Oh I’ve wanted to write about this for such a long time.
If you’ve been vegan for a while then you might have already realised that self-catering is probably the easiest way to go when you’re on holiday. Trying to keep packs of tofu and corn tacos cool by jimmying open the hotel window and perching them on the ledge of the 52nd floor windowsill overnight isn’t the best way to go, and yeah, that’s from experience.
You might recognise a few of these tricks and tips but I’m always taking for granted what I’ve picked up along the way so hopefully there’ll be some new things here too. If you think there’s anything I’ve missed, let me know in the comments below and then this can turn into an on-going thing! I could even update this next summer when hopefully it’ll be even easier to be vegan out of your own kitchen. THE WORLD IS OUR OYSTER.
If you’re new to the vegan game and the idea of staying vegan whilst on holiday sounds pretty daunting, I thought it would be helpful to lay out some obvi things to remember. There's also some not-so-obvi things, so this will hopefully make the whole idea of summer-as-a-verb-as-a-vegan feel a whole lot easier. And of course, I’m not expecting that we’ve all been to the same places. The things I’ve included here seem to be the general-rule-of-thumb ideas, or things to look out for. Just like how Belgium will never play ball with its beef-dripping chips (love you guys), double check and cross examine to your heart’s content once you’re away- these are just some things to think about.
n.b. I wouldn't usually feature non-vegan food in photos on Guac, but that's how a lot of these things turn out when there're omnivores around- there's cheese in the shot, or meat sausages, or some salami at the picnic. It's also what going away with non-vegans is like, so I guess it's a good indicator of that.
You don’t need a snazzy kitchen to make a snazzy meal or
Omg there’s no blender/microwave/Nutribullet/KETTLE??
It’s always good to have a thorough check over what is in your kitchen before heading out to the local market or supermarket. It might be an electric hob instead of gas (screw you guys), there might not be more than two pans, the knives may not be that sharp, there might not be a sieve/ grater/ potato peeler. If you know all this before buying everything for that Ottolenghi-style feast you’ve got planned, you won’t be wasting your dollars/euros/złoty and it’s basically one less row you have to have with your (somehow already) sunburnt best buds in the aisle of a foreign supermarket. No-one wants that. Keep it simple.
♥ If there isn’t a hand blender, you can still make broth and minestrone-style soups.
♥ Use a potato masher to make hummus with instead of a blender.
♥ If you’re in dire need of a decent coffee and there’s nothing around but a microwave, buy some of the filter-cup coffees and heat up the milk in the microwave.
♥ Get scrubbin’ if there’s no potato peeler- the skin is the best damn bit!
Buy the local stuff. Always.
Try to build your meals around what’s in abundance at the local shops and markets, and don’t expect to be eating your usual quinoa muesli and chia seed whats-its-face each morning. Even as a vegan, you’ve gotta be ready to eat as much like everyone else as possible, because after a week of that it is going to taste so much better than trying to bend whatever you can find into what you’d eat on a run-of-the-mill weeknight in Tufnell Park. If the bread is famously good, get used to a bit more bread! If the peaches, nectarines, chestnuts, wheat pasta or mushrooms are in season, eat those as much as possible! This stuff will be the cheapest, ripest and tastiest, and you’ll have a lot more to remember from your holiday than the night you thought you found a vegan Thai restaurant in Copenhagen. That shit doesn’t wash.
This is all about exploring, but things you might usually look over if you’re in the UK and travelling elsewhere are:
♥ Berries you couldn’t usually afford
♥ Same with some awesome mushrooms
♥ Did I mention about the bread
♥ Tinned lentils, beans, all that jazz
♥ Wheat pasta lookin’ fine
♥ Cray breakfast juice combos
♥ Crackers, fruity flapjack guys and dark chocolate
Speaking of which...
Get ready to eat some weird combos // food you are a bit sick of
Call them fun names! Think up whose actual last meal this would be! Add some puns and emojis when you Instagram it! Holidays are meant to be strange LOL.
Yeah, you might be stuck on a rock in November in a provincial coastal town outside of Lisbon with three tomatoes and a slice of bread for lunch, but it’s kind of like bruschetta AND you’re not eating meat, so you’re still winning!
I call this the tomato sandwich diet, which is basically the staple food you may end up eating for picnics if you haven’t been able to plan it right. I usually use these meals to take stock of HOW MUCH I AM GONNA EAT AT DINNER and remember I ate seconds at breakfast. Humans weren’t born to eat massive meals three times a day, you’ll be okay with a lighter lunch. Just make sure there’s plenty of tasty paprika crisps in the cupboards when you get back to the mainland. And screw that rock.
♥ Pick up some takeaway/ Tupperware boxes when you stop at the supermarket so you can bring leftovers of dinner instead.
♥ Individual cartons of soy milk are becoming more popular in the UK and Europe, so buy a pack of these if you spot them and carry one around - you can add it to tea and coffee at any places that ain’t digging that vibe.
♥ In fact, make extra at dinner and you can save a portion for lunch! Think about that!
♥ Bring an empty Tupperware box with you and make a salad from local shop stuff - tomatoes, salad leaves, tinned beans (make sure it’s got a ring pull) olive oil and OH YEAH SOME BREAD. How about that.
Deciding what to cook in your tiny kitchen with no kettle
Go for one pot stuff if you can, and add salads and crackers or bread to the side. Your mates can add in their meatier vibes once you’ve plated yours up, or work it out between yourselves, we’ve made it the moon and back people, risotto is possible.
♥ If you’re barbecuing and there’s only one grill, cook all the vegetables and any meat-free things first. Then everyone else can go to meat town and no-one misses out.
♥ Risotto is super easy to make in a small kitchen and keeps really well for the next day. Just remember to pick up vegetable stock from the local shop.
♥ Homemade baked beans are delicious for a bigger breakfast.
♥ Spinach and pine nuts on toast are also DELISH and get you extra protein points.
♥ Guacamole, salsa and any chopped salads are a really easy dinner.
♥ A lot of the local supermarkets I’ve been to in European cities will do soy milk and yoghurt products- so don’t write that off. It might not be the almond/hazelnut/rice milk you’re used to, but it will make breakfast 100% more possible.
♥ If there are things like fresh basil, oregano or spinach in abundance, make a chunky raw pesto and add it to pasta.
♥ If you’re driving or are able to bring a few food items along with you, things like packs of tofu, seitan and veggie sausages are the best. You can chop these up into chillies, spaghetti bolognese, breakfast scrambles and lunchtime wraps.
Keeping the folks around you happy aka Let’s not have a row about bacon sandwiches for the third morning this week.
I’m no vegan apologist, but if you’re going away with people that haven’t lived with a vegan before, any usual frictions about cooking are probably going to be magnified. IDAF if this sounds cheesy because it’s important: use this as an opportunity to make veganism look like the best thing ever, not the reason you had seven rows in seven days and no-longer speak to each other. Arguing when you’re all meant to be chilling does absolutely nothing for veganism, apart from underlining what people may already (wrongly) believe about it: that it’s extreme, unwelcoming and not an easy thing to get into.
On maintaining The Waltons/ Brady Brunch vibes and not letting things get all Secret History up in here:
♥ Be ready to be quizzed a little, if you don’t mind answering questions about the (yes-it-is-vegan-and-yes-I-have-double-checked) sausage sandwich you’re just about to eat. If you don’t want to be quizzed, just politely say so! If they don’t get the message, point out that you’re not asking anyone else to re-evaluate their life choices at the dinner table with every bite they take.
♥ Be clear about what you’re comfortable with in the kitchen. If you’re concerned about people frying eggs next to your spinach, cook it at a different time. If there’s bacon on the grill and you don’t like the smell, it’s probably not the opportune moment to hold a breakfast pow wow about what you really think of the pig farming industry. I’ve spoken to some vegans who don’t like people to use the same pans to cook animal products in, even after they’ve been washed- so at the start of the holiday just agree to set a few kitchen items aside for vegan use only, and keep them in a different cupboard.
♥ If you want a vegan barbecue, you’ll probably have to be the one to remember to pick up an extra one, because for a lot of people that just doesn’t occur. It might do in the future if you point it out with a bit of grace though! (n.b. the friends that DO do this, however, should be cherished like nothing they know and never let go of. These people are great).
♥ If you’re not going to be the one doing all the cooking, keeping a little stock of vegan soups, ready-to-make lentil curries or vegan burgers handy (this is much easier if you are on holiday in the UK) is still a great move. If someone forgets to make a vegan option, it means you can eat with everyone else in five minute’s time, or just add a burger to some salad.
♥ In general: People will generally rather there are some ground rules instead of any passive aggressive vibes and shit ruining their holiday. Just because someone chooses to eat meat doesn’t automatically make them an asshat to vegans, so don’t presume they will be. I’ve never been on holiday with anyone that’s said veganism looks “harder than they thought” or “trickier” or “miserable”. They’ve always said the opposite.
♥ IT’S A HOLIDAY, HAVE A MINT TIME AND DON’T SPEND THE WHOLE THING MOANING ABOUT TOMATOES.
♥ AND TRY THE BREAD