As I bite into my Napoleon Burger, only one word comes to mind: satisfaction. The portabella mushroom-quinoa combo replaces what is traditionally a meat patty, making it a safe choice for all the vegans, vegetarians and kosher students eager to order it. But the burger is only the beginning of all the creations comprising the Dr. Martin Perlmutter Dining Hall’s menu, which also doubles as a restaurant open to the public and students without a meal plan.
Students, faculty and Charleston community members formed a line down Wentworth for the dining hall’s opening Jan. 10. Even carnivores lunged for trays, eager to try the tasty vegan and kosher concoctions despite their normal dietary routines.
Marty’s Place stands for more than just a tasty bite. According to director of Jewish studies, Dr. Martin Perlmutter, after whom the dining hall is named, the hall serves to attract and respect both prospective and current Jewish students.
“Just like [we] have a Hillel which provides for their social needs, a certain notion of a kosher eating facility shows that you have some commitment to your Jewish students and the environment you’re creating for them,” Perlmutter said.
Although head of the Jewish department for almost thirty years, Perlmutter has a degree in and passion for philosophy. He teaches people about issues regarding veganism and the environment, as well as general issues about eating. He recognizes this dining hall as a way to respect and cultivate diversity on campus.
“As a Jewish person you’re really sensitive to being something of an outsider, and I think vegans…often sense themselves as outsiders,” Perlmutter said. “They go to eat and they need a salad, and people can say, ‘you can eat a salad,’ but you’re eating a salad as an outsider. In this facility, they’ll be the insiders.”
This leaves carnivores the “outsiders,” although equally as welcome to dine there. And many of them have taken advantage of the opportunity to try something new– the evidence is in the often long lines. As I look around the dining hall at dinner, I see an elderly couple, a family, some groups of boys and girls in Charleston shirts, a mix of loners and people dining together. Perlmutter believes students should be given the chance to eat differently, acknowledging how what one eats can signify his or her personal values.
Both Perlmutter and vegan freshman Sarah Jennings think this will bring momentum to their communities. Jennings recognizes this as a chance for the College to increase the number of vegans and vegetarians with meal plans, and give so-called “outsiders” a shot at something new.
“All the vegans and vegetarians here that I know and that aren’t required to have a meal plan don’t have one, because it’s not conducive to a healthy diet,” Jennings said. “I think that it’ll cause them to reconsider having a meal plan here and maybe get some other people to try going Kosher or vegetarian.”
Jenning’s review of Marty’s Place is a positive one, with a prediction of the lines dwindling as “the shiny new toy” becomes just a tad less shiny. She lends her final stamp of approval with an Instagram post of the place. Jennings says “it’s great to finally have a place where I can get proper nutrition and salad isn’t my only choice. Don’t get me wrong, I love salad, but a bowl of lettuce doesn’t count as one.”
From lentil tacos to mezze platters, the joint offers a breath of fresh air to students normally confined to vegetables at the other two dining halls, City Bistro and Liberty. Perlmutter notes the important message Marty’s Place sends to the vegan community.
“If you’re vegan, you’re not weird. We understand what you are; we admire what you’re trying to do, and we are going to feed you,” Perlmutter said.
He sees Marty’s Place as a stimulant for a new sort of understanding and accepting attitude on campus. “I’m hopeful that if admissions and the College begins to promote that sort of attitude towards the facility, I really think it’ll attract not only Jewish students but other students the College wants to attract,” Perlmutter said.