Vegan in the Dominican Republic
I learned that phrase prior to my trip to the all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic in June of 2018. I got confused looks from staff members and they incorrectly tried to correct me by saying, “Aaahhhh. Vegetariana”
Sigh…. “No, soy vegana. No come huevos, leche, carne, pollo, pescado, o mantequilla.”
Knowing that I might not have many options there, thinking ahead was my best defense. I brought vegan protein powder in single use pouches along with vegan snack bars. It was a struggle, but I managed to stay true to veganism, I think. I can’t verify if the toast I had daily with my peanut butter was dairy-free or maybe the rice was cooked with chicken stock. I cannot say for sure. However, I do know that I had a great time with my son that week and we met some fantastic people from all parts of the states and from the Dominican Republic.
Holiday week 2018, I went back, solo this time, armed with a bunch of smoothie mixes and vegan snack bars. The staff recognized me and knew what I was expecting, so the communication wasn’t as large of a barrier as before. Christmas Eve dinner was kind of comical. It was a gigantic buffet, but amongst the meat-laden fare, I found my little spot of heaven; falafel, hummus and baba ghanoush. It wasn’t much, but it was my first day on vacation, I was in a beautiful party dress with matching shoes, purse, and earrings, so I was loving it! The comical part came when I sat down at a table and realized that I couldn’t see what I was eating. It was outside and there was only minimal lighting on the table. I had no idea what I was putting in my mouth from one bite to the next. What made it even more funny was that I saw that people at other tables had their phone flashlights turned on so that they could see too.
My son and I had plans to go back in the summer of 2019. I had considered bringing tofu so that I could have some protein with dinner. I had managed breakfast and lunch fairly well the last times, but oily pasta with only vegetables just wasn’t appealing for dinner every night. However, tofu is not allowed on an airplane.
One day, while cooking my newly discovered soy curls, I had a spark of inspiration. I saved an entire bag of them for my trip. It was magic! I soaked a serving in a container while getting dressed for dinner a few nights that week and drained them before we left. I ordered pasta, per usual, and added the soy curls. The heat from the dish warmed them up and I was pleasantly full most nights. I also used the soy curls for breakfast. I had the omelet chef add them to sautéed vegetables some mornings. He was kind and made sure to at least wipe out his pan and spatula. Other guests watched this process in awe and asked questions about it.
My last day there, I saw a man walking around in a typical tall chef hat. I normally don’t see those chefs on the property as they are in the kitchens, so I took the opportunity to talk about adding more vegan dishes that aren’t merely veggies and pasta. He didn’t have a great command of English and I don’t have a terrific understanding of Spanish, so it was a challenge, but I hope I had an impact. When I arrived home, I tweeted the company with the same request. I am going again in December and will tweet the company, yet again, about having more options, even if not on their regular menu, have them specially made for yours truly.
I know that there are some people who live the vegan lifestyle whole-hardheartedly and would not tolerate some lapses like I do. I am glad that you do! I strive to eat and live as animal-free as I can, and I hope that it is easier to do so with clear labeling, decreases in cross-contamination, and a more aware travel industry. Until that day comes, I will do my absolute best to be vigilant in my journey to do as little harm to animals as possible, and travel with my soy curls!