Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

Summer solstice is just around the corner, and vacation season is coming almost as quickly. Soon, the highways will be crammed with cars filled with sleeping bags, luggage and expectant faces looking to escape the daily grind. Road trips, music festivals and weekends at the cottage are being penciled in as speak. 

A vegan diet is easy if you’re calling the shots. Your fridge and cupboards are filled with familiar ingredients you can quickly throw together, and most of us living in large urban areas can run to the nearest grocery store for a brick of tofu or a package of quinoa. 

Venturing outside of the big cities can be a bit challenging for vegans and vegetarians. Many fast food joints don’t offer us a protein-rich alternative to burgers and fries, and many small town diners aren’t as familiar to catering to a veggie crowd.  And, as of press time, Cheetos still aren’t vegan. Sorry, folks. 

Canada’s first lady of vegan cuisine, cookbook author Sarah Kramer, is way ahead of you. She’s a busy gal, forever away spreading the good word and likely spends more time than she would like away from her home kitchen. Always keeping in dutiful correspondence with legions of herbivores, she decided to create a pocket-sized handbook for vegans on the go. 

Aptly titled Vegan à Go-Go (Arsenal Pulp)this handy, pocket-sized book is filled with travel tips with the vegan in mind. Packed with advice including how to explain your diet to wait staff (in several languages, no less), quickie throw-together vegan eats and everything in between, panicky vegans headed on the road can rest (and eat) easy with this little volume in their carry-on.

Last week Sarah and I had a chat about her book and the vegan away from home. 

Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind setting you to write Vegan a Go-Go?

I was receiving so many letters from readers around the holidays that they were at their parents and want the recipe for this or that but they didn't bring their cookbooks with them. I mean, who travels with their cookbooks? Vegan a Go-Go is small enough that it can fit in your bag without taking up too much space and has the “best of” recipes from the first three cookbooks, plus 25 new ones. Almost all of the recipes have ingredients you can find almost anywhere.

One of my biggest frustrations as a new vegan is the narrow number of food choices available to me at many restaurants. Would you mind sharing a strategy or two on how to address this?

First. Focus on what you CAN have. Not what you can’t. It helps to have a positive outlook on life but my biggest tip is BE PREPEARED!

You can usually find something on the menu that you can eat. My biggest advice is to plan ahead. If you know you're going to dinner in a strange town then do some research before you go. Get on the internet and see if there are vegan-friendly places there (check HappyCow.net or VegDining.com). If there are no veggie places, then stick to ethnic. Mexican, Indian, and Thai places will always have veggie choices.

And when all else fails, hit a supermarket and have a parking-lot potluck!

What's the easiest way to talk to a server about your veganism?

Keep it simple. Your server doesn’t want to hear about your ethics or the horrors of factory farming. Simply let them know that you are looking for something without meat, fish or dairy.

Many of the recipes are for the road-tripper or people who spend a lot of time moving from place to place without proper kitchen facilities. Say you're on a time-pressed road trip without access to a vegan-friendly eatery -- what would you suggest?

No matter where you live, there’s always a grocery store where you can buy peanut butter, banana and bread. Sounds like a sandwich to me!