Keeping a suspicious-looking white powder at hand and assembling makeshift Buddha bowls from the sides at a hotel’s buffet: my endeavours at eating vegan on the island of Fuerteventura.
Since I went vegan, my weekend getaways and trips started to revolve around scavenging for the best vegan food and eateries in the place I visited, just like I did in Warsaw. I also normally like to couchsurf or stay in hostels or Airbnbs and do my own cooking to ensure veg food is available, but this time, my mum and I really wanted to relax a little and not spend our time washing dishes, so we went for a hotel, Occidental Jandía Playa, and its half-board offer near the town of Morro Jable, Fuerteventura. I was a bit anxious when my enquiry about vegan food options remained unanswered, but was very pleasantly surprised when we got there. My fear of having to eat rice with potatoes and a sad side salad all week was idle; I was over the moon to see the abundance of fresh fruit, vegetable dishes, and even some veggie soups at dinner.
My former, vegetarian self would have put her little hands together in joy and sung Ave Maria at the sight of the cheese selection. My current self, however, not so much. Yet, I still had plenty to choose from.
Every evening, though, I’d go around the trays and trays of food, leaning into the dish, scanning for bits of meat, as if I was playing Minesweeper on a Windows 98. ‘Is that mushroom or meat?’ was asked more frequently than ‘Can I have some more wine?’. However, I did get a little lenient. Since I didn’t want to interrogate the servers about every single dish, it is possible that some veggies were cooked in butter, or that the guac contained sour cream. Food allergy labels were displayed, but I stopped relying on them after they put the gluten icon next to potatoes and left every possible icon on the label next to a clear veggie soup. Still, I went after my best guess, and attempted to assemble amateur Buddha-bowl like plates (with two breadsticks substituting for chopsticks). Some sort of legumes, shredded beetroot, and of course, rice and potatoes were omnipresent, so I left the table with a full belly each night. While the tomatoes and salad leaves were a bit sad-looking, there were always three or four different kinds of veggie mixes, and I consumed an industrial quantity of olives and capers.
I was a little worried about my morning coffee, but luckily, soy milk was available at breakfast. One day, however, they misplaced the labels, and I ended up pouring dairy milk from the uniform metal containers, and only realised this when I finished my cereal and saw the colour of it, which left me feeling pretty disappointed. Turns out, there wasn’t soy milk in the other container either, but when I asked a server, they very kindly brought some for me from the kitchen in a mug.
I was blown away by the fresh smoothie selection every morning, though. The age of tacky orange juice is over – these were delish! Most mornings, I assembled half an English breakfast from the available mushrooms, beans, tomatoes and veggies, adding an avo toast or some corn flakes when available.
Somehow, spending three years in England makes you forget you initially found eating beans for breakfast weird
Got to love some guac on toast. And that berry smoothie!
Since we ate more than enough in the mornings and evenings, we lasted throughout the day with some snacks, smoothies, or sangría. I made a wonderful new discovery as well: kakis! (Or persimmons.) I felt as if my life would never be the same when I first bit into the sweet orangeness of this fruit. Even its core is edible! It provides opportunitites for countless immature jokes as well, since its name means poop in Hungarian. The fruit became my go-to food for our beach days and road trips, along with nuts and trail mixes, granola bars, and the occasional bag of crisps, bought at the local Spar or Dino supermarkets.
A kaki, persimmon, divine fruit, or God’s pear, as Wikipedia refers to it. Or, The Love of my Life, as I do
Getting plant-based milk in a tiny village cafe was, unsurprisingly, impossible, but my mum came prepared. She always carried a bag of instant coconut milk powder in her bag, so we’d simply ask for an Americano, then pour and stir away. Mind you, carrying a little bag of fine white powder around must’ve looked a little fishy – good thing we didn’t use a credit card to sweep up what had spilt on the table…
On our dolphin-watching boat trip, lunch was served. Quite simply, I skipped the chicken and just asked for Canarian roasted potatoes (without the creamy mojo sauce) and a nice salad.
Contrary to what this picture might make you think, this meal landed in my belly, not in the ocean
The biggest problem struck me at the airport. We did pack our daily dose of nuts, granola bar and fruit, but the bus transfer to the airport that seemed to go on forever had me eating 2/3 of my daily ration. We got a little paranoid about starving during the 5-hour flight back, so we set to find something at the airport. Initially, I was shocked to see that out of all outlets, Burger King had the biggest space and the most tables. Ironically, that’s where we ended up. After discovering the other options would be defrosted little packs of rice noodles (containing egg and milk derivatives), a mini portion of penne arrabbiata for 14 euros, or a tiny fruit salad, we resorted to a salad and fries. At least, fancy-looking Spanish olive oil was included. We then washed it down with a soy latte from Coffee Republic. Then, just to make sure, we snacked on garlic Bake Rolls on the plane.
Committed vegans may scorn me for this, but as an advice to newbie vegans, I’d encourage you to take it a little easier on yourself when you travel. I’m not saying to throw your hands in the air as animal exploitation is still a terrible issue, but when you don’t have your favourite plant based milk in your fridge and your go-to lunch place or shop where you’re guaranteed to find hummus, keeping yourself nourished can get trickier. Veganism is a constant effort to make conscious decisions that we assume are the best for the animals and planet, but in order to follow your moral values, you cannot be starved. So, if you accidentally pour dairy milk over your cereal or find out that the guacamole was made with sour cream, don’t beat yourself up about it too much. And, since so much food gets left on plates and then thrown away at buffets, I won’t judge you if you try a bit of your travel companion’s leftover pesto cheese. In fact, it might be a good thing, because you may discover your palate has changed so much that you don’t enjoy dairy as much as you did, so you really aren’t missing out on anything (definitely not talking about myself here…).
As a bottom line, don’t be afraid to stay at hotels because times are a-changin’ and people are paying more attention to various diets, or at least allergens, and it’s great fun to discover vegan dishes. But as always, be kind to yourself, for you’re trying, and that’s what matters.