I should have known what to expect when searching for information on being vegetarian in France, and the first article I came to said “learn to cook”. And then when we were on the ferry, I noticed that the margherita pizza (normally a staple for us) came with ham.
With three quarters of our family being vegetarian, including two not very adventurous kids, were we doomed to a week of plain baguette and little else?
Thank goodness, the answer is non.
As it turned out, Brittany Ferries did have vegetarian options on the menu, in the shape of a not bad at all Croque-Monsieur Vegetarien on the way out, and a tasty pasta dish for the return journey.
Don’t assume that as a vegetarian in France you’ll be 100% locked out of the food culture. You can still enjoy fresh croissants and baguettes, lovely fresh fruit and veg and gorgeous desserts from the many specialist patisseries. And if you eat eggs and cheese then you’re pretty well sorted. And you can still visit the many small markets in picturesque little villages to pick out fresh food you like.
Your budget will benefit too – we saved a packet by not eating out in pricey restaurants, and self-catering instead.
Tips for vegetarians on holiday in France
- Opt to self-cater
Self catering will make life a lot easier all round – we stayed in a Siblu mobile home in Domaine de Kerlann, Brittany, which came with a well-equipped kitchen. And if the thought of cooking dinner every night like you would at home doesn’t spell holiday to you, remember you can keep it simple with filled baguettes, scrambled eggs or salads.
- Take a cool box filled with favourites from home
If you like meat-substitute products such as Quorn, bring them with you because they are not widely available in France. Some families prefer to bring dried soya products with them. We didn’t bother and just ate a lot of nuts for protein instead.
- Learn some language
Either take a phrase book or download an app to help you translate so you can decipher menus. Practice some basic questions so you know how to ask if a dish has meat or fish in it – sometimes asking for a vegetarian alternative means that you’ll be directed towards the fish.
- Read menus closely
Vegetarian options may be in there, but they’re unlikely to be marked with a green V as they would be in the UK. Watch out for the lardons which the French seem to like to sprinkle on their salads.
- Go pancake crazy
In Brittany one local speciality is varieties of pancake – savoury galettes (made with buckwheat flour) or sweet crepes, both available with a wide range of fillings. These were also available pre-packed and were a good snack for the kids when we were out and about.
- If you get a takeaway, check it before you take away
We bought what was listed as a cheese and tomato pizza, but it was only when we got it back to our mobile home that we looked and found that it was also all covered in ham. Check that what you think you’ve bought and what you’ve actually bought are the same.
- Always have dessert
Those gorgeous strawberry or raspberry tarts from the patisserie still count as one of your five a day.
- When in doubt, have Salade Verte
We had lunch in one lovely restaurant right on the beach, but again it seemed to be a case of lardons with everything. At least you know where you are with a plain old green salad.
- Don’t get miffed
However passionately you believe in your vegetarianism, a holiday isn’t the time to get would up about the fact that many other people do not feel the same. Don’t let it annoy you. It’s not that big a pain, it’s just a cultural difference.
Joanne Mallon and family were on a review tip courtesy of Siblu holiday villages http://www.siblu.com. Accommodation in Domaine de Kerlann was provided by Siblu, and ferry crossing was provided by Brittany Ferries http://www.brittanyferries.com/ . You can read more about Joanne’s trip to France on her blog http://joannemallon.typepad.com/joanne_the_coach/ Tips for vegetarian families in France