When I lived in Madrid 12 years ago, a new word was starting to pop up in the Spanish vocabulary. "Vegetariana." Back then, it translated most closely to "vegetable," but it was the best word available for some one in my situation; vegetarian.
In Mexico and Central America especially, I shudder when I ask the question. "Tienes comida vegetariana? No como carne." I say it in a quiet voice, with a smile. I don't eat meat. And then, the next question always requires the same response. "No, I don't eat chicken either." And then, "or fish. But I eat eggs! And cheese!" As if that should make my host feel better. I'll eat some of it. But not all of it.
Sometimes I end up with a completely rad meal (like desayuno tipico in Guatemala, I could eat this every meal, every day) and sometimes I end up with an avocado.
I know that traditionally, Latin American cuisine is very animal-protein focused. I know that in a lot of cultures, eating meat is considered to be a luxury. I would never try to talk a person out of their habits, I always try to stay quiet if a conversation leads to eating animals, I want to show respect for the place I am living. But I'm not going to partake in it. To put it lightly, it's not my thing and it never will be. Why? I don't like the taste. I don't like the thought of eating something that could wink at me, and I don't like the way animals are treated when they are raised as food. To start. Also that whole thing about allocating 27% of the world's livable surface for cattle doesn't seem smart or sustainable. And we don't actually need to eat it. Ok, I'm done! That's my pitch or gripe or whatever.
This started when I was like four years old and our neighbor showed me a fish that she'd been keeping in her freezer. "It's going to be dinner," she said. Oh my gosh, the horror. Wasn't fish supposed to come in a nugget form? What on earth was chicken then?
Eating vegetarian in other countries has mostly been incredibly easy. If you enjoy trying new things like papusas, elote, tamales, yucca, and plantains, life is good. If you love to experiment with different salsas, it's even better. And if you know some one who loves to cook almost as much as they love to go mountain biking, life is the best.
Spencer plans to take a few cooking classes along the way in different places we're staying. We're bringing a good amount of kitchen equipment down with us so that we can find food at the markets to cook at home. I'm so excited to see what new foods and flavors we discover over the next year. Stay tuned - there might be some favorite recipes posted here in the future!