Monday, November 15, 2010

What vegetarians eat on vacation

It used to be really hard to eat vegetarian while traveling, especially if you were traveling from Washington to Illinois with vegetarian children who refused to eat any food that might have been cooked on a griddle that may also have been used for hamburgers (I speak from experience).

In the thirty years since that stressful trip, America's food tastes have changed. It's now almost easier to eat vegetarian in a restaurant than at home. Even in barbecue-loving Texas, where we just spent nine days.

The easiest way to do it? Eat ethnic.

We ate Italian at Hasta la Pasta and Vespaio Enoteca, Colombian at La Palma de Cera, Ethiopian at Blue Nile, Chinese (sort of) at Panda Express, Mexican at Los Cucos and El Chile, Thai at Thai Kitchen, Middle Eastern at Pita Pit, and Indian at Udipi Café. The winner: La Palma de Cera (Katy) - and if you go there, you must try the flan, which is the best we've ever tasted. Runners-up: El Chile (Austin) and Blue Nile (Houston).

In addition, we ate lentil soup, tamales, and an eggplant sandwich at the delightful Hyde Park Bar and Grill, which despite its name has a range of vegetarian options; strange but tasty concoctions at the vegan bar in Austin's gigantic mothership Whole Foods store, pancakes and sweet potato hash at the famed Kerbey Lane Café, sandwiches and fresh fruit at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center café, and tilapia and green beans at Pappadeaux in Houston's Hobby airport. One evening we bought stuffed portabella mushrooms, Greek potato salad, and green beans at Whole Foods and ate dinner in our apartment. Another evening we went to Central Market and brought home herbed risotto croquettes, cauliflower in truffled oil, and balsamic glazed yams.

We never went hungry. We never had trouble finding good, affordable food.

Eating while traveling would probably be more difficult if we were vegans. We cheerfully eat dairy products and eggs (though we do our best to buy them from organic farms, or at least from farms that give their cows and chickens pasture time). We also eat a little fish. The term for what we are seems to be pescetarian, though we prefer a friend's neologism: vegequarium (others might call us part-time vegetarians or pseudovegetarians: you can read a vegetarian taxonomy here). We had tilapia at the Colombian restaurant as well as at the airport, and David had fish tacos at Los Cucos. Most of our meals, however, were lacto-ovo-vegetarian.

Why eat vegetarian while traveling? Well, if you're a committed vegetarian, that's what you do. But even if you aren't, there are advantages to making some of your restaurant meals vegetarian. Take your pick:
  • Reduce your fat intake, which always seems higher in restaurants.
  • Lower your chances of encountering food-borne bacteria.
  • Enjoy interesting new tastes, especially if you go ethnic.
  • Feel better, thanks to all those fruits and veggies.
  • Save money.
  • Save the planet.
Also, the vegetarian selections are often very, very good.


Marcia Z. Nelson said...

Yumm. Yumm. Cauliflower in truffled oil. What a noble thing to do to this humble vegetable.

Ann Kroeker said...

I am so hungry right now, I can hardly stand it.

Based on this post, I find myself craving that lentil soup (if I recall correctly, you have a famous family recipe for lentil soup!), "sweet potato hash" (I'm so curious what this was like), and herbed risotto croquettes.

We live in a suburban area that butts right up to farmland. One little farm is about a mile or so from my house, and they have chickens. I have a standing order for two dozen every Wednesday. She loves her chickens and has to keep them somewhat contained due to hawks. If she lets them walk freely around an uncovered area, they get swept away.

I love your suggestion to go ethnic when traveling to get more vegetarian options. I'm not a committed vegan or vegetarian, but I go through phases where I eat a predominantly lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, so I appreciate these tips.