What’s a Vegetarian to do in a Meat Lover’s Paradise?

April Johnson
May 3, 2017

When I first told people that I wanted to study abroad, one of the first questions they asked is “What are you going to eat?”. There’s this consensus that when you go abroad, being vegetarian is impossible. Now anyone who knows anything about Vienna knows that this issue is amplified times ten in this country. Vienna has got to be one of the meatiest places in the world. Schnitzel reigns as King, accompanied by suckling pork and goulash. When I decided that I wanted to study abroad in Vienna, one of the first things I looked up was what their food specialties were. Now cakes and coffee aside, it was looking like I was going to have a big issue on my hands eating sans Fleisch. But there’s one thing that every country has in common: Pasta. No matter where I was going to eat or study, I had the comfort of knowing that pasta would be there for me.

In the opening days of our program, we had a three day orientation where all of our meals were provided. This meant that I virtually had no choice on what I would be served. Luckily, one of the girls I first met just happened to be another Vegetarian. We found each other during our meals and had no issue telling the servers we needed the vegetarian dishes. What did this comprise of? One meal was just a plate of cheesy potatoes. Delicious. I’m sure the meal had absolutely no nutritional value but it tasted great. The other meals included pasta, rice and vegetables, and sometimes a side salad. Post orientation, my friend and I realized that one of the soups that they advertised as “vegetarian” was definitely not. It was a beef broth soup with pieces of bread. Sometimes when you’re tired, jet-lagged, and hungry, you just stop asking questions and accept the cards your dealt—so hey.

After living here for more than four months now, I think I have a pretty good grip on what I can order when I eat out and what to buy when I go to the market. When I’m eating at a traditional Austrian restaurant, I know that I can order cheesy dumplings or spätzle which is a type of egg noodle, usually covered in cheese. There is usually also at least one vegetarian option for soup and salads are always adaptable to be meatless. You’d be surprised to find that most restaurants I have been to in Vienna actually have a vegetarian section on their menu. One of the top restaurants I still need to go to here in Vienna is Tian, a high-end vegetarian restaurant that has an impressive Michelin star, so it should be worth the splurge.

For groceries each week, I usually go to Merkur since it is conveniently located under my gym. Merkur is a large supermarket that is Trader Joe’s- esque with its selection of vegan, vegetarian, and organic foods. They have a large vegan section that has every flavor of hummus and tofu you could imagine, along with things like vegan patties, sausages, and falafel.  Spar also has their own Veggie brand which includes snacks, bread, and soy products. When I really want to splurge and am craving something (like black beans) that I can’t find at the other two markets, I go to Bio Denn’s, an expensive, organic market. This place is comparable to Whole Foods. So far, it is the only place where I have found black beans, and they’re still raw which means it’ll take at least 6 hours to soak and cook.

Having a kitchen to cook in for the first time in my college career has been a fun and experimental experience. Being vegetarian does not have to stop you from going to any country, no matter how much people there eat meat. I guarantee you will always be able to find something at every restaurant and you will learn how to use the local ingredients to cook your own meals. So don’t be afraid and try it!

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April Johnson

<p>April is a junior at Harvard University studying Neurobiology and Astrophysics. When she is not in the lab or looking at the stars, she likes to force her friends to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack, get away to the beautiful beaches of Southern California, and plan spontaneous trips. April is studying in Vienna, Austria this spring to drink lots of coffee, learn some German, and finally learn how to Waltz.</p>

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