Lyn Hughes is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Wanderlust Magazine.
The bar-owner looked baffled. It was the only restaurant open in a small village in Andalucia and the small menu mostly involved bits of pig. I had tried saying that my friend and I were vegetarian, no carne, no jamon, and this flummoxed him. He shook his head.
We decided that if we were not going to eat then we should at least splash out on a decent wine so ordered his best bottle of Rioja. To our surprise, he not only brought the wine over, but some plates and cutlery. A few minutes later a large plate of shredded lettuce was plonked on the table, followed by a plate of green beans. Best of all was a large bowl of peas. We thanked him profusely and tucked into the greenest meal I’ve ever had.
I can’t pretend that I’ve always been vegetarian, but I’ve been an animal lover since I was born, and so avoided eating meat. My first trip to Thailand and Malaysia did have me sampling snake and grasshoppers out of curiosity, but I then stuck to vegetables the rest of the time.
But eventually I had to face up to the fact that I was uncomfortable eating flesh, even when out of politeness. So, I draw the line at anything I wouldn’t kill myself, which leave me eating seafood sometimes, but no meat.
It’s led to some rather strange meals sometimes. In Mongolia I lived off carrots and cabbage; a memorable meal at an “upmarket” lodge consisted of carrot soup, followed by carrot salad, followed by pancakes stuffed with… you’ve guessed it, followed by, err, carrot cake. In South America I’ve had pizza with tinned carrots, pizza with tinned peas, and pizza with beetroot. The Azores a hotel I was staying at had wonderful tomatoes in its salad, so I asked if I could have spaghetti with some of the tomatoes chopped in it. Disappointingly, the chef ignored these instructions and poured a tube of strong tomato puree on top instead.
For all the not so good meals there have been many excellent ones too. I still remember a lunch in a simple hut in Venezuela’ mountains. It was eggs that had just been laid, greens that had just been picked, sautéed potatoes, and fresh berry juice. In Sicily I was taken to an unmarked restuarant in a mountain village that had no menu. Just course after course of fresh, local produce. Only the last course was meat. In Lebanon I ate wonderful mezze feasts that make my mouth water just thinking of them.
My next trip is Sudan, and I haven’t really researched the food situation yet. I’d been warned that soup made of cow or sheep hooves is a staple. Hmmm, a quick google has just thrown up falafels, beans and yoghurt as being common. Something tells me I’ll manage fine yet again.
Top Tips for vegetarians. In many countries people won’t understand what vegetarianism is. Furthermore, even if they’ve come across people who call themselves veggie, they could be anything from a strict vegan through to someone who eats fish or even chicken. So, learn how to say that you don’t eat meat in the local lingo. Research what you can eat that is readily available, and be prepared to make suggestions. France can be one of the toughest countries. Tell them you are on a regime – and again what you will eat.
- Lyn Hughes