Tag: travel

The Trials & Tribulations of a Travelling Vegetarian

The Trials & Tribulations of a Travelling Vegetarian

Of course it’s vegetarian…

Look away now, meat lovers.

Or don’t, and laugh at my discomfort instead.

I’ve been vegetarian for somewhere over a decade now, and even before that never ate much meat. I was vegan for a year or so, but gave it up because it was so hard to eat out or to go to friends’ houses. Sometimes I toy with going back to it, but I live in France, and, well, French cheese.

I love France, and I love French breads and cheeses, and cakes and wonderful things like that, but it isn’t the easiest place to be veggie. Conversations tend to go like this:

“Is this pasta vegetarian?”

“Yes, of course.”

“It doesn’t have ham in it?”

“Only a little bit.”

“Okay, no. I don’t eat ham.”

“What about this? It’s chicken.”

“No, no chicken either.”

“Oh. Fish?”

Which is partly the reason why I eat mostly at pizza places when I go out, and also why I started eating fish again last year. But there’s something weirdly delightful about people’s reaction to your dietary choices. Well, either delightful or annoying, but if you’re going to dwell on the annoying stuff it’s not going to be much fun. So, here are five veggie food experiences for your amusement or sympathies:

1. Airline food

Honestly, even this looks better than some of the airline meals I’ve had.

Airline food is never good. I mean, never. Flying is generally not that much fun these days for me anyway (see here for my last whinge about the privilege of being stuffed in an aerodynamic can with lots of other people), but I have learnt to cram my carry-on with snacks, because being on a 13-hour flight in which you get served nothing edible is unpleasant, to say the least. mean, I really like food. And I don’t do hungry and tired well.

Most entertainingly bad: a plate of carrots, beans and rice, all separate, no sauce. Delightful!

Most unhappiness: stodgy pasta served for breakfast and lunch on one flight, then again for lunch and dinner on the following flight. And when I say stodgy, it was like eating damp paper towel. Well, I imagine it was. I don’t tend to eat much paper towel. Luckily I picked up supplies during the connection. Kind of. M&Ms count as supplies when on long trips. There’s a rule about it.

2. An evaluation of the vegan diet

In Tonga, where being a vegetarian is already a pretty extreme lifestyle choice. My dad’s GF, to our cafe manager friend:

“Can Kim have the cheese sandwich without the cheese, and no mayo, no butter?”


“She can’t eat dairy.”

“Oh, the poor thing! What happened?”

“No, no. It’s choice.”

“Well, that’s just bloody stupid then, isn’t it?”

3. Suspicion and uncertainty

Im just. Not. Sure.

Going out for a posh dinner in a fancy Italian restaurant:

“Is this pasta vegetarian?”

“Absolutely, madam.” Waiter returns five minutes later: “Actually, it isn’t.”

“How about this one?”

“Absolutely, madam.” Returns five minutes later: “Actually…”

“Okay, which ones are vegetarian?”

“These ones.”

“Great. I’ll have this one.”

Waiter delivers the meals.

“Are you sure this is vegetarian?”

“Yes, yes.”

I sit there investigating the meal and feeling fairly sure that there’s stuff in the sauce that looks like chicken. A moment later the maitre’d swoops in, snatches the plate while apologising profusely, and hurries off with it. Reasonably soon after, a lovely plate of ravioli in tomato sauce appears, which is absolutely, definitely vegetarian. By this point the SO has already finished his dinner. I take one bite and give the plate to him instead. The sauce is veggie, but… (I did eventually get a very nice taglialle in tomato sauce. Eventually.)

4. Suspicions. So many suspicions.

I mean, it LOOKS okay, but…

Crew chef on a boat I worked on to me, a vegan: “When the chief stewardess (a vegetarian) annoys me, I put chicken stock in her soup.” I stare at her, horrified. “Of course, I wouldn’t do that to you.”

Didn’t eat soup for the rest of the time I was on the boat.

5. BYO. Always.

I actually don’t mind this, because I rarely mind cooking, but dinner invites often go like this:

“Come to dinner!”

“That’d be lovely – what can I bring?”

“Oh, nothing. But maybe you can give me a hand with your food? Because I don’t know how you’re meant to make vegetables taste of anything…”

Veggies are actually really tasty. Honest.

It has to be said that vegetarian and vegan food options have become so much tastier and easier to find these days, and the dreaded couscous or vegetarian lasagne is rarely the only option on the menu anymore (although, disappointingly, they often still are on the menu. It was all we could eat when we went out for years. We won’t miss it if you get rid of it. Promise), so being vegetarian doesn’t get you quite as many puzzled looks any more. But there are still entertaining moments to be had.

(Me, before I was was eating fish: Mum, there’s shrimp in here. Her: Oh, just eat around them…)

Lovely tasty veggies!

How about you, lovely people? Do you have any dietary restrictions? What difficulties have you had eating out?

Catnip, Marmite, and Whittaker’s Chocolate

Catnip, Marmite, and Whittaker’s Chocolate

It’s short story time, so head on over to this week’s offering here, or read on for some background, and a ramble about the things we miss when we move away.

I’m sure my nana had those glasses.

One of the things that you don’t think about, when you’re eighteen and heading out into the world, is that not everywhere will have Marmite. Not New Zealand Marmite, anyway, and as I’ve discussed at length before, any other form is nothing but a treacle-coloured imitation. Whittaker’s chocolate, for some strange reason, is another product that has failed to travel. Inconceivable, really, when you consider they’re just giant slabs of chocolately bliss.

These days, it’s not such an issue – you have all these delivery companies that will happily post you everything you might miss from home, even if you’re weird and like pineapple lumps and burger rings (seriously, I tried those when I moved back to Australia for a while – they’re awful. Evidently teenage me had no taste). This was not the case when I originally left New Zealand, so for a while there my every trip back ended with me dragging an almost-but-not-quite overweight bag through the airport, laden with supplies to last me until the next trip. The first time I went back after being away for probably six years, I discovered 1.2kg jars of Marmite. 1.2kg. Oh yes.

They taste of dust and sadness. What were you thinking, teenage me?

I’m not quite such a hoarder these days, partly because it’s easier to order things on-line than to hope your bag of chocolate and Marmite doesn’t get either squished or left in the sun, and partly because things start tasting different. I don’t know if Whittaker’s has changed its recipe, or if I just remember it differently, but ever since food hygiene was invented and they actually started to wrap their bars, it doesn’t taste the same. It’s still the best chocolate around, but I’m not quite so obsessive over it.

However. Layla is one of those cats that isn’t fussed about catnip, in the normal course of things. Yeah, she’ll have a snuffle of the leaves, but it doesn’t send her silly. And then we discovered a certain brand of Australian catnip.

Gold. Yes it is.

This particular brand is some crazy strain that Layla likes a lot. As in, rubbing it all over her face while crying in delight a lot. And she’s destroyed all the toys that we brought back with us, so I figure this trip my luggage on the way home will consist of Marmite, Tim-Tams (biscuits of joy), and as many of that particular brand of catnip toys as I can find. Which, on reflection, might look a little weird coming through the airport.

“Anything to declare, ma’am?”

“Ah – cat toys, yeast spread, and sugary snacks?”

It’ll be worth it, though.

Read The Smuggler now!

How about you? What do you miss when you’re away from home? Anything you remember loving as a kid that now doesn’t taste the same?

Happiness is Australian catnip.
It’s Not About The Journey

It’s Not About The Journey

Is that – that’s not straight, is it?

By the time you read this, I will be slumped over a cup of tea, deliriously jetlagged, in Australia. Or I’ll be asleep or something. I don’t know, I get the time zones mixed up. But whatever the details, I will be over there, which requires thirty-odd hours on planes and in airports, and I’ll be cursing myself yet again for not stretching the trip by making a stopover halfway, or at least getting a heavy-duty prescription from a helpful doctor.

Once upon a time, when I was a small person… Okay, not that long ago, but when I was younger, at least, all travel was ridiculously exciting. Airports were full of shops to explore, and people to watch, and even flights were amazing, because you get little meals, with mini cheeses, and biscuits, and cute little sachets of salt and pepper, and socks! They give you socks! Not with the meal, obviously. After. Although some of the airline meals I’ve had could’ve been improved by being served with socks.

Ah, the innocence of youth.

Or something, I don’t think I was very innocent. I read far too much to stay innocent for long. But travel really was much more exciting. That whole, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” made complete sense.

Yeah, okay, but not all flights are this nice, okay?

Now – interminable queues. Held up in security because I always choose the line where the person in front has seven sorts of electronic devices, twelve half-finished bottles of water, a dog and a metal arm. Overpriced, under-flavoured meals in soulless airport cafes that are styled to look like street cafes, and why would you bother because you’re overlooking a waiting lounge full of delayed backpackers sleeping on bags and humphing businessmen. Vegetarian in-flight meals that consist of mouldy-looking peas and lukewarm rice. Someone’s child kicking me in the back for seven hours, and someone with terrible BO falling asleep on my shoulder (I’m not making any of these up)(Okay, maybe the metal arm).

Allow me to welcome you to the world of the grumpy old woman traveller (GOWT. Has a ring to it, no?).

Seriously, whoever said it was about the journey, not the destination, hasn’t been held on the tarmac for three hours at the start of a fifteen hour flight, knowing you’re not going to make your next connection, or the one after that, and wondering if you’ll be given a hotel or end up sleeping on the airport benches. They have not had small twin boys sat next to them on a long-haul flight while mum sat in an entirely different row, ignoring the fact that her children were drinking their bodyweight in coke from the free trolley and jumping on the increasingly irate but painfully over-polite woman trapped in the window seat (”They’re just excited,” she told me when we landed. Yeah, sugar shots for eight hours will do that to you). And they certainly haven’t sat through 27 hours of flights and airports with a steadily worsening kidney infection.

Yes, alright, that’s nice too. But Im making a point here, okay?

When you’re talking air travel, it is most certainly not about the journey (this may be different if you’re in business or first class, and if anyone would like to provide me with an upgrade so I can test this theory, I’d be happy to accept. For research, obviously).

Whinge, whinge. Well, don’t do it then. And don’t complain, most people don’t get to travel so much.

I know. And I love it. I do. I hate airports, and I hate flying, and I hate airline food, but I love travel. So I do it. Because the destination – ah, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Somewhere familiar, where you know the feel of the sun and the smell of the earth, or so exotic that you’re bewildered and delightedly, intoxicatingly, lost in colours and scents and noise. Somewhere that makes you feel you’ve no right to ever be stressed again, or somewhere that awakens inspiration and quickens the heart.

Going home as a tourist. It’s pretty fun.

I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere I hated. I’ve been places I’ve been ready to leave when the time came, and places that almost made me misplace my plane ticket. I’ve gone home as a tourist and called new places home, because they fit my skin so perfectly. I’ve been an adventurer in places just the next village over from me, and found the familiar halfway around the world. Travel’s what you make of it. It’s not limited to planes and trains and exotic locales, which is all good. With every flight I can feel my tolerance withering and the GOWT growing.

But the thing about travel, it that it renews. Not for everyone – I know for some that it’s more stress than it is joy. But you not only get to peek at other lives (even if it is just in the next town over), you come home and look at your own place anew again. You bring back ideas, and tacky souvenirs, and sand from the beach and dust from the streets, and somehow that makes our own place better. It makes it more home.

I’m lucky. I travel a lot, and for every flying horror stories, I have half a dozen stories of the adventure at the end that more than make up for it. So, for all my whinging, it’s worth it. Bring on the airport queues.

Although the next time I end up trapped by small children, I’m bribing the cabin crew to get me out.

How about you – any travel horror stories – or happy stories – to share?

Although, this is my preferred mode of travel. Just with more wind, because this is pretty, but…
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