Travel For Vegetarians
Guidebooks, camps, tours and more for those herbivores among us
Sometimes with difficulty, but almost always eventually, vegetarian travelers are able to compose and receive a vegetarian meal at restaurants that feature meat. But their best vacation meals are obviously at vegetarian restaurants--the kind that make a high art out of that approach to food. And the best type of assistance that a Web site like this can provide is information about where such restaurants can be found.
Say you are cruising along California's Highway 99 in your rented Dodge Neon, heading to Sequoia National Park, but with a visit en route to Visalia to see an old friend. Soon the growling in your tummy is louder than the radio-it's well past lunchtime. You've been checking the roadside for chow choices, but it's a fast-food canyon of Sirloin Kings, Chicken Wings, Fried & Processed Things. No Veggie Village, Tofu Hut, or Broccoli Barn in sight. Since you became a vegetarian, it's been harder and harder to find fodder.
Even though you're way outnumbered, your decision to forgo flesh in your diet puts you in the same club as Albert Einstein, Mr. Rogers, Janet Jackson, and many more. People who call themselves vegetarians fall into categories that range from lacto-ovos, who avoid meat and fish but consume dairy products and eggs, to vegans, who shun all foods involving animal participation, such as cheese, honey (stolen from bees), and gelatin-which comes from cow, fish, or pig bones, skin, and hoofs. There are fruitarian, macrobiotic, and raw-food devotees as well.
Scrutinizing the "typical" American diet
The typical American diet is under increased scrutiny. Our country is known for large portions and, increasingly, our girth. Whether you've opted out of the mainstream for health, spiritual, or monetary reasons, it takes planning to travel and vacation in Carnivoreland. You need a good map. Let's return to Highway 99. The meat eater, encircled by myriad fast-food joints, pulls into a Chicken A-Go-Go and, without leaving the car, orders a Mini Rooster Special: three pieces, breaded and fried, a thimble of cole slaw, a biscuit, and a soft drink. Cost in dollars: about seven. Nutritional cost: well over 1,000 calories, with at least 150 grams of fat.
But since you packed for the road, you reach into your backpack for the reliable 32-page Guide to Fast Food, published by the Vegetarian Resource Group (send $6 to V.R.G., P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203; 410/366-8343, vrg.org/). This trusty booklet, packed with dietary minutiae, lists possible veggie options in the fast-food pantheons all over America.
Did you know that vegetarian and vegan bean burritos are available at Taco Bell; that their beans do not contain animal fat; that Taco Bell's seasoned rice is no longer made with chicken broth; and that their tortilla wrappers are without dairy of any sort? Or that Jack in the Box, which you just passed on the freeway, has a great stuffed jalape o pepper with cheese? Were you aware that many Subway stores are now offering a meatless burger and vegan Fruizle smoothies? Those pithy pointers-and more-are set forth usefully in the Guide to Fast Food.
For additional restaurant information totally free, you can go to www.vrg.org, click on Restaurants & Travel in the left-hand vertical box, and you'll be able to instantly access local vegetarian dining guides for Anaheim, California; Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; Denver; Los Angeles; Manhattan; Ohio; Orlando, Florida; and central Virginia. The more extensive, 434-page Vegetarian Journal's Guide to Natural Food Restaurants in the U.S. and Canada ($18, plus shipping) is also available from the Vegetarian Resource Group.
You can also do well at the momma-and-poppa cafés. On our hypothetical itinerary, rather than slow down for a fast-food outlet, you continue into Fresno, California. In a minute you spot a small luncheonette on a side street. Because of the large, local Armenian population, this family-run place offers a lunch of homemade patlijan, a flavorful eggplant casserole, which you enjoy for the first time. Cost in dollars: about five. Nutritional cost: relatively low in fat and about 450 calories.
In this instance, your curiosity has been an extension of the true travel ethic. With a short detour, you have been rewarded with a reasonably priced and flavorful meal, contributed to the local economy, and perhaps enjoyed an interesting conversation.
Vegetarians save money
There is anecdotal evidence that vegetarianism is growing. Restaurants, even those outside urban areas, have responded by taking salads more seriously and having at least one vegetarian entrée on their menus. At TGI Friday's, a nationwide chain, a rib dinner is about $13; shrimp dinner, $10; fish-and-chips, $8; burger, $6. But you can choose the grilled vegetable platter, including chunky and filling portobello mushrooms, for $8.
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