Office of Sustainability offers vegetarian cooking class


On Oct. 17 before fall break for students and faculty, the Office of Sustainability offered a vegetarian cooking class, not only for those avoiding to put meat in their diets but also those who are willing to try it.

The class, held in the Fritzsche- Gibbs Hall building on campus in their kitchen, prepared two dishes: a zucchini fratata and a black bean soup, much to the crowd’s delight.

“I thought the cooking class went extremely well,” said biological sciences instructor Melissa Gutierrez. “It was interesting to see different individuals from the USM community. I thought it was very informative about suitability and how cooking affects your body and the biosphere in general.”

The class, which promoted eating a vegetarian lifestyle and not leaving a “footprint” for other generations to follow, was led by dietician Matthew Usmiller.

Usmiller stressed the importance of eating healthy and wanting to spread the message of healthy eating.

“Meat is expensive,” he said. “Eating a high vegetarian diet, you can eat more and not feel as full and take as many calories in. Eating a vegetarian diet can be cheaper because there is less meat.”

Assistant Director of ustainability Haley McMinn said the USM campus is not limited by the number of “plant-eaters” there are in the community. With classes like these, McMinn hopes to bring together the community of vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians and more.

“There are quite a few pescatarians on campus, and vegans,” McMinn said. “There’s several different levels, and I think they’re kind of out there meandering about, so we’re kind of looking for a way to consolidate them – almost like a support group. It’s hard sometimes to lead a vegetarian lifestyle, especially in the south.”

Gutierrez was one of more than 20 people who attended the class, and the vegan lifestyle is not new for her. After watching a PETA video as an undergrad, she decided to change her eating habits to a more healthy diet.

However, it did not start with just the PETA video. Gutierrez later found out she was allergic to meat. Through the progression of her undergrad experience, she found an appreciation for her new diet. Gutierrez said it was not easy for her at first but that she pushed through and got the hang of her new lifestyle.

“If you are beginning in the early stages, it can be very difficult in learning what to eat,” Gutierrez said. “You have to read a lot of labels. So you have to put forth the effort in terms of what it means to be a vegetarian.”

Gutierrez had one last piece of advice for her fellow vegans.

“Once you do the research, it becomes quite easy,” Gutierrez said. “Early on, just keep trucking. Later, you’ll get the hang of it.”