A Vegan Abroad!

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I just returned from a great 8-day trip to London and Norway.  As you can probably surmise, I love to explore new places, meet new people, and, of course, try new food.  And, while this summer has been a series of fun adventures and yummy eats, it has also occasionally led to a growling stomach.

Most of the time I find it easy to eat the way I want. Many American cities now have entire restaurants devoted to vegan or vegetarian cuisine, and I admit I’m quite spoiled.  Things can become a bit more gastronomically tricky when traveling abroad, however.

Although London is no longer synonymous with breakfasts of meat, eggs, and beans and boasts one of the largest number of ethnic restaurants in the world, we still had to actively seek out veggie cuisine. And we did. Dad and I enjoyed savory crepes, Italian gnocchi, Indian curries, vegan sandwiches and chia coconut milk pudding with fresh raspberries at a French cafe across the street from St. Paul’s Cathedral. Love.

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After two short days in London, Dad and I met Ryan in Bergen, Norway. We then traveled the following evening to Sandefjord, near Oslo, where Ryan was presenting some of his recent research at a whaling conference.

From walking through the fish market in Bergen –where Ryan tasted his first (and he says last) sample of whale meat — to staying at a hotel in Sandefjord down the street from the whaling museum (and in which breakfast was served out of a pretend whaling boat), we got a sense of how important seafood is in Norway.

Norway is a beautiful, friendly, meat-lovin’ kind of place, not exactly the perfect culinary match for a vegan traveler.  For good or bad, I have what I call high hunger tolerance, which means I’d usually rather not eat unless I can find something appealing to me. (In contrast, Ryan will eat almost anything when hungry, as evidenced by him dipping stale “fruit nougat” candies into a dwindling jar of peanut butter as we drove through the fjords.) Still, even I eventually got hungry and had to compromise. Because of the exorbitant cost of food in Norway ($9 for a latte, I kid you not), I gave in to the temptation of free afternoon waffles in our hotel lobby even though I’m quite sure they were not vegan. For me, breakfast in our “whaling ship” consisted of dense, seeded breads toasted with jam, and we snacked on $4  raisin rolls. As I told my dad on several occasions — “See, man can live on bread alone, we’re proof!”   Fortunately we discovered a Thai restaurant near the hotel so Dad and I ate there two nights in a row whilst Ryan was served up platters of Rudolph and Moby Dick, etc.

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My best advice for my fellow food-conscious travelers is to toss in a few emergency nut and fruit bars (Kind brand is good) to keep in your backpack for those moments when you’re tempted to throw caution (and your bowels) to the wind and buy that hunk of street-fried whatever.  Bring a water bottle and stay hydrated — this will help control your appetite and gives you energy and a clear mind for navigating that foreign subway map. And above all, be flexible. Enjoy your experience — don’t freak out about trying something new or having a few bites of mozzarella with your pasta. Life is meant to be savored!  That said, I’m still going to give you a yummy vegan recipe based on my favorite London dessert:

 Chia-Coconut Pudding with Berries
  • 2 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar (or you can use maple syrup, stevia, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds (3 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries (or strawberries, blueberries, blackberries – you get the idea)

Directions:

1. Combine the coconut milk (or almond, if you prefer) and agave syrup in a quart jar, then shake well. Add chia seeds and zest and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.  The chia seeds will take on a texture similar to tapioca when soaked in the milk. They’re also supposed to be very good for us, so this is a win-win in my book.

2. Smoosh the raspberries in a bowl and add some raw sugar or stevia, to taste. (I’d probably leave the blueberries whole!) Put berry mixture on top of the pudding when served. You can also add crushed nuts such as almonds or pistachios, or grated coconut. These might be too adorable served in small mason jars or ramekins, but you could try it.

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