In most parts of Europe, it’s a little tricky to be a vegetarian. This display window in Amsterdam celebrates the joys of pork. My traveling life would be easier if I were a carnivore. I could grab a hot dog anywhere and never slow down.
But in some ways, it’s easier to be a vegetarian in Europe than in the town where I live most of the time. In my Colorado ski-and- ranching town, beef cattle on the hoof turn into beef steaks on the grill when they’re about 18 months old. In these parts, a ranch kid as young as eight commonly chooses and fattens a calf for market for over a year. The child feeds the animal grain and walks it in the fields to develop muscle tissue. In early fall, the child leads the resulting steer, weighing about 1200 pounds, into the show ring at the county fair. The steer wins a ribbon and basks in thunderous applause. Then the child bids a tearful farewell to the animal as it’s sold to the highest bidder. Local restaurants post photos of the winning animals they’ve purchased. It’s the circle of life here.
I have the greatest respect for ranchers and their traditions. But I just don’t eat meat. When I first moved here, I politely declined a chicken casserole at a community event. “I’ll just take some rice,” I said. The server gave me a blank look. “I’m a vegetarian,” I explained.
“But this is chicken!”
“I know,” I said, as people behind me in line fidgeted. “I don’t eat meat.”
The server was completely mystified. “But this is chicken!” She was still shaking her head in disbelief as I walked away with my plate of plain rice.
Obviously I am not much of a foodie, unless being a connoisseur of omelets counts. In Paris, every cafe serves an omelet and no one raises an eyebrow. The humblest establishment can whip up an excellent omelet quickly, and it almost always can be ordered with vegetables.
Ethnic restaurants, Indian or Asian, do have vegetarian items on their menus. But they also tend to have unfamiliar sauces and spices. I’m reluctant to risk indigestion on a trip. I’m pretty cautious even though the menus are enticing.
So aside from omelets, my fallback, especially in France, is the ever-delicious crepe. In France in particular, entree crepes are made with a substantial buckwheat batter. They’re called “galettes.” Actually, I’d cheerfully eat galettes or crepes every day if I could.
Of course all these light, healthy meals leave plenty of room for my favorite:
In the United States, there was once a chain of restaurants called the Magic Pan which served only crepes. You could walk in and find all crepes, all the time! Too bad they’re gone. It’s just one more reason to travel to France every chance I get!