Wednesday, October 16, 2013

California Dreamin'

Home in CA
After six months of being vegan, I was about to embark on my first vacation – a week-long stay in California with Jason’s family. I had become at ease with my new diet, but that was as long as I stayed within the suburban sprawl of Kansas City and had access to my backyard garden, local farmers’ market, and stocked pantry. I was uncertain as to whether or not I would have to abandon my new lifestyle in order to survive. I should also mention that four months ago, my vegan partner-in-crime saw a BBQ sandwich he could not resist, and hasn't looked back since. While Jason was daydreaming about the authentic Mexican food (tacos al pastor anyone?) and seafood that would soon fill his belly, I was on my own, anxiety growing.

On our return flight home, I contemplated the experience.  I learned that it is possible, realistic, and even easy to maintain a vegan diet while traveling. Here are a few tips to help you get through your first trip.

1. Carry snacks – Airports are unpredictable, and so is traffic in LA. If the combination of being hungry and waiting makes you cranky, I recommend keeping some healthy vegan snacks with you at all times. Granola bars and trail mix can be a major life saver.
We carried fresh coconut with us on our return flight home. Such a great snack!

2. Stay with accommodating hosts – Jason’s mom and brother are long time vegetarians, so I knew there would be an abundance of veggies at the house. Jason’s mom adjusted recipes to make them vegan-friendly and made sure I had more than enough to eat all week. Each morning we woke up to two pots of chai tea being warmed on the stove – one with dairy milk for the family, and one with soy milk just for me. Talk about hospitality!

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff – It’s easy to not order meat at a restaurant, but it can be challenging to know what other animal products are used in the preparation of your food – butter, dairy, and things like fish sauce in Thai food and Worcestershire sauce can be found more places than you would imagine. Don’t obsess over it, it will cause more stress than it’s worth. Order your veggie burger, eat the bun (that may contain dairy), and enjoy yourself!
Delicious Indian food! All vegan except for the white sauce in the top pic.

4. Make Yelp your best friend – This app is a must. You can search for places to dine based on your current location. Interested in eating at a Mexican joint that also serves vegan dishes? Mexican can be a challenge as lard and chicken stock are typically used in the preparation of rice and beans. Use Yelp and search with keywords Mexican Vegan. Your resulting list will include all restaurants with reviews and dishes that mention vegan options. Thanks to Yelp, we happened upon the best street tacos in LA.
Vegan tacos - potato, mushroom, veggie

5. Splurge – Vacation means letting yourself indulge in whatever you find pleasurable. Sleeping in, a little extra wine, and lots of dessert! Let’s be honest, I’m not about “being good” when I’m on vacay. And being vegan is not a reason to resist fun and indulgences. Use Yelp to help you find some vegan delicacies. My guilty pleasures were chocolate-ginger cookies (courtesy of Aunt J), In-N-Out French fries, fried samosas, and bubble tea. 
Taro and coconut bubble tea x 3

Would not be a trip to CA without stopping at In-N-Out. Only fries for me!