Columns

Vegan diet may not win you NBA championship 2016.04.27

By RICH FOLEY

You might have missed a recent news item about a private preschool in New Jersey that converted to a vegan menu after two children being raised as vegans enrolled as students. The director of the Scandinavian School of Jersey City decided that the other 90 students would also be fed a vegan diet at lunchtime so that the two newcomers wouldn’t feel left out.

I’d think it would be easier just to let the new students bring their own lunches rather than be blamed for forcing a food change, but I’m not running the school. Since tuition is $18,500 yearly for full-time students, they must be doing something right, although reaction to the new diet is mixed.

A Wall Street Journal article mentioned that the classrooms have “bowls of pine cones, seashells and rocks for toys.” Not only that, “Some chairs are sawed-off tree stumps.” Knowing that, maybe the change in diet didn’t really come as such a surprise to enrollees.

The day of the newspaper’s visit, the children were being fed spinach-mushroom lasagna and miso soup. One little girl “picked up a white cube from her bowl with her fingers and squished it,” saying “I don’t like these cheese things.” Another child answered, “They’re not cheese,” adding, “They’re tofu.” Some parents aren’t that thrilled about the food, either, with a mother commenting that when her child gets celery soup for lunch, she serves chicken nuggets for dinner.

Some are happy with the menu change, though, especially a four-year-old boy who dumped his lasagna into his soup, “mushed them together,” and proclaimed the concoction “Yummy.” That’s not what I’d call the butternut squash risotto, another staple of the organic menu, although the broccoli salad and bread baked fresh on-site sound pretty good.

A preschool in Oregon bans onions and garlic, foods that its director says “aggravates the calmness of the mind.” Meanwhile, an NBA team got aggravated when their training staff went one step too far in trying to improve the team’s diet.

After the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship in 2015, the team went to great lengths in preparing to defend their title. The team’s training staff eliminated virtually all sugar from the Warriors’ private plane. Players willingly gave up cookies, candy and pop on team flights. Since the Warriors fly over 50,000 miles per season, more than any other NBA franchise, these were no small sacrifices.

Additional changes awaited them in their locker room. A large selection of cheeses was replaced by organic chips made with avocado oil. The Warriors even said goodbye to Gatorade, replacing it with, of all things, “bottles of water sprinkled with Himalayan rock salt.” Imported salt, how fancy!

But then the Warriors training staff went overboard. They eliminated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, both on the team plane and in the locker room. In today’s NBA, that is tantamount to a declaration of war. According to the Journal, PB&J sandwiches are a “significant part of NBA culture.” Even rookies learn to love the sandwich. Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks had never had one in his native Latvia. Now he’s as much a fan as any other player.

Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton led the fight to bring the PB&J sandwiches back. Walton is known for carrying several sandwiches with him, I suppose in case of a shortage. The Warriors general manager is also a big fan. Walton complained to the team’s performance coach, flight attendants and anyone else who might listen. 

The fact that team superstar Steph Curry is a huge devotee of PB&J probably was a big help to the cause and the sandwiches were returned to the plane and locker room mid-season. The Warriors finished the regular season with 73 wins against only nine losses, the best record in NBA history. Could it be due to the peanut butter?

Surprisingly, the Warriors don’t eat any exotic version of the sandwich. Players get their choice of Skippy creamy or extra crunchy peanut butter, plus Smuckers strawberry jam. The bread is store-bought whole wheat or 12-grain. 

Maybe that vegan school should trade some of its fresh-baked bread to the Warriors for some peanut butter and jam. How good of a basketball team could they possibly have just eating miso soup?