said the waiter at the first restaurant I ate at in Dublin. Or, that’s what he would have said if I was the hugging type and didn’t have very good impulse control.
You’re confused. Let me explain.
I am a vegetarian. I have been a vegetarian since I was five. Since I was five I have had trouble eating at restaurants in America and since I started buying my own groceries I’ve spent a lot of time in grocery store aisles, squinting at the tiny ingredients lists on the backs of cans of soup to see if they contain any sneaky animal by-products, only to get them back home and realise at the last minute that my eyes skipped over that shrimp extract. Sigh. Into the overflowing bag for the food pantry you go!
A couple of months ago, one of my friends posted a link on facebook to an Onion article entitled: “Vegetarian Option Just Iceberg Lettuce on Bread.” You omnivores may laugh, but my fellow vegetarians and vegans will probably feel entitled to echo my sullen response: “I remember when The Onion was satire.” *insert unimpressed emoticon here* Seriously, if you don’t live in a big city in America and you’re a vegetarian/vegan you probably often find yourself looking at a menu where, at best, you can have the salad unretouched, and at worst you end up getting steak and boiled vegetables, hold the steak. But, you know, it’s whatever. You learn that you have pretty much no interesting options when eating out unless you get super lucky, and you resign yourself to eating pasta and salad for the rest of your days.
But now you’re moving to a new country! Will you be able to eat there? Is vegetarianism weird there? Is it going to be harder there to find food than it is in America? All very important questions. So, Potential Future Herbivores Of Ireland, let me return to my opening scene:
I’m sitting in a restaurant the day after arriving in Dublin, with a migraine, jet-lagged out of my brain, because there’s no food in my fridge and I cannot bring myself to try Tesco out when I feel on the verge of death. I’ve managed to drag myself down to the Rathmines Grill and Takeaway, which is a chip shop-cum-diner, and I’m sitting in a booth, expecting to have to pay for a typical meat-laden breakfast, hold all the meat. So when I opened my menu and saw staring back at me not only a Vegetarian Breakfast option, but also a vegetarian omelet, vegetarian kebabs, falafel wraps and veggie burgers, I nearly cried with happiness. And then I ordered the omelet and the proprietor took pity on me and generously gave me a paracetamol along with my brunch. Bless. As the title suggests, had I been a lot less myself, I may have hugged the poor man. Patronize that place, ladies and gentlemen, they’re superb.
My experience of the restaurants here in Dublin has continued along that line of culinary variety. I have not been to a single restaurant here where there weren’t at least two (interesting!) vegetarian options on the menu that didn’t have to be doctored to get that way. Even McDonalds and Burger King have veggie burgers as a regular menu option, not something you have to beg for. Admittedly, obviously, I haven’t been to every restaurant in Dublin, but my point is that Dublin is WAY better at vegetarianism than anywhere I’ve been in America except for NYC.
Food shopping, too, is easier here. Raw fruits and vegetables, it must be said, are probably more expensive than you’ll be used to since pretty much everything has to be imported, but everything here is more expensive so it might not seem too bad. As far as soups/mixes/sauces/pre-fab meals go, many of them have little labels on the back if they’re vegetarian that say so, and grocery stores like M&S who do a lot of pre-fab meals have entire vegetarian lines. Plus, meat substitutes are far easier to get your hands on here. In the States, I’d have to go to a specialty store to get any kind of meat substitute that was not an out-and-out veggie burger. Here, I pop into Tesco and aside from two types of tofu to pick from I’ve also got pretty much everything Quorn makes and a couple other varieties of fake meat besides.
Long story short: if you’re worried about moving to Ireland because you’re a vegetarian, put that out of your mind. Eating may very well get easier once you’re over here.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hannah Vose is a University of Rochester junior, majoring in English with an interest in literary translation studies. When not burying her nose in whichever book has most recently been plucked from atop the dangerously tall pile on her desk, she can be found obsessively learning new languages, squinting through her (very stylish, thank you!) bifocals at someone else's writing in her job as a Writing Fellow, drinking stupid amounts of tea, squinting through her bifocals at her own writing in her job as a scathing self-critic, or dreaming of living somewhere which gets even less sun than Rochester. Born in England but having lived most of her life in Endicott, New York, she has traveled back to the Land of Her People twice and visited Dublin once on the way over. She considered applying to Trinity College as an international student, but was deterred by tuition costs (yikes!) so she's absolutely 100% thrilled to be living in Dublin and taking classes at Trinity for an entire year (and only about 34% of that is because she might get to take a class on Patrick McCabe -- will it happen? Stay tuned!)</span></p>