Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The difficulties of a travelling (almost) vegetarian

As a pescatarian (someone who eats fish but not meat) of limited tastes, who is also wheat intolerant, I expect and usually have problems when eating out, which is why Coran and I tend to stick to the same places - the Pizza Hut salad bar, our local tea shop and for special occasions, The Riverside Vegetaria in nearby Kingston upon Thames. Of course when I am on the road driving to Ilfracombe as I was recently, you do not have this luxury and have to either bring your own food (impossible if you want something hot) or are forced to rely on motorway service areas.

The Little Chefs are not too bad, but the portions are not what they used to be and the food is not particularly tasty, but they are usually willing to substitute bread rolls which come with their veggie burgers for fried eggs and that sort of thing. For this reason, and also the fact that they are so accessible, I tend to use them, most of the time. On my visit to Ilfracombe at the end of July however, for some reason I missed the entrance to the last Little Chef before the M5, and so had to use the Moto service station instead at Taunton Deane. The tale I am about to tell will no doubt be familiar to others with the same dietary needs as myself.

Taunton Deane is a fairly large service station situated at Junction 26 of the M5, the motorway which links Birmingham to Exeter and also the A303 to the A361, which is the main route into North Devon. It is then extremely busy and well used, and you would think would understand the importance of catering to different needs. Not a bit of it!

Most caterers I have found, have trouble enough understanding the difference between vegetarian and vegan without adding pescatarian to the mix, so when I travel, I tend to describe myself as vegetarian, as it so much easier. As I entered the car park, there was a big sign up proclaiming "2 meals for £10". This is no doubt a very good offer, given the high price of motorway food in general, but I was travelling alone, so this was no use to me. So I walked into the main food area and read the list of meals that was on offer - cod and chips was one of them (covered in batter made from wheat), but there was not one meal that was suitable for vegetarians - not even lasagna (other vegetarians will know what I mean).

So, I asked a member of staff who was standing behind the servery what they could offer me - the answer - pasta. I told her I was wheat intolerant and her response was to confirm what I (and anyone with an ounce of sense) already knows - that pasta is made from wheat. She then somewhat predictably asked me what I eat at home - answer - everything except meat and wheat. I have learnt through experience that when a caterer asks you this it is because they have no imagination and no idea as to what they can cook for you - they are in effect asking you to tell them what you would like. In this case, because the girl seemed so helpful and friendly, I told her that I ate a lot of rice, upon which she offered me a bowl of rice - the problem was that there nothing to go with it - except chilli made from minced cow!

I ended up with the ubiquitous jacket potato with cheese and beans - I didn't dare ask if the cheese was vegetarian! I thanked her for her time and and patience, paid for the food (which cost almost £8 with a cup of tea - ridiculously overpriced) and ate. Very nice it was too.

This will be a tale, like I said, which is sadly all too familiar to others with similar needs. I really do not understand why in this day and age it should be so difficult to get decent vegetarian food - almost 10 percent of the population are now vegetarian, with more and more people making the change each week - many meat eaters like to eat vegetarian food when travelling, as they know that they trust where it has come from, and also know that it is safer, since most cases of food poisoning can be traced to meat and other animal products. This is not to mention the thousands of Jews and Muslims who have to eat vegetarian when travelling, since catering establishments do not offer Kosher or Halal meals. It is in everyone's interests to offer a range of good quality vegetarian food since everyone can eat this regardless of faith, allergies or lifestyle choices. It makes sense all round. I wish that caterers would take note, but don't hold out much hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment