I hate travelling – most people love it, but not me. In my line of work, I could be travelling the world – to conferences in Japan, Russia, New Zealand, Norway, China – oh ya, to tons of exotic locations… but I avoid such opportunities like the plague. Why? Because I’m a vegan – or at least I try to be. And nothing is so trying to a vegan as travel. My job also involves a lot of unavoidable travel – for fieldwork, meetings, and those conferences that I just can’t avoid – and I always hate it. Far away from my friendly kitchen – no control over the vittles, no familiar foods and, most of all, little hope of seeing any vegan protein. I usually end up eating dairy products or fish to avoid a protein crash.
I recently came back from a conference at a fabulous venue – a superb 5 star hotel. They were very accommodating and attentive to my vegan needs – I got fabulous fruit plates, exotic veggie wraps, even a sumptuous stir-fry, but not an ounce of vegan protein. By day two I was feeling distinctly ravenous: I found myself hallucinating about gnawing on the leg of the person beside me in frenzied desperation (granted he was a tasty looking morsel). By the afternoon of day three I had to skip a session and nip down the street to grab a fish dinner. I hated doing it – but I was desperate – there were no vegan restaurants within walking distance.
Vegans are a pain in the butt to their friends and relatives. After all, what the heck do you feed these people? No one seems to know… (No wonder people rarely invite us over for dinner anymore.) But you’d think a fancy chef in a posh restaurant would know this – shouldn’t it be part of their extensive training? Apparently not! I’ve yet to come across a chef or cook who knows that vegans need protein, just like all the carnivores! In fact – I have gotten to the point that I often keep my veganism a secret when travelling or eating out – since I am convinced that all chefs hate us deeply – and consider us fair game for torture and ridicule. That’s the only logical explanation for some of the awful crap and disgusting mush I’ve been served over the years. But hey – I shouldn’t complain – after all, how on earth is an expert supposed to cook without lashings of butter and hefty chunks of flesh?
Now to be fair, I’ve not always been denied protein as a traveling vegan. On one trip, I was given slimy soup with chunks of greasy sausage in it and when I asked for a vegetarian alternative, I was told to “eat around the meat.” And you would not believe how many people think chickens are vegetables!
“Ah – right, you’re a vegetarian… so… do you eat chicken then?”
Now I have had chickens as pets – and I’d be the first to admit that they are not particularly bright – but I think it’s just plain cruel to call them vegetables.
So I am going to make it easy on all you chefs out there – and if you are running a 5 star hotel and hosting conferences, please pass this along to your kitchen professionals, as well… It’s the best kept secret in the food service industry. Here it comes… There is a simple little thing called “tofu”. It even comes in exotic little morsels that imitate meat. Go to any health food store and you can find it. Grab a few packs of it – veggie chicken strips, beef strips, even just plain (but firm!) tofu. Keep a few packs in the kitchen freezer and you can just add these little treats to that classic vegetarian standby – the stir-fry – and save the poor vegan travelers from protein starvation and their traveling companions from threats of cannibalism.
The solution is so damn simple I cannot believe I am writing about it – but there it is – the big secret finally revealed. And chefs – don’t worry that you’re lowering your standards by using these meat substitutes. We vegans will not only forgive you for it – we will LOVE you for it! In fact, I’ll eat stir-fry for breakfast, lunch and supper if it means I can eat vegan! Bon appetite!