It’s something I get asked often enough. I’ve been travelling for nearly eight months now and it’s a daily question: if not from other people but for myself. Even in the USA, finding vegetarian food was not the easiest thing. Finding vegan food was harder again, and, yes, I quite often ate vegetarian instead of vegan simply in order to have some variety and to be able to participate in at least some of the culture. And after eleven years of being vegetarian, and ten years of being essentially vegan, I wanted to re-examine the reasons for my choice in the first place. Certainly now that I’ve arrived in Cuba I have a feeling that vegetarianism is going to become harder and harder as I travel down into Central and South America. I’ve only been here one night and already I’ve had three occasions where the words “Soy vegetariano” have been greeted with the same mix of incredulous surprise and pity. I’ve not had any scary experiences so far on my eight month travels, but then until yesterday in the Bahamas I’d been living with a vegetarian and a vegan. Looking ahead to Mexico I watched a YouTube video online that showed the making of a typical flour tortilla. The standard ingredients are flour, water and pork fat. And even if I was to ask for just some healthy steamed vegetables wrapped in a flour tortilla, apparently the done thing to do is to smear some more pork fat onto the tortilla to provide that all-important basting.

      It’s obvious that I will need to know very clearly why and how I am vegetarian if I am to have any hope of making clear food choices in Latin America that don’t stress me out on a daily basis. I had a great chance to re-examine my commitment to being vegetarian when a friend in New York City lent me the new book “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer. Safran Foer is a youngish Jewish novelist, living in Brooklyn with his wife and young son. He says he began researching the book as a way to explore his own on-off dabbling with vegetarianism and to discover what would be the best way to raise his new baby. Safran Foer begins the book as a meat-eater, and a fairly committed one at that, listing many good reasons why everyday human connections contribute to us sharing a culture of meat eating. Continue Reading »