Although it would seem my blogging muscle has gone dormant since I’ve been on holiday, I do think it would be ludicrous for me to leave here without blogging at least once (besides my retrospective of plane food and the old Sunday thoughts) about being a vegan into health and fitness in Australia.
My memories of Australia weren’t particularly encouraging on the vegan front. I remember a lot of blank stares, a lot of non-committal shrugs, and a lot of salad sandwiches. Luckily, Australia has always been very good at salad sandwiches and wraps, so it wasn’t as bad as it sounds.
So far I have to say the experience has been much the same. Soy milk and soy yoghurts are readily available, as well as an array of rice and oat milks – a few restaurants and cafés we have visited have offered soy milk with coffee too. We have also found several types of vegan margarine, and a vegetarian section in the local Woolworth’s featuring various types of tofu and falafel as well as other sausage and patty type products. And vegan ice cream! I can’t remember what the situation was last time I was here, 5 years ago, but I would guess that it has improved a fair bit.
Vegetarian dishes don’t seem to be marked out as often here as in the UK, and though most items will be marked as gluten-free, very few are marked as dairy-free. Gluten-free food seems a bigger deal here than in the UK, whereas dairy-free is much less of an issue here, so dishes aren’t clearly indicated as containing dairy. Because people are aware of things like allergies and intolerances, however, they are very receptive to my requests.
One little café on Pearl Beach – where we were the only diners, on a wet Tuesday – quite surprisingly had a falafel wrap on their menu. The server kindly asked in the kitchen, and returned confidently affirming that they didn’t put any dairy in, but they weren’t sure of the falafel. As I don’t have allergies, and I can reasonably assume that falafel contains no eggs or dairy, I went ahead with the order. And it was delicious!
On our next day we drove around the Hunter Valley and met my uncle for lunch. The restaurant, Enzo, was once again a bistro-type establishment, with a slight Italian twist. As always, I had checked out the menu beforehand, and although there were no vegan options there were clearly plenty of ingredients that I assumed could be thrown together to make something delicious. I was right – they put together a salad full of tasty things like olives, sundried tomatoes, avocado, artichoke… all in a simple olive oil dressing. Simple, healthy, tasty, vegan. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t eat like that. Surprisingly, they had soy milk too so I finished off with one of the best lattés I have ever had.
Most of the places we have eaten so far have been the same. I have been eating lots of salad and chips. In fact I think I have had salad and chips every day so far (on days when I haven’t ordered chips, I have stolen some/most of Ben’s) – so I have started taking fruit and chocolate out with me so I can finish off with something a little more decadent. I don’t know why I didn’t do it in the first place, as being prepared with healthy snacks on hand is something I heavily advocate in any circumstance!
Although you can get So Good soy ice cream in supermarkets, still nothing comes close to it in icecreameries, so sorbets are your only option. Healthier, of course, but nothing like ice cream.
Anyway, all in all, Australia is still one of the hardest places to be a vegan that I have experienced (the worst being Ireland). The only redeeming factor is that they are good with their fresh, varied, and colourful ingredients, so settling for a salad really isn’t that bad at all, and I am having to remind myself that it’s really not good enough. I still have another week here so will report back, and I believe supermarket offerings have come a long way, but we definitely need more vegans to come out of the woodwork and drag vegan options, kicking and screaming, onto menus everywhere.
And here’s a gratuitous holiday photo: