Being A Vegetarian On The Road

Monastery in Meteora, Greece

On our way to Meteora, Greece, we stopped by to get something to eat. This old lady came shuffling from the dark recess of the dining room with a menu. The kind of old lady that I would not want to meet in a dark alley.

The menu was half in English half in Greek, and to my relief I saw something that screamed “vegetarian” to me — “Tomato stuffed with rice and spices”.

Before we left, the hostel owner taught me how to say “Does it have meat in it?” in Greek. Unfortunately he forgot to also teach me the word “yes” or “no” in Greek.

So, I asked the old lady while pointing to the item of interest in (what I thought was) Greek,
“Does it have meat in it”?

I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter that I did not know the Greek word for “yes” or “no”.

She gave me a big toothy grin, squeezed my shoulder, grabbed the menu off my hand, and walked away.

I looked at Jack,
“Well, whatever that was, I think I just ordered it. Quite possibly with extra meat.”

It came. It had meat in it. Quite a lot actually. It should be called “Tomato stuffed with meat. Rice and spice optional.”


Other vegetarians on the road have written:
Difficulties Traveling as a Vegetarian
Ten Tips for Being a Vegetarian Traveler
How To Survive As A Traveling Vegetarian

Do you have any stories about being a vegetarian while traveling? Any tips on how to communicate your diet preference? Share them in the comment section below.

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14 Replies to “Being A Vegetarian On The Road”

  1. As Ashlea above implied you were a bit unlucky. This dish, called "yemista" in Greek ('stuffed' vegetables) can be made with or without ground meat. My favorite version is without, althouth the main trick is to have them well cooked, without much liquid left swirling around.
    Overall visitors here should have quite a few (tasty) choices of vegetarian dishes, even if people are not always familiar with the concept.

  2. Kudos for you keeping up with a vegetarian lifestyle. I ate vegetarian for almost 8 years and even some places in the states it was hard to eat out. And you are quite right, just because it doesn't have meat in it, doesn't mean it's 'vegetarian' – how do you say that in a language you hardly know? While I still eat a lot of meat free meals, I do now eat meat which will make traveling less difficult…I think. Mystery meat still freaks me out so maybe not. 🙂 Good luck with your travels & sticking with it!

    1. Hi Tricia, well – see, I"m not a strict vegetarian anymore now. Even though I'd opt for vegetarian meal when it's offerred, I eat fish when there's nothing else to eat and it does make eating out a lot less stressful.

  3. That happened to me in a pueblo in Colombia once, though there was no communication problem. I asked for beans without meat, she brings me back beans with meat and a side plate to pick it out. Yeah…

  4. I am thankful to be a vegetarian in some of the places we have traveled to. We have come across travelers that we darn near turned into vegetarians because of what they saw being cooked.

    We didn't make it to northern Greece, but we loved the food in the southern part of the country and on the islands. We found a lot of selection of dishes to eat. We do eat fish, so that gave us a lot more options.

  5. For when I'm traveling I've given up trying to maintain 100% control of what I eat. Chicken stock, fish paste, shrimp paste etc is very hard to detect. You can ask if there's any 'meat' in a dish, but meat-less dish can still be made with meat-based ingredients that even the cook might not be aware of. I fear going to Mongolia where apparently boiled mutton is everywhere — what am I gonna do? But we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

  6. Too funny! This actually happened to us in Japan quite a lot because Bob doesn't like egg in his food… good thing, it was easy to take out- but we never got the hang of ordering it without!

  7. I used to be a little stricter about being a vegetarian, but living in SE Asia and not eating meat means I miss out on a lot of really fantastic things. Plus, if you don't eat fish sauce or shrimp paste, you can't eat even the real basics of Thai cuisine. That means I've really loosened up in the past few months and started to eat a little more meat. I'm impressed by people who stick to their guns!

  8. We also travel as vegetarians – didn't find it as hard as we thought we would in South East Asia – but then again, the most common dish is fried rice – so we got a bit sick of that after a while :p oh and we eat lots of fruit.

    1. It definitely makes things more interesting. Although vegetarians have it much easier compared to the vegans out there, or the raw food dieter.

  9. I had stuffed tomatoes in Greece but they were vegetarian and delicious! But being vegetarian away from home can definitely be a pain in the butt.

    1. I agree. Especially in places where it's hard to make yourself understood. What makes it interesting is Jack doesn't eat red meat, and is allergic to tomatoes.

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