Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

It’s vegetarian, just pick out the meat June 14, 2008

Filed under: Travel — wideawakeinwonderland @ 9:16 am
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“If a lump of soot falls into the soup and you cannot conveniently get it out, stir it well in and it will give the soup a French taste.”
Jonathan Swift

Have I mentioned that the first time I backpacked Europe alone – from August 1992 through March 1993 – that I was vegan? Veganism is the form of vegetarianism where, in addition to not eating any animal products (nothing with a face!), you also do not eat any eggs or milk. In other words, I made it just about as hard on myself as I possibly could.

Actually, when I was in Santa Cruz (where I began my veganism), I learned of an even more extreme discipline (and I am not making this up!) – Fruitarianism. That is where you eat only raw fruits and seeds. Actually, what I remember are some people I met in downtown SC explaining that they would only eat fruit that fell from a tree of its own free will. Being vegan in Europe was extreme, but not THAT extreme! I suppose I would’ve had to sneak onto people’s farms and into their orchards and wait for fruit to drop? Maybe shake a few trees here and there to move things along?

As a side note, I think my digestive system would go totally nuts on a diet of all raw fruit. I know when I occasionally overdo it with those delicious Sunsweet prunes in the yellow package (or dried plums, as they’re marketing them now) I pay the piper. This usually occurs to me right around the time I’m swallowing my tenth one…and by then it’s too late. Bartender, a bag of prunes with an Immodium chaser!

Anyway, I digress. Last time I backpacked Europe I was vegan, which meant:

  1. No one had any idea what I was talking about.
  2. You would explain it and they would proceed to very carefully and kindly make some food in the hostel kitchen to share with you. After you’d checked three times that it was vegan and then happily devoured a bowl of the best soup you’d had in your whole life, you’d start the inquiries into “what WAS that culinary marvel, should I want to make it for myself some day?” And your German companion would cheerfully tell you (after some mutual translation issues) that it was ox tail soup. Apparently, since there weren’t any giant chunks of ox floating in it, he figured that made it vegan. This “picking out of the meat” or “meat is inside the dough where you can’t see it” or “entire dish is made of meat, but then I put the whole thing into the blender” form of veganism was a common misinterpretation.
  3. Regular trips to France to load up on cans of garbanzo beans.
  4. Night sweats and horrific stomach issues brought about by the occasional dabble with cheese (I suppose I had developed some element of lactose intolerance?)

Regardless, I persevered in my beliefs and dietary discipline…and eventually gave it up about six years later when my mother’s cousin – a naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist, and vegetarian of 25 years – served up a turkey on Thanksgiving. We can get into that whole story later, if you’d like, but suffice it to say, I eat everything now.

Or just about everything.

The trip kicks off August 3rd in Iceland, and their famous ‘let’s scare the tourists’ dish, hakarl (shark meat which has rotted underground for several months) is cause for alarm. Some of you may recall when chef Anthony Bourdain tried it, he stated the hakarl was “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he’d ever eaten. That’s hard core. Already, discussions of how to get a crate of Powerbars into the country have commenced.