June 18, 2011

Istanbul. June, 2007

It seems every time I run into a friend these days, he or she has become vegan. What’s going on? Is everyone turning vegan? Is this The Twilight Zone? Actually, when I started cooking for these friends, I realized, hey, I’ve generally been eating somewhat vegan myself without knowing it. And now that the tide is turning, and even mainstream restaurants offer vegan options (sometimes they’re not on the menu, but they have them), this dining philosophy is shedding some of its “outsider” status. Chinese, Indian and other ethnic restaurants here in the USA seem to serve up the easiest choices. And sticking to a “no animals/no animal liquids” diet while traveling can be relatively simple, too. For example, consider Turkey, land of lamb, lamb, more lamb...and yogurt. Turkish cooking also has a rich tradition of savory vegetable dishes braised in olive oil found in just about every restaurant. Here are just three examples of the many zeytignali (olive oil) offerings we had at Istanbul’s Haci Abdullah: grape leaves stuffed with rice, mint and pine nuts; beets with peppers and cabbage; artichokes with potatoes, carrots and peas. All terrific. Spain, France, Italy...assembling a vegan meal from appetizers, antipasti and a wide variety of vegetarian choices is a snap. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that my vegan friend David arrived in Italy, surveyed the markets, saw all the wonderful cheeses, quickly announced that he was going to be lacto-vegetarian for his three-week stay...and eventually couldn't resist the pasta alla carbonara.) Vegans of the world, rejoice! Just like at home, you are no longer forced to eat salad at every meal when you travel.

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