with applesauce and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Nicole Swartz, a second-year in human nutrition and regular attendee, said she loves the food, the atmosphere and finding new vegan recipes.

“I’m a big foodie anyway and I just keep going back because I really like it there, you know, because it’s a nice home-cooked meal,” Swartz said. “We have to be very creative with some things we do and we just have a lot of fun with it.”

Babbar said she also provides a free, hands-on vegan cooking workshop at 7 p.m. every Tuesday in the RPAC’s Demo Kitchen and Meeting Room 1. She said she typically spends $20 to $50 a week on supplies, and students create three to five culinary creations, including grains, vegetables, drinks and desserts.

Brooke Lowrie, a third-year in civil engineering, said although she is not a vegetarian, she is always satisfied with the meals.

“All of the food is really good, and even though a meat dish is usually the main substance in my meals, when we do vegan cooking I never feel that the meal is missing anything or that it’s not as good,” she said.

Swartz said it’s hard to choose a favorite dish from past workshops but said she loved homemade ginger bread, along with an entree containing chickpeas and Indian spices, and anything with an abundance of vegetables.

Babbar also said the food helps fight obesity.

“I think one of the biggest killers of American society is obesity, and if one is following a vegetarian diet you never have to work with obesity,” Babbar said.

Swartz said vegan and vegetarian lifestyles are becoming more popular because of health benefits and increased awareness.

“I think it’s a cultural thing because in America almost everyone ate meat, but now there are issues growing (out) of going green, or being earth-conscious and environment-conscious, and going local is another huge thing right now,” Swartz said.

Lowrie said although organizers never pressure attendees to convert to vegetarianism, her involvement has influenced her dietary outlook.

“It definitely has opened my eyes to this type of eating because before participating,” Lowrie said. “I was pretty oblivious to the different kinds of meals that can be prepared without meat.”

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