What percentage of Americans are vegetarians?
"You only want vegetables?" Asks the waiter in the Gazebo Café in New Orleans, "Then take this rice dish with beans." He brings a stew to the table in which pieces of chicken and pieces of sausage float.
Traveling is usually no fun for vegetarians - from a culinary point of view. Either the waiters get you wrong, or the only edible options are side salad, pasta with bland tomato sauce or a piece of cake. I myself eat meat or fish from time to time, especially when I'm on vacation, often out of necessity. But since my friend has been a strict vegetarian for 20 years, we are in the same tight boat when we travel: We have to find a restaurant that has vegetarian dishes on the menu.
This is just as big a challenge as looking for a pub in an Upper Bavarian village that sells green smoothies. Of course, it depends on where the vacation is going: Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia have never been a problem so far. India is a paradise for plant eaters. In many other countries, however, cooks only think of cattle feed when they think of plant-based food. And beef and pork devoured that long ago in order to grow into the mountain of meat, which is known in these areas as the national dish.
Argentina with its Asados is certainly one of the greatest challenges. It gets even tougher in Venezuela and Colombia: even scrambled eggs without meat is hardly conceivable there. The US is at least divided on meat issues.
What is on the menu strongly depends on the region. In New York or San Francisco, a vegetarian thinks he is in paradise. Even vegans who do not eat any animal products such as eggs or cheese enjoy the luxury of being able to choose between many restaurants. In the Midwest and the Southern States, on the other hand, it is difficult to choose, because the offer is not limited, but rather non-existent.
In wonderful New Orleans, visitors can indulge in Creole delicacies or get to know the advantages of Cajun cuisine - unless they eat neither fish nor meat. No matter which menu we look at: lobsters, crayfish, catfish, chicken and shrimp. These are also the main ingredients of dishes like the rice stew Jambalaya, which was sold to us as "vegetarian". In addition, fried animals are apparently very popular in the southern states.
It seems that many waiters have never met a real vegetarian in their life. In Alabama someone asks: "Something ... vegetarian?", Looks at us in disbelief and then recommends pasta with shrimp or the tuna steak. We often hear: "Without meat? We'd have french fries or pizza margherita." No question about it, it works, but not for three weeks. And the game "Find the bacon cubes in the salad pile" is no fun on an empty stomach either.
In our desperation we look for help in the digital world and download an app called "HappyCow" (alternatively, there are the Vegman or VeganXpress apps for meat refusers). The user recommendations on "HappyCow" have extremely enriched our trip through the southern states from a culinary point of view.
Thanks to GPS, the app knows where you are and shows restaurants nearby on a map. There are the categories vegan, vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly. The restaurants we are sent to are consistently really good. The app has only one small catch: In smaller places there are often no tips at all.
Either because there isn't a single restaurant for vegetarians there, or because nobody has bothered to report vegetarian-friendly restaurants to the online platform. So be it! Not always, but sometimes there is nothing better than french fries. And a cake for dessert.
In the column "USA, Land of Faults", our author Beate Wild from San Francisco writes about everyday mores and bad habits in the United States.
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