March 27, 2008

The beginner's guide to being vegetarian at a French Cafetaria

Alright... Its almost taboo to be vegetarian in this country... much worse than the United States. There's so much collective disbelief that you don't eat anything that once lived that you almost feel bad to disappoint them. My first few lunches here at the ESIEE canteen were sponsored by my professors and I didn't pay much attention to what I threw on to my tray. Later I realized I was hungry in no time and of course that was because I had barely eaten anything. When I started coming here full-time, over the first week I was perpetually hungry even an hour after a seemingly long lunch. I was doing it wrong. Here's what I really have to do have a tummy that lasts without grumbling atleast till 3:00 pm.

1. Stock up on the salad - The salad bar comes first in the scheme of things. And usually I tended to take measly portions of the salad. This is the crux of the meal and it is important to take healthy portions.

2. Check out the desserts enroute - Usually there's some chocolate/caramel cake or something for the sweet tooth.. If you're trying to be healthy, pick up a bowl of fruit.

3. Pick up a carton of yogurt or a can of juice.

4. Main course: There's probably ONE dish you could take. Its probably boiled potatoes/beans/peas which is just that.. The veggies have been dumped into boiling water and taken out. Do not expect any salt/pepper or other flavours. These are just meant to serve as a side to some form of sizzling meat which will also feature on the main course

5. Sometimes you also have legumes (dal) and riz (rice), both undercooked and not very recommended.

6. Ask for some frite (French fries).. and a fresh fruit (apples, banana, oranges, whatever you want), you are done!

Now pay for it (it probably cost you under 2€ no matter how much you took) and a carafe of water and ooh yeah.. how could I forget the bread?? At least 3 varieties are available to choose from, and are free and unlimited. I prefer taking the mini baguette, scooping the soft inside and eating it, forming a shell into which I stuff about half my salad and voila, I have a stuffed baguette. You can always spice up your boring salad/rice or whatever at the condiments table with everything from paprika to olives.

Thats the best you can do here.. Bon Appetit!


Priya said...

hahaa...its nearly the same at the cafeteria in my company. My Chinese colleague almost gave up on me living when I told him I don't eat meat, and NO, I don't eat seafood either! He shook his head with such disbelief and the look on his face nearly pronounced me DOA :)) :))

Jaya said...

Pri-> The countries match in this aspect. Everyone assumes vegetarianism is just avoiding red meat.. i.e, you can eat seafood. And it truly shocks them when I say thats off the table too. I think what saves the heart attack is that I eat egg. :)

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