To avoid dulling your appetite when sailing the seas, Zeigfinger suggests speaking to the ship's special services department or the dining room manager about your specific dietary needs -- because once the ship leaves port, you're stuck. If you're not satisfied, stock up on food when you hit land. (Or start eating the fruity decorations in the tropical cocktails.) When booking flights and your in-flight meals, learn the secret food codes (VLML, lacto-vegetarian; VGML, vegan; AVML, Asian vegetarian; RVML, raw foods). Then, when confirming your flights, reassert your meal plan as well. (But don't forget to read the packaging on some of the meal items. Often planes serve mass-produced foods made of animal byproducts.)
Taste aside, a real concern is getting your fill of protein. And pasta with tomato sauce or steamed vegetables do not satisfy your daily quotient (60 grams for women, 75 for men). "Not having enough protein can really run you down when you are traveling," says Cynthia Sass, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
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
Fortunately, each culture seems to have at least one prevalent non-meat protein source in its cuisine: soy in Asian food, or beans in Latin America, Middle Eastern and Near East countries. Sass also recommends packing some emergency supplements, such as protein bars or soy nuts. You can also gobble up airplane peanuts, add an extra splash of soy milk in your latte or pick up a bag of sunflower seeds at an airport shop.
"If I'm stuck eating a soft pretzel for lunch on the road, I just make up for it at dinner," Mike Gurwitz, a 42-year-old vegan lawyer from Silver Spring, said in an e-mail. "If necessary, you can find peanuts and other nuts in any convenience store."
The easiest choice, though, is to go to a veggie inn or resort where you never have to ask: Is that vegetarian?
Dining Like a Carnivore
"I left you some afternoon snacks on the table -- fruit, a vegan coffee cake, a vegan brownie," said Dina Brigish after I threw my bag into the princessy Olive room at the White Pig, "and there's soy milk in the fridge for your tea."
I was about to ask if there were eggs in the coffee cake, then snapped my mouth shut. Old habits die hard.
While Brigish and her husband fed the pigs their dinner, they talked about what it's like to travel when so much of the world eats meat, and when so many cultural experiences are based on culinary adventuresomeness.
"When you go to a place and are paying the same as other guests and then they are getting giant plates of eggs and waffles brought to their table and you get a bowl of cold oatmeal, you feel like you are being ripped off," she said.
Not so at the White Pig, where you are served four-star food, not cafeteria mush.
When the weather is bright and warm, Brigish will pack a lunch for hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains: hummus with tomato on whole grain bread; three-peppercorn "pastrami" with lettuce and mustard; fruit and organic juices or sodas. She also prepares dinners for $45 per person. My night there, the menu included butternut squash soup; baby spinach salad with toasted almonds and dried fruit; "lobster" souffle, which was inspired by an entree she saw in a Parisian cafe (she replaced the seafood with soy protein and tofu); and chocolate cake with vanilla icing. Testament to her afternoon treats, I can honestly say decadence and deliciousness do fine without eggs and milk.
For dining out in the Charlottesville area, Brigish has compiled a notebook of local restaurants' menus, on which she has highlighted dishes that are veg-friendly. She also has an arrangement with one chef to prepare vegan meals at his cafe.
Her efforts do not go unappreciated. As a Pennsylvania couple wrote in the guest book: "What a joy to know you don't have to ask for modifications to the menu. How wonderful to not have to wonder what is in the food."
Over breakfast, as I bit into my "sausage," it was a pleasure to know that I was not eating Norman.