This week just gone, Mr G and i were on holiday, hence the rather quiet weeks in terms of posts. My apologies if you have missed me!
We spent a week in Oman, in Muscat. One of the beauties of travel is trying other cuisines and one of the drawbacks is trying to accommodate a plant-based lifestyle when you are away from your own fridge, larder and restaurants where you know you are “safe”.
Mr G often goes to Itsu in London for lunch as he knows that he can always get plant-based food there, when out in town for the day. We are lucky in London to have so much choice and most places will accommodate our needs. In Muscat, we wondered what our options might be. We had been to Muscat before but not since we made the move to plant-based eating.
One of the beauties of the Middle East is the melting pot of races that live in close proximity and give elements of their cuisines to one another.
We were staying at a swanky resort but had no idea what options would be available to us, especially as we had chosen the holy month of Ramadan in which to visit when local muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset.
As it turned out, we found it easy to find a range of foods that we loved.
Here are a few pointers:
Once you look at a menu, go over it carefully to see what food items will work for your preferences. It is always worthwhile taking a little time to see what is available. We did this at Kargeen Cafe and found the most amazing range of plant-based dishes that we deveoured with relish, amongst a menu full of pizzas, pastas, kebabs, grilled meats etc.,
Being British, I have always had a slight reluctance to ask for anything unusual. I know it is hard to believe, but it is true. I was bought up “not to be a nuisance”. It seems to be a very Btritish thing to not ask for what you want and then moan after about what you have been given! I’ve been in restaurants in the US when colleagues have ordered something and gone on to say: “hold the mayo, extra red pepper, no cheese and etc., etc.,” I have never done that, but to be honest that is a really poor habit. Always ask. The porridge on the breakfast menu was made with milk, we asked for it to be made with water and without added sugar. Out it came as yummy and creamy as anything and provided us with some good starch that kept us full till lunch. I asked for a soy latte as coffee is my guilty pleasure especially on holiday, and presto – it appeared.
One of my favourite drinks here in Oman, is fresh lemon and mint, all blitzed up together. it is really nice to drink in the heat of the day. This is typically made with a lot of added sugar, we only had to ask them to make it without once. Every time after that our server would smile a huge grin and say “yes sir, no sugar”.
If in doubt ask – one day a delectable sounding dish of tofu, with bok choy and enoki mushrooms stated that it was served with oyster sauce. On asking we found out that the oyster sauce used was 100% veggie and had never been anywhere remotely near an oyster!
Its also just as important to explain that you do not want or eat something. Despite eating in some establishments where the staff spoke little or no english, we were still able to clearly and politely state our preferences, likes and dislikes. In many of the indian vegetarian dishes paneer (indian cottage cheese) is used as an ingredient, but as we do not choose to eat dairy, we politely declined when this was suggested to us.
The hotel offered a range of breads for breakfast. We discovered some delicious spelt bread. This was our choice for breakfast every day and whilst it was not on the menu at the pool cafe, they were happy to get us some. Same principle for salad dressings, we were able to substitute an oil based dressing for balsamic vinegar a couple of times. We also asked if they could substitute a gorgonzola sauce, which they were happy to do.
Get your protein
Remember that the majority of your diet should be starches, so look for dishes with bread, grains, corn, rice etc., ideally wholewheat, but better to fill yourself up on these items than less healthy options. Remember that it is almost impossible to be protein deficient and that plants contain lots of protein so have a meal of just the starches and veggies. Easy!
Go easy, it’s a holiday
Remember that when you are travelling the beauty is that someone else is typically doing the work. If they cook and add a little butter, or oil, it’s not the end of the world. It is a holiday, enjoy yourself. We had a most wonderful dal makhani one night, i forgot to ask them to leave out the butter and guess what? I’m still alive.
Seek out starches
Most cuisines have a starch of some kind as their base. one night we ate Moroccan and had the most wonderful broad bean based soup with cumin. I can taste it now and will work on the recipe and blog it soon. We followed that with a tagine (just asked for a veggie one, similar to the one with chicken) served with some wonderfully aromatic steamed couscous. Other evenings we had rice as a base, or breads in Indian restaurants. At home, seek out potatoes or in South America corn as a base.
Share to improve variety
We both LOVE our food and whilst we are fiercely, almost childishly protective of what is on our respective plates, we also realise the value in sharing, as it provides so much opportunity for variety. One of the beauties about eating out here is that most of the dishes are sharable. The arabic or lebanese dishes lend themselves to it, as do the indian ones. In fact many cuisines do. Also, very often there is a better plant-based choice of options as starters – so just order a load and share and forego the main course.
Please remember that you are not on a diet. I have spent most of my life thinking that i have to be perfect, that i should or should not eat this or that. I had to remind myself that my aim with my plant-based lifestyle is to be 98% plant-based, but what if one week i only achieve 95%? Will the sky fall in? Will the world come crashing about my ears and my waistline expand and my health suddenly take a backward turn? NO. This is about food, fuel, about using food to achieve optimum health, not perfection in terms of 100% compliance.
We both ate foods that contained more fat that we would at home as well as more refined carbohydrates, however we did have a very healthy week, nonetheless. What was good was that we had the opportunity to burn off some of those excess calories with a swim in the pool and some workouts at the gym, so all in all, we were plant-based and healthy for the majority of the holiday and aren’t coming home feeling fat and sick, rather healthy and revitalised. Mr G has a busy August ahead so we both needed this well-earned rest.
Most of all enjoy your holidays and business trips etc., Life is not a rehearsal and food should not become a noose around your neck. Enjoy your holidays, we did! We plan to have at least 1 glass of British Airways finest champagne on the flight home to toast our wonderful holiday.