Eating with Ellis: Being vegan at Mac


A vegan meal from Cafe Mac. Photo courtesy of Ellis Davenport’18

A vegan meal from Cafe Mac. Photo courtesy of Ellis Davenport’18
A vegan meal from Cafe Mac. Photo courtesy of Ellis Davenport’18

Veganism is hard, and veganism on a meal plan is even harder. In order to see just how plausible it is (or isn’t), I decided that I would avoid animal products at Café Mac for a week. Could it be done? Would I be able to eat the same way I normally do, or would I be confined to the salad bar? What about other dining options? Lettuce find out.

The first day started out great. There happened to be a vegan curry at South that was delicious, and I had just discovered my love for almond milk. I was feeling especially optimistic about the coming seven days.

As the week trudged on, I began to realize that the vegan options varied widely from day to day. Some days there would be plenty to eat, while others I would be confined to a salad and bread with vegan butter. The other on-campus dining options spiced up my repertoire a bit, but even they varied a great deal.

Scotty’s was by far the best during my vegan week because I could choose exactly what I wanted to eat. Veggies, black beans, rice, cilantro, hot salsa and pico de gallo made a fine combination, and I came back to eat here several times over the course of the week. While they don’t have meat alternatives, the veggies are a great substitute.

I ate at the Atrium only once, and it was mediocre. My “sandwich” consisted of a wheat tortilla, spinach, hummus, carrots, avocado, cucumber, carrots and sriracha (with some mayonnaise by accident). Again, no meat or cheese alternatives, but my meal was perfectly fine and extremely healthy.

I went down to the Loch once just to see if they had anything available that could be vegan. Spoiler: there wasn’t a thing. The calzones and hoagies were obviously off the table, and the caesar salad had parmesan (and probably some sort of cheese or cream in the dressing). There were fruit cups and vegetarian salads in the display case, but nothing that would count for a meal swipe.

The Grille was marginally better. It’s a good thing french fries are vegan because I would not have survived without them. The veggie burger is not vegan unfortunately, so that eliminates any meal swipes after Café Mac closes. I had the pita and hummus once, which was pretty good, but any meals or late night snacks (besides fries) were pretty much out of the question for the Grille.

At the end of the week, I came to realize a few things about Café Mac’s attitude towards veganism. Firstly, there was an incredible lack of consistency from meal to meal. The days that had more than one option were fantastic, but the days in which there wasn’t much to choose from were pretty rough. Another big issue I noticed was the labeling. It seemed as if sometimes Bon Appétit didn’t know what was vegan and what wasn’t. I talked to a vegan student on the meal plan, and she told me that she had to learn to not trust in the labels. Just because buttermilk pancakes don’t have eggs doesn’t mean they’re vegan. This wasn’t a huge problem that I faced personally this week, but for committed vegans incorrect labeling can do serious damage (and can lead to a mistrust of Bon Appétit).

I’m overall pretty proud of myself for staying vegan this whole week, and apart from a few slip-ups and adjustments, I think I did pretty well. If this experience taught me one thing, it would be that I could never eat like this on a long term basis, and those that do deserve some serious (vegan) brownie points.