To be sure, the White Pig is far from becoming a franchise, and strictly vegetarian hotels and tour companies are in the minority. But the options are steadily popping up worldwide: sister vegetarian B&Bs in Vermont and West Virginia, an English vegetarian bike tour company, a vegetarian spa in Mexico, vegetarian culinary tours in Italy. And if you can't find a cruise or lodging that adheres to your beliefs, perhaps a vegetarian travel specialist can track one down for you.
Imagine: You'll never again have to make a peanut butter sandwich by smashing mini-bar peanuts into a dinner roll.
Tips for Vegetarian Travelers|
No need to starve yourself or eat dinner from the hotel vending machine when traveling. Here are some tips gleaned from frequent vegetarian travelers to help keep you sated on the road.
• When making your plane reservation, order (and later reconfirm) a vegetarian meal. Options include lacto-vegetarian, vegan and Asian vegetarian. Some carriers offer religious and medical categories that work just as well for non-meat eaters. Caveat: Due to budgetary cuts, many airlines have phased out these (and all) meals.
• Pack portable foods such as cereals, sports bars, trail mix, bread, fruits, nuts and raw vegetables. Bring small plastic bags and takeout containers for easier transport (grab cutlery and napkins from fast-food restaurants). If your hotel has a fridge, throw some perishables into the mix. Consider traveling with a cooler, or improvise with an ice bucket and a plastic bag.
• If you're part of a package tour, let the group leader know pre-departure that you are vegetarian. If you're traveling independently, search for veggie-friendly restaurants before you arrive (see Resources, Page P7) or call ahead to the restaurant to inform the kitchen of your needs. At smaller places, you might be able to go into the kitchen and play show-and-tell with the chef.
• For desperation dinners, whip up a batch of soup in your hotel room. Try a soup cup (add boiling water from the coffeepot) or a flip-top can of soup (cook it on the coffeepot warmer).
• Learn to say "no meat" in the language of your destination. Also learn the words for chicken, cow, pig and fish, so you can spot them on a menu. Make or buy flash cards with pictures of animals and sealife so you can point at what you don't eat. The "Vegan Passport" includes translations in 38 languages, plus pictures (see Resources, Page P7).
• Book a condo or hotel room with a kitchenette. White Pig B&B owner Dina Brigish seeks out apartments near health food stores (which she finds online), so she doesn't have to lug her groceries far.
• For cruises, call before you leave and tell someone of authority, such as the dining room manager or the special services desk, about your diet. (Ditto for smaller hotels and inns.) It's best to speak to a crew member before the ship departs, in case they have to make a quick run to the health food store. Once on board, double-check with the purser or dining room manager to be sure your request has been heard.
• Seek out cuisines that have veg-friendly options. These include Asian (in Western countries), Mexican, Middle Eastern, Indian and Italian. Vegetarian- friendly countries include the United Kingdom (lots of Indian eateries), Kenya (ditto), India (big Hindu community), Belize (large Indian and Asian populations), Puerto Rico (many Japanese restaurants) and Costa Rica (lard is not a staple). Tougher spots are Asia, where it's common to cook rice and soups with chicken, fish and beef stock; Eastern Europe, slow in the health-food trend; and Germany, with wurst of every kind.
-- Andrea Sachs
Vegetarians Go Global
The last piece of meat I ate while traveling was either wildebeest or zebra. I cannot remember exactly, since I was 17 years old and both tasted like, well, meat. I was on safari in Kenya with my family and we were dining at the famed Carnivore, a Nairobi restaurant whose menu reads like a who's who at the National Zoo. Those were the days when I spooned up whatever was on my plate, even if it had a face. These days, though, after almost 20 years of being a vegetarian, I eat the same food groups as a rabbit.
But that has not kept me sequestered at home, tethered to my tofu and soy cheese. Had I not traveled, I would never have experienced those glorious, culturally defining moments that can only be known by leaving one's safety zone (for me, that would be Whole Foods). And how delicious those moments tasted (and no, not like chicken).
In Saigon, for example, I dined at a magical garden restaurant that was run by a gentle Buddhist family who prepared every dish as if it were for the spiritual leader himself. I was served small, elegant bowls of clear, thin noodles and tofu in a refreshing broth, baby vegetables that smelled of summer, perfumed rice and candied lotus seeds.
At a vegetarian restaurant in Kaikoura, New Zealand, I filled up on hearty roasted vegetables, plucked from outlying farms, before heading off to see the whales breach.
In Bangkok, I hunted down a sublime veggie spot along the river, where I sat under a large umbrella that shaded me from the bright moonbeams. The super-spicy tom yum soup (my steady throughout Thailand) cut the chill in the air, and I left with a fondness for sugared ginger tea, a new respect for lemon grass and the name of a manufacturer of celadon plates.
In Belize, I started the day with tortillas, warm and puffy from the oven and layered with sticky sweet jam. In Costa Rica, it was beans and rice, bowls and bowls of the flavorful combo. In Bali, veggies, tofu and peanut sauce. In the Caribbean, breadfruit, star fruit, jackfruit, passion fruit and the sweet-as-candy sapodilla. And my nose still wrinkles from the memory of the sweaty-feet stink of the durian fruit, which I cracked open for lunch in Phuket, Thailand.
To be sure, I am not always so well-fed when exploring distant lands (or even those closer, like Iowa, where the cows get the soy and the people get the cows). There have been many trips where I lived on cereal, bread and dried fruit -- forget low-carb, low-sugar or low-anything. In the former Czechoslovakia, where animal parts hung like piñatas in the shop windows, I spent an entire week buzzing on a sugar high, as my diet consisted of birthday-cake confections topped with mounds of whipped cream. If you're going to be bad, might as well be really bad.
I also ran into trouble in Venezuela, where my carnivorous father took me to a restaurant that roasted its entrees on a spit. The kitchen ran out of fish and, oddly enough, vegetables as well. Meat on a stick -- no thanks. Staying true to your ethos can be tough when your stomach is shouting out obscenities. But, as vegetarians know, there is always another way. We call it pizza.