Eating Veg On The Road – Less is More
Helpful Tips For Vegetarians Who Travel A Lot
The Savvy Vegetarian is a master of road food. The woman carries a kitchen in a suitcase, complete with hot plate, crock pot, grains, spices…etc.
With her restricted diet, and my father’s even more restricted diet, I can see the sense in her approach.
When I think about putting together one of these for myself, I feel a bit daunted.
She’s like Mary Poppins with that suitcase. Any minute, I expect to see her pull out an umbrella – or a food processor!
I have to remind myself that she has years more experience than I do, as a cook and a vegetarian. She also has way more motivation than I do.
When I was a kid on road trips with the family, most restaurants had no vegetarian options – unless you settled for a grilled cheese that might be grilled on the same part of the grill as the burgers.
As an adult, I live in a more veg friendly world, but I still have a few tricks that make my life easier on the road.
When I travel, I prefer to pack less. A lot less. I still want to eat well, though. One or two low nutrition meals is alright, but a whole week of such eating is hard on my stomach!
There are two things I do to lighten my load. Both of them require some research, but it’s worth it.
First, I book a hotel with a kitchenette. Extended stay hotels have them, and they aren’t any more expensive than other hotels. As a traveling artist doing art shows, I became rather fond of the Extended Stay America chain. They provide a two burner stove, a full sized fridge, a coffee maker, a bit of counter space and some basic pots and utensils.
No, they’re not paying me to recommend them. I have simply stayed with the chain often enough to notice they are always clean, the staff are happy, and they have good windows that keep the rooms quiet. Bless them.
When you’re traveling for work, a good night’s sleep is gold. As is a decent meal. I’m sure other extended stay hotels are nice as well.
After I settle into my hotel, I hit the nearest grocery store to pick up supplies like veggies, tofu, canned beans, yogurt for breakfast, cream for coffee, etc. If I’m lucky, the store might have a good salad bar where I can put together a meal.
If the city where I’m staying has a Whole Foods, or another good sized health food store, it’s like finding an oasis in the desert. They have a really good deli department, and maybe even a cafe with a menu stuffed with vegetarian and vegan options.
This shopping run means that I only have to carry the essentials I can’t buy at any old grocery store. My traveling kitchen fits into a small box. I carry a pot with a lid, a decent vegetable knife, rice, and my favorite spices. I also take along a peeler and a corkscrew – I got tired of buying the blasted things!
With this setup, I can turn out a nice one or two pot meal for dinner with enough leftovers to have for lunch.
By the end of the trip, I may be too tired to cook, kitchenette or not. This is where the second bit of prep comes in:
I go online and research the local restaurants. Happy Cow is a good resource for this, or you can simply search by city.
I find that Indian restaurants are a very good bet for multiple vegetarian choices. Italian restaurants are also a good choice – you can always get some kind of pasta and veg, or Eggplant Parmesan. (just because I hate eggplant doesn’t mean you do).
I am wary of Asian restaurants. They can have hidden ingredients, and the servers may not tell you about them. I am most wary of Chinese restaurants where they cook with a wok. Even if your dish has no meat ingredients in it, they recycle their cooking oil, and so the food is contaminated. That would be enough to make me sick, so I just pass on the Asian places. You may be more adventurous.
Many restaurants publish their menus online. In that case, you can not only select your restaurant in advance, but your dinner as well. If you’re on a restricted diet you can call and ask in advance about ingredients.
Those of you with smart phones can do this research on the fly, and I am very jealous of you for that. Traveling gets exhausting, and it is comforting to know ahead of time where dinner can be found. I get cranky when I’m hungry.
I hope when my daughter is my age, Road food will be as easy as walking into any restaurant and choosing from among all the vegetarian options.
In the meantime, with a few spices and a little research, you and I can eat well and be worry free in our own travels.