Thursday, September 19, 2013

Spontaneous Edinburgh Proves to be Less Than Vegan

While my last post was about how good I was at researching vegan food in Edinburgh before our trip, my research could not account for every moment of the day.  There were more than a few times when we were out and about that I was cold, hungry, or just wanted to be part of the experience.   In those instances my vegan ideals went most of the way out the window.  
Like the pint of milk provided by the owner of the hotel to go with the complimentary cereal and fruit for breakfast.  Should we let the milk go bad or thank him for the free breakfast?  You guessed it ... we ate the cereal.  
I definitely didn't document every scrap of food I ate during the trip, but here are a few of those times in Edinburgh where the experience took over ...

Unfortunately, my vegan designs went out the window right from the start, when I forgot to sign up for a vegan meal far in advance on our British Airways flight.  Fortunately, one of the two standard options was vegetarian at least - tomato pasta with cheese.  And yes, that's a cheesecake sitting there.  And yes ... I did eat it.  My first cheesecake in nine months?  Yeah, it was good. 

In fact desserts and sweets proved to be my general downfall when it came to staying the vegan course on this trip.  While walking around Edinburgh, we stopped at a convenience store for a little sustenance, which is where I spotted this peanut butter KitKat.  Unusual flavored KitKats have always been a fascination of mine, and I couldn't help but pick it up to split with Josh while we walked.  It was quite good. 

The other major source of trouble was when we stopped for a meal at a place that I hadn't pre-planned before our arrival.  Our lunch at a Debenhams Cafe, for instance, was lovely with its views of the water, but didn't have any vegan options beyond a side of fries (chips). 

Rather than go hungry, Josh and I split a vegetarian mushroom and cheese pie with chips on the side.  It wasn't even that great, but hey, it was food! 

There were also those instances when I made half-hearted attempts to be vegan, but which wouldn't really amount to much if anyone's keeping score.  For instance ... Since I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, of course I wanted to stop at the Elephant House Cafe - the place where JK herself wrote the first HP book. 

There was a huge line, but we were able to grab a table where we enjoyed hot chocolate and dessert.  I ordered my hot chocolate with soy milk, but the barista was kind enough to let me know the chocolate mix still had milk powder.  Strike 1.  No matter, I said ... my carrot cake wasn't vegan either.  Strike 2.

And remember when I left Night 3 dinner out of my last post?  That's because we found ourselves tired and with sore feet, but luckily right in front of a little pub.  Our stop for a couple of beers quickly turned into dinner once we saw a few plates of burgers and chips (fries, again) go by. 

They actually had three vegetarian burgers on the menu, but none of them were vegan.  I ordered myself the portabella mushroom burger and had it topped with the spicy fixings from another offering - including jalapenos, chipotle mayo, and pepperjack cheese.  I could definitely have taken steps to make a more vegan choice (like hold the mayo and cheese), but without comforting vegan substitutes available I really didn't want to. 

I wanted my big greasy burger with fries and a beer.  And maybe I was letting the vacation give me the excuse I've been wanting a lot of the time in "regular" life, but which I won't let myself indulge. 

I definitely took more than a few more opportunities on the trip to eat foods I've been craving but couldn't have over the past few months.  Like this donut from Krispy Kreme, which was conveniently located right across from the hotel we stayed in on our final night in Edinburgh before flying out.  They were having a caramel-themed flavor special, so this was the caramel crunch.  I've been thinking about donuts more in the past few months than I have in my entire life, and this my "oh well, it's vacation!" mantra had thoroughly sunk in by the last day. 

I tried my best to savor it, knowing it would be quite a while before I came across a vegan donut ... or found myself on another vacation and standing in a Krispy Kreme. 

The other big excuse I used on the trip, of course, was the desire to experience Scottish culture.  It was an excuse to eat the complementary shortbread cookies at the hotel (plus I love shortbread ... vegan shortbread post coming soon!).  And it was a great excuse to eat this fruit scone with jam and clotted cream at the Royal Botanic Gardens when we took shelter in the cafe to escape the downpour.  And the hot chocolate was a great way to stave off the cold. 

What was my excuse for three chocolate truffles at Jenner's?  Well, after looking around at their wares for an hour without buying something, and still needing to fill a bit more time, we just had to get something from the cafe.  And whiskey flavored truffles are as Scottish as truffles get (short of haggis truffles, I suppose ... but no one's rushing out to make those). 

Waiting at the airport in Edinburgh we had time to fill and no guarantee our (now properly requested) special meals would actually make it onto our flight - these things so often slipping through the cracks, so naturally we stopped for a quick bite.  I suppose I could have planned yet further and packed up something from the city before arriving at the airport, but of course I didn't.  And while I could have had a fruit cup or some other poor man's substitute for food that I could find at the terminal, yet again I through vegan caution to the wind. 

A chocolate caramel shortbread bar and mushroom and cheese panini?  Why yes, thank you.  They look delicious.  And they were. 

One of the things I learned on this trip?  I'm certainly not lactose intolerant yet.  I tested my digestive system enough times to know that for sure.  But did I also learn I'm not a good vegan?  That I'm not really vegan at all?  Maybe.  But I think I tried a lot harder than a non-vegan would.  I suppose I'm a semi-vegan.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing. 

Every day, every bite, we have a new opportunity to decide what we put in our mouths and what impact we will have on the world through the food choices we make.  I've been back in the US now for almost two full days.  And no animals were harmed in the making of the past two days of my life.  And any food decisions I made in the past couple of weeks, just like those I made over the past couple of years, do not need to affect the decisions I make tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that ...

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