Plane Travel as a Vegan

As I write this, we are on the plane to Canada. School finished yesterday and we are about to embark on a big trip to Western Canada and the US. To say we are excited is an understatement. We are especially excited about cool, fresh air, running in parks and trails, footpaths that are clear and even, waking up in the tent, innovative vegan food and last (and certainly not least) catching up with friends including old and those that I met online and family (Seb’s family and also my younger brother who might be joining me for part of the trip).

It is my intention to blog a lot this holiday. A big focus of this holiday is “all things vegan”. I might have to make veg blogging take the backseat. I am excited to announce that I will be a classroom teacher for grade 2 from August. I am very excited about the opportunity, but I expect it to be a bit of a readjustment especially for the first year. I am also going to try and do more study towards my masters next semester. I am even considering deactivating my Facebook account so I won’t waste so much time on it. I get the feeling that maximum productivity will be name of the game.

This year at my school has been a blast. As one of the teachers said in her farewell speech, that my school is really is a place of opportunities. It’s true.  You have an idea then you can pretty much run with it. The teachers and admin are so supportive and open to lots of ideas. Yesterday as we celebrated the year and said goodbye to those departing, I had a real sense about how lucky I am to be in such an exciting school.

There have been a number of veg highlights at this school this year.

As you might remember I ran a 30 Day Vegan Challenge. While not all participants have stuck to a vegan diet, I do feel the challenge has had a lasting impact to those that took part.  Those that have decided to stick with the vegan diet, have noticed a lot of benefits. One of my friends who truly believed that cheese would be very difficult to give up told me that she inadvertently ate polenta with cheese in and thought it tasted badly. Some people would like to do the challenge again the next year. We’ll see how it goes.

I also think that everyone in the school now knows what a vegan is (I don’t think many people did, certainly the students). I chuckled to myself yesterday when a third grade kid offered me a cupcake and another stepped in and said “No, Ms Brighde’s vegan!”

I have had some incredible conversations with students about my food choices. Just the other day I was doing guided reading with a bunch of third grade students with a book called ‘Fish For Dinner’. I happened to mention that I didn’t like the title of the book and students proceeded to ask me lots of questions about my consumption of animal products. It was fascinating for me as you could see the cogs turning in their minds as they thought about a different perspective.

People are more aware of providing vegetarian options. Indonesia is very meat heavy. As awareness is growing in our community more veg options are becoming available. Pizzas without cheese were available at our last staff lunch before we even asked. Going to people’s houses and parties has never been a problem. While I always offer to bring something (and usually do) I am always humbled at how prepared they are to accommodate my food choices to the extent that sometimes all the food will be vegan.

I do feel the perception of what vegan food has changed and it isn’t just me who is doing it. The idea that vegan food is tasteless and boring has been challenged. I baked like crazy for the first half of the year for any meeting or potluck (I think I over-baked hence why I needed a baking break in the second half of the year). One of my colleagues cooked an amazing vegan Mexican feast during her farewell party. During the grade 3 class party, the class parents put on food and they prepared a whole section for me. Vegan candies, spring rolls, seitan satay, peppered ‘beef’, mocha and other delicious things. I was humbled and very appreciative.

On Earth Day, with some help the school caterers produced a vegan food extravaganza that I think was mostly successful. Imagine what could be achieved if time and practice went in to it.

Back to flying as a vegan, it is pretty easy and although the food can be hit and miss, there’s always something to eat. The most important thing is to book your food in advance. Airlines typically need 48 hours for special meal requests but as we are in an age where we can book everything online, most airlines allow you to make your meal request at the time of booking.  Airlines have to cater to so many dietary requests from ‘bland food’ to ‘low sodium’. Some airlines will specify ‘vegan’ although with others you will need to enter one of the codes. A pure vegetarian meal has the airline code VGML. For a while, Seb and I ordered the Indian vegetarian meal and hope there was no paneer but that annoying paneer started to appear more and more so we are back to the VGML option.

Starting at Jakarta airport, after immigration we headed over to Starbucks. While there is not really any food available for vegans, they do have soymilk. It’s Asian style soy milk so it is really very sweet which really upsets some of my vegan friends in Jakarta. I agree with them. It is horribly sweet, but it’s better than none at all.

Boarding the plane to Hong Kong we were served breakfast. It was actually pretty tasty. A very juicy pear, a wedge of papaya and watermelon. A bread roll with vegan margarine. There was steamed broccoli, mushrooms, fried potato slices, battered eggplant (was a bit soggy) and roasted capsicum. There was a yogurt (not pictured), which was given back to the airline crew. They didn’t substitute it with anything, but it was plenty enough without the yogurt.

Vegan breakfast on Cathay

In Hong Kong airport we went to Pizza Express and enjoyed a cheeseless pizza.

For the Hong Kong segment of the trip we were with Air Canada. First of all we were served dinner.  An okay risotto with grilled zucchini and mushroom and a side salad and fruit .

Vegan Dinner Air Canada

A few hours later we were given a sort of wrap with beans, corn and salsa then we were served a hot breakfast before arriving in Vancouver. It was an English muffins with spinach and mushrooms, fried potatoes and a tomato with fruit and a wholemeal roll. Seb was not happy with the prevalence of mushroom in the dishes, but we swapped some things around and we both had enough to eat.

Vegan breakfast Air Canada

Having a special meal has its benefits on planes. You always get served your meal first which is kinda cool.

If you are travelling from a place that is more clued in to vegan food, then there will usually be more innovative choices in the hot meal department. Flying as a vegan is really not that big of a deal. Travelling in economy is never going to have amazing food, but as I always say, I have no problem eating this kind of food. It isn’t the best food in the world and nutritionally it isn’t optimal, but Seb and I have already made up for it by heading to Whole Foods foe dinner where we had a HUGE plate of kale salad.

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