Tag Archives: vegetarian

Tales of vegetarian travel

Aesthetically pleasing vegetarian meali was at a party recently and I found myself in a conversation with two other vegetarians where we shared our vegetarian travel stories and general experiences of eating out as a vegetarian.

As I launch back into the world of airline food and foreign travel, it brings back many vegetarian-specific moments. There was that time in Rome: I think it was the first meal I’d ever tried to order there and we were at the art gallery. With my extremely minimal knowledge of the local language, I was convinced I’d ordered a vegetarian pizza. However what eventually appeared was an entirely tuna-laden pizza creation. It was so hot and the wait for the foot was long and I might easily have mixed up the word for some vegetable with the word for tuna. So, whether it was the waitress’ mistake or mine, I decided to grit my teeth and force feed myself. Even if I did eat meat, I think that’s the last time I’d ever order a fishy pizza – it reminds me too much of the children cheekily ordering sardine ice cream in The Faraway Tree. I’m afraid the names tuna, salmon and sardines are mainly associated with cat food in my mind. In Japan I learnt to say I was vegetarian and so avoid being served red meat, however seafood did not seem to fall into the meat category there. Many a vegetarian meal was filled with fish cakes that I had fun times trying to catch with chopsticks and eject from my meal, and topped off with a sprinkling of all-pervasive fish flakes that could never be eradicated.  Probably the three countries where I struggled most as a vegetarian were France, Germany and Japan. In Japan the group I was with did the early morning Tsukiji Fish Market excursion to see the tuna auction & all the weird and wonderful ‘fruit of the sea’. Afterwards we were given two choices for breakfast: seafood restaurant or McDonalds! I definitely didn’t go to Japan to eat fast food, but that was my only vegetarian option (and I can’t deny a penchant for hot cakes on ocassion). 

In France I think it was agreed that I was insulting the national cuisine and I remember being given, somewhat distainfully, s plate of beetroot and carrot while others were eating garlic snails. In Germany I struggled to stay vegetarian and avoid diabetes, living for three weeks on a diet consisting almost entirely of cake, coffee, cheese and potatoes, with the ocassional sour kraut or boiled broccoli. I have to say the most nutritious meals I had there were I think Italian and Mexican…

Vegetarian heaven was a couple of temple food restaurants in Seoul’s Insadong district, where acres of bowls of different vegetables all cooked to preserve individual flavours greeted us, and Korean meals always come with veggie side dishes at least. Filling up on buffet breakfast is sometimes your best vegetarian move, Danish cheeses and salad breakfasts come to mind, along with Thai fresh fruit spreads. 

Vegetarian meals on flights are an interesting prospect: if there is one thing non-veggies often leave out of veg meals (apart from the obvious one: meat), it’s protein. Pasta with red sauce and sporadic zucchini cubes is not high in protein… Then there is the choice of whether to say you want ‘Ovo-lacto’, ‘Asian vegetarian’, ‘western vegetarian’ or some other combo. Sometimes I’m disappointed when someone obviously equated vegetarian with ultra-healthy and gave me fruit cubes, while all the meat eaters got lemon cheese cake! 

In China, they taught me how to say I was vegetarian, but warned me that if you get the tones wrong, you can end up saying ‘I eat trees’. If there’s one thing about being a vegetarian, it certainly makes travel interesting! 

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Regency time travel

Regency woman

Study Abroad

If I were asked to spend a year living elsewhere, I’d choose to live in Regency England. A thorough indoctrination as an adolescent in the Regency world of the novels of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer has left me with a yearning to circulate at a gala affair in the Brighton Pavilion, where guests take pinches of snuff from dainty boxes, to take a turn about the Pump Room and taste the revivifying waters in Bath, or to spectate as young men race their curicles down the London road. There would definitely be no shortage of cultural experiences to be had from such a trip!

I’m not sure how I’d fare, diet-wise, as a vegetarian, if faced with a pheasant dish or some equally meaty treat. I suspect the food would not be a highlight of my visit. A nice glass of claret to wash it all down might be the best I could hope for.

If I was studying in Regency England, I would have to hope to be a young man, taught at home by a private tutor, and then able to go on to University. I don’t think I’d relish being a street urchin, an illiterate servant or even a woman, who may be tutored only in literature, languages and the ‘accomplishments proper for a young lady’, such as drawing and playing the pianoforte.

I’ve always liked Regency women’s fashion – the empire line has a certain allure, and I do love a velvet pelisse or spencer jacket (à la the ones shown in BBC costume dramas). However some women at the time just about froze to death for the sake of fashion, in their thin muslin gowns, and the thought of life before the bra was invented is a bit hard to stomach. Luckily I can sew, although not particularly well, so I’d hope to be staying with a family who could afford their own dressmaker or I might have a severely limited wardrobe. You were always fortunate in those novels to have been left a handsome sum of money by a deceased relation.

London or Bath I’d be happy to reside in, hopefully with not too many holidays to depressingly grey english seaside resorts like Lyme Regis, with their stony beaches and seaside promenades. Too much rainy weather would drive me batty, I’d certainly hope to be cooped up in a stately home, rather than a modest household establishment. Heyer’s heroines usually attended many balls and outings to the theatre, and these sound like part of an enjoyable social life. Where I grew up, debutante balls were not the fashion, so I’m not sure how I’d go if I had to be trained in order to ‘come out into society’ and it would be rather restrictive on my travels to have to go everywhere with a servant or relative in order to avoid being seen as ‘fast’ or as guilty of improper behaviour.

Unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to capture my tourist photos with a digital camera, so I guess I’d have to keep an old school journal and sketchbook. And as I couldn’t email to back home while I was gone, it would be rather isolating when I needed to debrief my weird cultural experiences or faux pas and have a laugh with someone who understood my own culture.

In order to seep myself in the way they used language at the time I’d have to have a back-to-back Austen-reading marathon before I left for my travels, so that I could sound just right and start my sentences with ‘Far be it from me, my dear friend…’.

Many people go traveling hoping to find love. If I came with the right financial (and family) background, I might even find myself a well-to-do husband on my trip, and never return home – if I were prepared to give birth to heirs for the estate and spend my days discussing meals and linen with the housekeeper. After all “it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

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