In many parts of the world, declaring yourself to be a vegetarian, much less a vegan, is often met with anything from well-meaning curiosity to complete disbelief. In many developing countries where starch is a staple and meat is traditionally somewhat of a luxury, the idea that someone would just prefer not to eat meat, either for ethical or dietary reasons, usually comes as a bit of a shock. Your hosts may jump to the conclusion that you are sick (either physically or in the head) or that you are turning your nose up at their local cuisine, so it is important to handle the matter delicately.
If you are a strict vegan, it can be a challenge to find animal-free sources of protein while abroad. Of course, you may find a lot of options in Asian countries where soy is a familiar ingredient. Coffee with soy milk, called “soya milk” in the UK, is widely available through the Starbucks chain. You may end up spending a lot of time in the hotel bar – not for the drinks, but for the bowls of nuts!
In Latin America, although rice and beans are traditional staples, the beans may be prepared with meat products – it’s not unusual to find a pig’s ear floating in the traditional Brazilian feijoada (bean stew). But it is also common to find beans prepared with just water and salt. I have admittedly found myself eating a lot of lettuce and French fries in some locations, so I tend to bring along my share of packaged protein bars to tide me over. There are also websites like vegdining.com and happycow.net which have listings of restaurants with vegetarian or vegan options. My advice is to confirm the information carefully. Unfortunately, given that omnivores vastly outnumber vegetarians and vegans, these specialty restaurants do not always stay in business.
I recently found a vegan blogger who is traveling to Istanbul and providing vegan travel tips on the way; she also has some tips on using vegan foods to remedy some of the more common travel maladies. Let us know if you have some tips on how to manage a vegan diet in the four corners of the world. Also, check out our earlier post on resources for vegetarians which included a link to the International Vegetarian Union.
Photo by victoriafee.