How accommodating is the food at Boston College for students of varying cultures and religions?
The question first came to my mind when I realized that I ate a totally different diet at home than I do here. I rarely find any food similar to what I was used to eating almost every day back home. My mom, who grew up in Sri Lanka, would make rice with curried chicken, cooked lentils with spinach, fried eggplant, and other similar dishes for lunch.
I had hope my first week at BC when I noticed something familiar being served in the dining hall. It was Chicken Tikka Tuesday at Mac. However, only after indulging in the so-called “chicken tikka” did I realize this watered down, tasteless curry was not made for people like me, but was whitewashed to accommodate the majority of BC students. There was no spice, and if I had tasted the dish without knowing what it was, I would not have been able to tell that it was supposed to be chicken tikka masala. I was also surprised to see a food so common in my culture being represented as abnormal, and as a specialty only offered on certain days.
Mac’s attempt to replicate this dish in order to cater to the majority of white students is upsetting. For many students at BC, the chicken tikka at Mac is most likely their first exposure to Indian food. Their perception of Indian culture is reliant on one dish served every Tuesday that lacks the real flavor of Indian food. And unfortunately, I am not the only student who struggles to be seen in the cuisine at BC. Other cultural dishes such as Korean Poke Bowls and General Tso’s chicken, which are also only offered once a week, are altered in flavor and are not true to the cultures from which they come. This isolates both people who come from these cultures, making them feel misrepresented, and misinforms the students who are not normally exposed to these various “cultural” meals.
The dining halls at BC also lack food options for people with dietary restrictions, such as those who eat vegetarian, vegan, kosher, or halal food. For many, these restrictions may not just be personal or health-related decisions, but may arise due to their religious beliefs. For example, Muslim people typically eat halal food, and Hindu people are usually vegetarian. The halal options at Boston College are practically nonexistent, and the vegetarian options are subpar and hard to find. The few vegetarian meals on the menu consist mainly of unhealthy and fatty foods such as pizza, French fries, mozzarella sticks, and macaroni and cheese. I recently became vegetarian, and I struggle to find a meal that doesn’t simply consist of carbs. I pace through Mac like a lost dog until I find myself settling for rice, string beans, and whatever other vegetable is available.
I would never just eat plain string beans and rice at home, but during these past few months, I’ve been forced to alter my diet completely. For example, I eat hash browns and omelettes for breakfast instead of the coconut roti or stir-fried chickpeas that I was used to eating growing up. I’m sure many other students deal with this same struggle. Food is such an integral part of life and is a key part of many cultures. It provides many with a sense of belonging and a sense of solidarity with the community that they were raised in. Since I’m paying $70,000 a year, I would love to see more vegetarian and culturally diverse food options at BC.
When food similar to what is served in one's culture is not available, but stereotypical American food is always available, it makes one feel like they are a less important part of the BC community. Therefore, the lack of Asian, halal, or vegetarian food for instance, alienates people with those diets and cultures and does not support the ethical or religious meal choices of students. BC should acquire a variety of foods that people of different diets can eat, in order to promote a sense of community for all and to expose people to cultures different from their own.