THE ESSENTIAL VEGETARIANBy Katharyn Jeffreys
I have been a very happy customer of Networks since coming to MIT. Whenever I have a craving for greasy fried food, it is my Aramark dining establishment of choice. I also enjoy the free refill policy, which I frequently take advantage of when I want to study between classes and need to stay awake in my next one.
However, this year I have noticed some changes which are for the worse, and are detrimental to vegetarians, environmentalists, and everyone else too. My first criticism is of the new staff. The cashiers were not informed of the discount Aramark offers when a student uses the SAVE travel mugs. In the past a discount of ten cents was offered. This is a small amount, but in principle (and given my frequent use of their soda fountains) it can add up. The next, and more important change has been to the menu. They removed several vegetarian options and did not replace them with anything. I understand that these items were less tasty and therefore less popular; however, they could be easily improved.
One missing item is the tofu wrap. Alright, I admit, I had this once and it was pretty revolting. But I have had plenty of other wraps elsewhere which were very delicious. Why can’t Networks replace the absent wrap with a more appealing vegetarian one? The manager told me that they removed the tofu items from the menu because they are unpopular. Well, yes, many people (myself included) find globs of raw tofu stuffed in a dry pita with some lettuce pretty unappealing.
One menu item I truly miss is the panini. Networks used to have a special panini with mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes. It was my favorite dish. The paninis, it seems, have been replaced by pre-made sandwiches. These are rumored to come in a vegetarian version, but I have yet to see one. There is of course the old standby, the vegetarian Mexican burger which, along with the salads and fried food, fills out what some Aramark executive sees as the scope of vegetarian dining.
I had also, upon occasion, ordered a baked potato with broccoli and cheese. Though I was sometimes disappointed by the long wait for what was often a crisp, dry potato, I am more disappointed by the item’s removal from the menu. To improve upon a baked potato does not seem difficult to do and would provide an option for vegetarians aside from the baked potato’s fried cousin.
Finally, it also seems that the cheese ravioli and tofu ravioli options have vanished from the menu. All that is left for vegetarians in the pasta category is a marinara version, and possibly a special of the day. Other specials are sometimes vegetarian, including the omelette, salad, and soup of the day. Pizza is offered during certain hours. It seems as though there are many vegetarian options, but finding a full meal consisting of tasty and healthy vegetarian food is a difficult task at Networks.
Yes, Networks greatest offering to vegetarians is its appetizers (a.k.a. fried food): two kinds of french fries, mozzarella sticks, jalapeÑo poppers, onion rings and quesadillas. Not only are these options grotesquely greasy, they are in fact fried in the same baskets and in the same batch of oil as their fried chicken products. I suppose this is true of most places, but it still makes me feel a bit disgruntled. And I wondered before why their fried food makes me nauseous! I asked the manager about these issues. He told me that because the “president of the vegetarian group” did not come in to make suggestions when invited, the chef did not know how to prepare vegetarian dishes. He also said he would inform his cashiers of the SAVE mug discount. And, if the omelette of the day is not vegetarian, he said the cooks would be happy to make a no-meat version in a clean pan.
Finally, a recipe. Perhaps the poor chef at Networks who can’t think of a single vegetarian dish should start reading my column. So Networks, this one’s for you. Questions? Comments? I would like to answer them all in this column! E-mail me at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Golden Stuffed Peppers
2 yellow peppers
6 oz. zucchini, grated
1 small onion, chopped
8 oz. canned sweetcorn, drained and purÉed
2 oz. cheddar, finely grated
1 egg, beaten
Blanch the peppers in boiling water for five minutes, then drain, cut in half, and remove the seeds. Mix the grated zucchini and chopped onion into the sweetcorn purÉe and add half the cheese. Mix well and then stir in the beaten egg. Mix thoroughly and season to taste. Pile into the halved peppers. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 25 minutes. Serve hot. Makes two servings.