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05.07.08

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Silicon Veggie - Elisa Camahort

Silicon Veggie

Survival Tactics

By Elisa Camahort


I'VE BEEN traveling a lot lately—which means lots of meals out. Most veg*ns know that it's pretty easy to be a veg*n at home. You control the ingredients, selection, menu. It does become more of a crap shoot once you step outside your own four walls. It's not like you can eat at vegetarian restaurants everywhere and all the time, right?

But I've come up with a few basic survival tactics that help me stay veg*n without driving a restaurant kitchen too crazy. Without further ado, here are my top three tactics:

Sourdough bread: Sourdough bread is reliably, consistently vegan. I'm not telling you to live on a diet of bread and water, I'm telling you to substitute, substitute, substitute. See a veggie sandwich you'd like to try—on ciabatta or some other kind of bread that's likely to include egg or have cheese baked in? Ask for it on sourdough. From nonvegan to vegan with zero effort.

Olive oil and garlic are always on hand: Another really easy restaurant kitchen substitute is to toss any pasta dish you see with olive oil and garlic instead of whatever creamy, cheesy or otherwise suspect sauce it's offered with. I just did this last week—a wonderful pasta and mushroom dish called to me, but was described as including a rich dairy-loaded sauce. I simply asked if they could toss the same pasta and vegetable combination in olive oil and garlic instead, and it was so. (Hey, the chef even tossed in a little basil unasked, score!)

'Hold it between your knees': You may be familiar with the movie Five Easy Pieces, which includes this famous diner scene: All Jack Nicholson wants is a side of toast, but he can't get it without ordering a chicken salad sandwich—hold the chicken salad (and the lettuce, and the mayo, etc.) The same principle holds in restaurants that offer fancy fixings for burgers or a diverse menu of colorful, but meat-laden, salad options. Hey, if you can get your burger topped with a portobello mushroom, why can't you just get the portobello as a sandwich? Get your taco salad with more beans instead of meat. You get the picture. And, in my experience, most waiters don't react like the one in Five Easy Pieces!

Between going hungry and going Sally from When Harry Met Sally, there is a nice middle ground of getting what you need without creating Hell's Kitchen.


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