This has been one of the busiest summers of my life, with a lot of travelling and events, mainly related to the release of my novel. This has been a mixed blessing. In some ways, the blessing has been in the form of a shift in my attention to food, and my experience of eating out and staying at hotels and restaurants. But this blessing is also a curse, the double-edged sword of veganism rising out of the lake of personal tranquillity to slice through my illusions yet again. So, let’s start with home. With less time spent at home, and more pressure on my time, I’ve had to focus on easy and convenient meals a lot of the time. Last night, for example, after a weekend away, I had to come up with a quick dinner from the few vegetables in the fridge. I made vegetable fajitas. I fried sliced carrots, pepper, aubergine, onion, garlic and celery in rapeseed oil, and sprinkled on a vegan stock cube and some chilli powder. I cooked the veggies until they started to caramelised. Whilst they cooked, I made a quick coleslaw with vegan mayo – just grated carrot, onion and white cabbage. Then I made refried beans – I whizzed up a tin of borlottti beans with a tablespoon of tomato ketchup, half a veggie stock cube, and a little salt and powdered garlic, then cooked this in a saucepan over a low heat. I served everything with some tortilla wraps I had bought at a reduced price a while ago, and frozen – took just a minute to defrost – and some grated vegan cheese, with a dash of chilli sauce. It was quick and easy. Another go-to convenience food is soup. Whenever I make soup I end up with at least one portion in the freezer. A hot bowl of soup and some rye and seed crispreads topped with peanut butter, or vegan spread, or sliced tomatoes and olives, make a lovely meal. That’s what I had tonight – a spicy Thai-style broth with tofu, plenty of intense flavour and lots of veggies. My other quickie is lentil dahl. I fry lots of fresh garlic in coconut oil, add garam masala, lentils, boiling water, and simmer, stirring in a little veggie stock and curry powder. Then just before serving I add freshly chopped coriander and some fresh chopped garlic. Served on its own in a bowl with some bread, or a flatbread or pitta, or with some rice or couscous, this is quick, tasty and filling. I’ve been relying a lot on soup for lunches as well – either my own soup in a flask, or the instant Miso soups that I buy, usually with a bit of salad if I can manage it. I like the combination of cooked and raw. I like having something quick and easy that still delivers plenty of flavour. Soup goes a long, long way. It’s one of the most economical meals I know.
So that’s the home bit. As for away . . . well it’s a mixed bag. We went for lunch to a nice Pub called the New Inn, near Plwmp in Pembrokeshire, where they had two vegan choices on the menu. I was quite excited about this, and ordered the vegan chilli, which I could have had with rice, or jacket potato. I also ordered a side salad. When the meal arrived, the portion was disappointingly small, a very small amount of chilli and a plain potato. The chilli was nice but not particularly spicy. It was definitely a rip off given how much they charge for the meal. In the evening, we went to the Ffynnone Arms in Newchapel, again, because they advertised vegan meals. I had a choice of a curry or a bean burger, and I went with the beanburger because I fancied some chips. It was a frozen burger, but with home made chips that were out of this world! There was a lot of salad in the bun, and it came with a homemade chutney that was delicious. The owner had a great interest in offering good vegan options, and also offered gluten-free and dairy free meals. It was a really pleasant experience eating there.
The place I stayed overnight was overpriced, but pleasant, and in a beautiful location. The breakfast was good enough – hash browns, mushrooms and tomatoes cooked separately – I was assured there would be no cross-contamination. But I was given only 1 sausage and the portion was a little small. Having said that, they did provide soya milk and vegan spread, and there was good, seeded bread for toast, and marmite and peanut butter available. So I did in fact have a really good meal and snagged a second sausage when they brought the others out in a dish on the breakfast buffet. The book festival I attended were also able to provide a vegan soup at lunch.
So there it is – a mixture of experiences. Mostly good. But I realised that when I started this blog, I was aiming to be an Economical Vegan, but at this point in time, I have become one, and my lifestyle, habits and preferences are changing over time. I have become very disillusioned about eating out, to the point that I would prefer to stay home and eat a bowl of soup rather than go to yet another disappointing experience. But at least this weekend has shown that it can be tolerable to be a vegan abroad, even if it is a risky undertaking.