Hello again from the UK! Because this started out as a food blog, I thought it would be a good idea to do a post dedicated to what I’ve been eating over here. Before I get to the actual food though, I want to take a moment to pause in gratitude for my current mental health around food and eating. I admittedly (and as it turns out, for good reason) had some anxiety about how I would eat over here. Although I’ve distanced myself from the worst of my disordered eating, as a vegan and as someone who likes to feel good (mentally/physically/emotionally/spiritually) after eating food, I inevitably practice a large amount of control over my food choices. I have routines and emergency plans when I’m at home. I have smoothies or juice in the morning to ensure protein and greens, I have pre-packed snacks and lunches, I always know where to find the nearest Whole Foods (or equivalent). Agreeing to a live in England for a full month on a study abroad program, in which 80% of our food would be eaten on site in the rural campus cafeteria, meant throwing all of that control out of the window.
There would have been a time in my history when I may have found that lack of control too much to handle. Not being able to have green smoothie every morning may have led me to politely decline taking this job altogether. I am super fucking proud of myself for getting to the point where not being able to eat “Raechel-food” all the time is no longer a thing that would keep me from taking advantage of life adventures. At 30 years old I have gotten to a point where I can hang with acceptance over control. And so, I fit as many of my current favorite vegan bars-that-could-double-as-meals in my bag as I could, took a deep breath, and got on the plane.
As I suspected, the cafeteria food situation is subpar at best. There is a salad bar that, on a good day, is stocked with something other than ice berg lettuce (ps: did you know they call arugla “rocket” over here?), veggies, and avocado (yeah that’s like a twice a week staple, yay!). On a good day, the main course and sides will include a grain or veggie that is not covered in cheese. On a bad day, I was eating ice berg lettuce and tons of bread, something I almost never eat at home because I don’t feel very good when I eat it. A typical plate looked like this the first week:
And my feeble attempt to make something “smoothie-like” involved stirring a protein powder pack in a cup of water and eating a piece of raw turmeric root. (I don’t recommend this):
So when we made it to some surrounding towns, I made sure to scout out all the green juices and lovely UK vegan bars I could find!
I was so excited to find kale and veggie juice in ball and bar form! Upon discovering them in a health food store, I literally exclaimed out loud, “Oh my God, KALE BALLS, this solves everything!” #thingsweirdoveganssay
The best food of the trip has been, hands down, my weekend in Leeds where I got to enjoy both a vegan festival and incredibly delicious home cooked “lesbian curry” (named by the cook herself, don’t worry). The vegan fest was so huge and so fun. It was really neat to feel community with such like-spirits, 1,300 miles from home.
At the vegan fest, I got an amazingly delicious green smoothie, bars to take to go, and had a bite of my friend Louie’s excellent sweet potato burger. Louie is someone I met when, back in America last month, I was planning for the class I’m teaching here. It is encouraged that the faculty take students to site visits to different places relevant to our class, so I reached out to various LGBT and racial justice orgs in England. Louie works for a really awesome youth organization that helps formerly incarcerated youth, and also founded an organization called Yorkshire Trans Support Network. He was full of helpful ideas for my class and has also ended up turning into a good friend. It’s been nice to have a social outlet away from the students (not that I don’t love my students!).
The lesbian curry was enjoyed at the home of some new friends I met through Louie. They used a visit from an American as an excuse to host a dinner party, and I was so happy to encourage that, because the food and the company were perfect. Seriously, this coconut sweet potato lentil curry was the best curry I’ve ever had. There was also vegan chocolate cake for dessert. So delicious!
Here are some of the beverages I enjoyed in Leeds also:
I have also found a secret way to make cafeteria dining more tolerable. I buy little hummus packets and baby kale–(no regular kale to be found anywhere; wtf England?)– when we take our weekly trips into the nearest city center, and add it to whatever is vegan/edible in the dining hall. I had a great baked potato/hummus/beet thing that was pretty solid:
So, ya know, it could be better, but it could be worse. And the fact that sometimes I have to eat bread to fill up and that I don’t have a panic attack about it is REALLY EXCITING! Yay!
How do you feel when you have to give up control over food during travel? xoxoox