Writing to you is a supposedly rare species, someone who is talked about a lot, the basis for many jokes, and in the end ignored. I am a vegetarian. And whenever I say that, people ask me for reasons and justifications. I am tired of this and I won’t go into detail. Today, I’m not justifying myself but want to make use of the opportunity to talk about my every-day-life as a student.
A few times a week, I stay at the uni the whole day. When I bring my home-cooked meal and go and eat it in the Mensa, everybody stares. This is not a boycott, it is a tactic that allows me to avoid having to eat pasta every single day. Because eating vegetarian in the Mensa presents you with two problems. It lacks variety and quantity. Whenever I enter the foyer of the Philturm in the morning and see that, for example, “Hokkaidopuffer mit Salaten der Saison” are offered, I know exactly that by the time I am hungry they will be eaten up. This is because they must taste really good – I have actually never had a chance to try them. Also, the couscous-salad or the bagels start to become a legend. I always hear how good this is, but when I’m hungry, I’m stuck with pasta and salad. Of course, it’s not the omnivore’s fault, but think about it: If they eat everything, including rare vegetarian food, why don’t they offer more vegetarian food in general? It appears to be tasty enough that everyone likes to eat it, even prefers it over the rest of the food.
I really appreciate the Klimateller-idea. I believe that many aren’t aware of the fact, that what they choose to eat has influences on the climate. Animal husbandry accounts for 18% of greenhouse gas. This is as much as the whole transport sector causes (information from the “Klimateller”-flyer). Making the Klimateller-menus on Wednesday mostly vegetarian would absolutely support its idea and wouldn’t exclude anyone from eating at the Mensa, too. Still, most of the times they only offer one vegetarian meal on Wednesdays.
As I don’t only want to complain and ask for the impossible, I would like to present the canteen-system of Oldenburg (and its canteens) which have been awarded for their quality. All the coffee is fair-trade and also most of the tea and some sweets. I have talked to a student who recently became a vegetarian and attends Hochschule Emden (The canteen in Emden belongs to Studentenwerk Oldenburg). He used to eat at the Mensa nearly every day and enjoyed that nearly 100% of the food is organic and regionally grown. “For some meals they post notes that say which farmer the vegetables are from. They even posted an extra-note one week when they had delivery-problems with organic potatoes, pointing out that these potatoes are not organically grown”. Another positive aspect he points out is that the food is inexpensive, “For less than 3€ I am full and ate regional and organic food”.
But recently, he is not as happy with the food in the Mensa and sees disadvantages, “Now that I started eating vegetarian, I either have to eat before noon or it’s just pasta. When I started studying, they offered the famous “3-Schälchenmenü”. Side-dishes and small portions of potatoes, fries and rice were offered in small bowls for 70ct each. If you took three bowls, the total price would still be 70ct. This would have been great for a rich vegetarian meal. Now, they no longer offer a discount, but in return, the bowls only cost 45ct each”. As a last point, he stated that more people tend to be vegetarians and he observes that especially fellow-students think about being a vegetarian. It would be a helpful starting point, if more vegetarian food was offered, so that it is easier in practice and doesn’t feel like a loss.
The “Biowoche” at the Uni Hamburg, in which most of the food that is offered that week is organically-grown, is a great idea, with two major flaws: First, it only happens once a year and second, the price for the food is significantly higher than it normally is and many students aren’t willing to pay (sometimes) nearly twice as much. Also, information should be clearer. When I asked whether the apples are organic, I didn’t receive a clear answer, just a mumbled “They are the same, but this week everything is organically grown”. I understand that it is not the cashier’s task to inform me, but signs would help everyone.
Originally, I also wanted to raise awareness for vegans, but as I wrote the article, only two major points came to my mind, and they are already included in the article. It isn’t special-treatment-advice for vegans, but advice for everyone who wants to be conscious about what s/he wants to eat: Clear labeling of what is in the food. The sign for “meat-free” menus is a helpful starting point, but vegetarians and vegans also need to know about, for example, dairy products. Also, offer more, regarding quantity and variety. No vegan or vegetarian only wants to eat pasta and as the vegetarian food is often eaten up soon, why don’t you provide everyone the chance to eat it. This doesn’t mean I would like to convert anyone to a vegetarian lifestyle, but we need to react to what changes are happening and what we (want to) consume.
For those of you still hungry: The Mensa organizes “Bio-Kochkurse” in cooperation with “Ökomarkt e.V.”. You can cook and eat together, using organically-grown products. On 15 December you can cook a Christmas menu. Further information is available at www.oekomarkt-hamburg.de, the cost for students is 10€.