Photo Courtesy of Jane Yoon

Bibimbap Bowl

March 5, 2017

Can You Be Empowered by Plants?

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Cornell Dining is famous for its outstanding variety and quality of food. This was one of the many factors that led me to choose Cornell. Although I came in with a diet primarily based on fruits and vegetables, the plethora of vegetarian and vegan options here and the local food scene led me to reevaluate my food choices. Two years in, I am now a huge locavore hungry to try unique creations of sustainably sourced foods.

I recently had the opportunity to meet up with Susan Harville, a vegetarian of 48 years and author of various Moosewood cookbooks. She commented on Cornell’s growing vegetarian options, saying, “The last time I was at one of the dining halls, I could see that it was moving towards the right direction.”

Indeed, Cornell Dining has taken the next step in expanding their plant-based fare. Two West Campus dining halls have begun to offer entirely vegetarian and vegan options on select dinners for the rest of this spring semester. Plant-Powered Dinners are offered at Flora Rose on Fridays and at Bethe on Sundays.

You can catch me at Flora Rose on Friday nights, plates piled high with everything plant-based. My personal favorite is the chickpea polenta and black bean fritter. At first glance, the polenta looks like mock tofu, but I was pleasantly surprised by how it melted in my mouth the moment I bit into its thin, fried crust. The visibility of whole beans and chopped peppers in the black bean fritter only enhances its wholesome, savory goodness. I must also mention the dessert that Chef Hans himself recommends: the chia seed, nut, peanut butter and honey bar that finishes off the night with a touch of sweetness amidst a chewy mouthful of nuttiness. Every bite offers a different combination of seeds and nuts, and you cannot help but wonder how a couple simple ingredients can bring such a flavorful experience. Bethe’s stuffed poblanos with avocado purée and tofu bruschetta and their dark chocolate avocado truffles are next on my list of foods to try.

The availability of such gourmet vegetarian options often deceive us into believing that they preceded our modern, meat-based cuisine. To my surprise, such offerings are relatively new. Susan explained,“In 1973, there was nowhere to eat for a vegetarian. You could ask for a salad, a potato or a grilled cheese sandwich. But now, the whole vegetarian cuisine world has changed, and I expect it to only become more popular.”

Food is a daily — if not hourly — necessity for everyone, and the ability to vote with one’s fork is increasing the demand of meatless options. Vegetarian cuisine is on the rise, primarily through the increased concern over industrial agriculture’s effects on climate change, population health and justice to farmers and animals. And not only do they tailor to the standard environmentalist, but the ever-increasing unique, ambrosial plant-based creations also satisfy non-vegetarians. What were once thought as bland, “healthy-tasting” foods have been transformed into rich, toothsome plates that can easily replace the cravings for meat. Luckily, Cornell students and faculty do not have to venture far to try such creations. Come to Flora Rose for Friday dinners or Bethe for Sunday dinners and feel what it is like to be powered by plants!