In a traditional, rather behemouth pub in Edinburgh, Scotland, I became a vegetarian.
It wasn't a planned decision -- I hadn't been slowly weaning myself off the sausage and hot dogs and ribeye that I loved so much. It was a single dish that took plate-scraping, seconds-having carnivore and sent her spinning into the world of tofu and veggies.
Haggis has that stomach-turning effect on people. A bunch of sheep offal wrapped either in sheep's stomach or sausage (because, sure, that makes it more appealing) it's the national dish of Ew and was my last straw.
I'd spent days dealing with food that showed up table-side fried when the menu hadn't made any mention of it. Plates piled high with gobs of mayonnaise that had mysteriously been left off any food description. It wasn't pretty; it wasn't pleasant; but it wasn't enough to entirely turn me away. No, the Scots let their offal do the talking.
But completely upending one's dietary habits isn't easy when you're traveling for an extended period of time. You're at the mercy of local cuisine and native descriptions that leave out sometimes essential information. (Like, your friend's fish is going to arrive looking like we just pulled it out of the river. Please forgive how it's literally giving you the eye.)
Nor is it easy to plan meals when you don’t know where the nearest supermarket is going to be. Did you pack enough pretzels? Have you had any protein today. No really, what did you put in this granola bar? And to the difficulties of gathering your meals the fact that your friends haven’t been as put off by the haggis as you have. They’re still operating on the caveman theory while you’ve started eating like a gazelle. The hits just keep coming. Somewhere around the end of the first month, I did lay down some hard-and-fast rules that have served me well on other travels and roadtrips (though really it wasn’t easy).
1. Almonds (or nut mix of any kind) reigns supreme. They’re delicious, packed with protein and eating just a handful is near impossible – meaning you’re getting a good dose of your daily fat/protein/calorie content just by pulling out a bag. Another plus: They’re pretty universally liked, so you’re not going to have to deal with ribbing over your seitan jerkey.
2. Take every opportunity to eat. Everyone else is your car/tour bus has myriad options at every stop. If they miss the McDonalds, then there’s another one just down the road. Make sure you’re always well-stocked.
3. Make eye contact when you eat. Someone is always going to delight in trying every local cuisine that makes your stomach turn. Pick a conversation topic. Learn something new about your neighbor. Actively cultivate the ability to seem that your dinner partner is the most fascinating conversationalist you’ve ever heard. It’ll be worth it.
4. Dessert. Eat it. Often.
There are always hiccups that just can’t be prevented. But with any luck, you’ll be well-fed enough to keep calm and carry on.
Photo by Jonathunder.