The fun of a holiday definitely starts at the airport for me. When travelling on my own, I insist on bringing all my food and snacks and buying nothing (or, occasionally, if I’m feeling frivolous or preparing my own food isn’t an option, I might splurge on a salad from Pret A Manger), but when travelling with others it is a treat to buy food at the airport. Don’t ask me why, as it rarely turns out to be a culinarily fulfilling experience.
It has been years since I flew anywhere from Stansted Airport (with good reason) so I didn’t know what to expect. Not much, it turns out. Possible options were Yo! Sushi (not possible with Ben in tow, and way too easy to spend too much money in anyway), Pret with their Superfood Salad or Naked Avocado Bloomer (which looks delicious but which I have yet to try), or The Bridge Bar offering a potentially vegan falafel burger or a “Powerhouse” Veggie Salad. There is also a microwave-based Asian takeaway called Yam Yam To Go which has a couple of vegetarian options which may or may not be vegan (one was a korma which was described as containing “coconut cream” and no mention of dairy cream, but I would be highly surprised if it didn’t contain dairy, and if the staff were willing and able to find out the ingredients for you).
The queue at Pret was ridiculous, and the crowds covering all the seating areas terrifying, so we sidled off to The Bridge Bar. There the staff were friendly and checked whether the house dressing on the Powerhouse Veggie Salad was vegan, which is wasn’t, but they offered to bring me some olive oil so I could dress it myself. I was so excited about my salad that I even had my camera at the ready, but when it arrived it was so disappointing I didn’t even take a photo of it. I had a mound of greens scattered with a few ingredients. The edamame beans had been replaced by raw broad beans which did not at all have the same effect, and the butternut squash which would have been the highlight of the salad was noticeably absent. Everything else was there, but even after being doused with unreasonable amounts of olive oil the whole thing was bland and disappointing.
Ben opted for the falafel burger sans tzatziki (why do they always insist on putting that in anything with falafel?!), which was about 85% burger and 15% falafel. I know that GBK‘s falafel burger usually comes with just three falafel as did this one, but those are big tasty things. Ben took about two bites and couldn’t be bothered with the rest. I jumped at the chance to eat his falafel without even considering they may not be vegan until I bit into one and thought they tasted distinctly like Cauldron falafel which aren’t vegan (and which I’m not sure I have ever had, so I can’t say I know where that brainwave came from). Either way, they tasted cheap and packaged, and those things often contain egg for some obscure reason, so I left it too.
Luckily I had a Frank Oat & Chocolate bar in my bag which just about made it onto the airplane before being inhaled. As I had seemingly come down with a violent bout of snack-attack, my Builder’s bar almost instantly followed the Frank bar. There’s just something about unwrapping a snack bar on a plane…
Logically, here, we would have what are now Part 1 and Part 2. If you haven’t read those yet, or my Sunday thoughts, it’s basically lots of chia seeds, fruit, soy yoghurt, packaged tofu-based snacks and tempeh, the occasional paella or papas arrugadas, a bout of Chinese food, a little tempura and a touch of sushi, and many many fajitas.
If the prospect of buying food in an airport on my way out of London is something that weirdly entices me, even I can’t kid myself that there will be anything enjoyable about feeding myself on the way back to London, wherever I am. Gran Canaria airport indeed obliged in being totally useless for vegans, and even pretty unhelpful for vegetarians as far as I can tell. Although some Starbucks outlets in the UK occasionally offer a vegan “mezze” box (even marked as vegan on the packaging!), the Starbucks branch in Gran Canaria airport most decidely did not. Café Ritazza never has anything remotely vegan and certainly didn’t here. Upper Crust followed suit (why do “fresh handmade sandwich” places never offer an option to make your own? and how hard can it be to offer even just a salad sandwich?), and the Soho Coffee Company didn’t appear to sell any food that didn’t contain cheese (they do have a hummus sandwich on their website menu which appears to be vegan). Admittedly, they do offer jacket potatoes, and although none of the listed options were vegan I guess it would be possible to get a plain potato without butter, or with baked beans. Going hungry was more appealing to me at this point than an airport jacket potato, with or without baked beans.
In the end, I bought one of only two apples I could find that wasn’t bruised, wrinkled, squishy, or outright moudly, and sat down briefly to eat my Wheaty Spacebar Chorizo bar with the last of a red pepper that I had cut up before leaving our accommodation, followed by the apple. When the snack attack hit me on the plane, I devoured my Wheaty Spacebar Hemp (after spending about 10 minutes tearing off shreds of plastic packaging with my teeth trying to get at the damn thing, much to Ben’s amusement), my 15g of almonds which I had brought from London and saved for a moment of desperation, and 25g of dark chocolate. Does anyone else get airplane snack attacks this bad?!
I do have to note, though, that despite the appalling lack of vegan or potentially vegan dining/lunching/snacking options in Gran Canaria airport, the Canarian produce shop does offer a few vegan products: the palm biscuits which can be found in any supermarket around the island, an almond-based biscuit-like cake, some cinammon biscuits, and some chocolate-coated bananas and almonds as well as bags of unadulterated nuts, dried figs, or fruit and nut mix. And olives, if you think you might fancy chomping through a bag of olives on the flight (and I’m not going to be the one to judge if you do). I decided not to purchase any as I knew what would happen when the snack attack hit. There is also plenty of prepared fruit in pots (melon, grapes, etc), the odd apple or banana which is in a state to be eaten, and crisps. Not that any of those, in my mind, qualify as “vegan options”.
At least, I like to think, all the walking around in search of vegan options helps undo some of the damage that I do whilst sitting still for a few hours in a pressurised aircraft – but if you are actually inclined to eat more real food, make sure you make or buy something before setting off for the airport, as even Gran Canaria is a vegan mecca compared to its airport! As for Stansted, well, I hope not to return there, ever, if possible, for many reasons, and I certainly won’t be rushing back for its vegan food options.