I recommend knowing how to cook. One does not have to go to ‘health food’ stores all the time, now most things can be found in a regular grocery store. I also recommend checking out Asian markets, Indian markets and Turkish markets. Learn some of the language so you can ask and say what you want.
Chelsea King │ firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello fellow vegetarians, herbivores, omnivores, and even carnivores out there. This is Chelsea King, here to give you some tips on being a vegetarian or a vegan in Euroculture cities, or in Europe (or the world) in general. (Meat-eaters you can even try them out if you want!) I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, in Utah in the USA, and I have been a vegetarian for almost 10 years, the last three of which I have been a vegan. Since I am a vegan, I will mainly talk about how I navigated Europe as such (which will also help vegetarians).
First, let’s look at the definition of vegan. Unlike vegetarians who go without meat, vegans go without all animal products, which include animal milk products, eggs, gelatin, etc. For many people, this seems like a plain and boring diet, but actually it is quite the opposite since the earth is blessed with a very wide range of plants once you open your eyes to it. I believe that just about all nutrients can come from plants. Yes, it is true; one just has to do a little investigating.
There are many misconceptions about nutrients when it comes to a vegan diet: about protein, amino acids, iron, omega 3, B vitamins to name a few. Protein is easily (and cheaply) found in plant sources such as soybeans, navy beans, adzuki, black-eyed peas, lentils, chickpeas, amaranth, spelt, quinoa, wild rice, oats, couscous and kasha. One should have a complete amino acid when eating (meat contains all amino acids) so vegetarians and vegans should combine a legume (bean) with a grain when possible. Iron is found in dark leafy greens. Omega 3 is found in flax seeds and hemp seeds. B vitamins are usually fortified in most cereals. For a more complete list refer to: http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/a-vegans-guide-to-good-nutrition.aspx. Shoot for the rainbow: the more colors you have in your food/dish the better.
Let’s move to cooking
Now with a very brief knowledge of plant sources to get nutrients (which for the most part are cheaper than their animal counterparts: dried lentils and beans are a fraction of the cost of meat and eggs and last way longer), let’s move to cooking. Not all places will have a handy veg-friendly restaurant, or perhaps you want to impress your carnivore friends, or you are an awesome carnivore who wants to try something new: replacing animal products is not that hard if you know the tricks.
Replacing meat can be done with beans or soya/tofu. Animal milk to soya or rice milk. Butter to margarine (read the label to make sure). These can almost all be straight substitutions. With eggs it gets a little tricky – for 1 egg you can use 1 banana, 3 spoons of applesauce, or 3 spoons of soft tofu. Remember the desired flavor of your recipe, which is why I recommend flax seed powder (flax seed is found in most health food stores and I just grind it to a powder) as it has no taste. In this case, you replace 1 egg with 1 spoon of powder combined with 3 spoons of warm water. Make sure you combine the water and flax before adding it to your recipe. Oh and importantly, vegans can have chocolate as straight cocoa is of course vegan and most dark chocolate is too (again read the label).
Most things can be found in a regular grocery store
Having been a college student in four European cities: Stockholm, Amsterdam, Goettingen and Groningen, my perspective is mainly western European. I recommend knowing how to cook (it will be far cheaper). One does not have to go to ‘health food’ stores all the time, now most things can be found in a regular grocery store. I also recommend checking out Asian markets, Indian markets and Turkish markets, if your city has one, where there will be a treasure-trove of vegetarian options. Knowing some of the language (I must admit, my German is very shaky but I know almost all the words for different food produce, even meats and eggs) so you can ask and say what you want. Get to know the locals. When looking for restaurants, ‘ethnic’ ones such as Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Thai, Italian, Lebanese, Greek, and Turkish are good bets. Always plan ahead by checking out or Google-ing the place you are going beforehand. As some of my fellow Euroculturers might remember, I almost always had food on me when I traveled – fruit bars, soya milk (in mini boxes these do not need to be refrigerated), a bag of trail mix (various nuts, sometimes chocolate, and dried fruits), fresh fruit (apples, grapes, oranges).
A lifetime journey
There are many website out there to help you. Remember we are all human: if you accidentally get some meat, dairy, fish sauce, or whatever in your food it’s ok. Being a vegetarian or a vegan I would hope is not a sprint but a lifetime journey to a better way of life. There will be some missteps but it’s the overall picture that matters. Besides it’s like a marathon: if one gets caught up being perfect all the time one misses the chance to actually move forward.
Chelsea King, Contributing writer
Chelsea was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah, with degrees in Philosophy, Sociology and Criminology. After spending a year abroad at Södertörns Högskola, Stockholm, Sweden and University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, knew she had to come back to Europe. She is recent graduate from the Euroculture Program from The University of Göttingen and University of Groningen. She likes traveling, meeting new people and of course eating.