Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tofu in Paradise

I have been offline for the longest time with no real excuse except for life having become busier than ever and then My Beloved and I...went on vacation. Nothing particularly blog-worthy about that, I guess, except that this was my first vacation - out of the country, in fact - as a vegan.

I was nervous. Ready to be surprised. Worried I'd go hungry. Pleased that I might be forced into losing a little more weight, a little more quickly. Anxious that I would find myself faced with the choice of an endless stream of salads or a beheaded bovine on a bun.

I had cause to worry. And at the same time I should have trusted in people's inate goodness and reluctance to let me starve. At least, on their watch.

Grab yourself a nice cup of tea and a vegan mojito muffin and let me back-track a little....

My Beloved and I are scuba divers. Here we are, in fact:

I am the one in the extremely fetching blue mask.

Now divers are a strange bunch, I have to confess. We - I use the collective plural, not the 'Royal We' - love, love, love to spend time with our piscene little dive buddies and then what do we do? Grill 'em for dinner!

Where, I ask you, is the logic in that?

So this year was the first in which I could look these wonderful little mites in the eye and honestly wish them no harm. It was an incredibly liberating feeling. At least, I think, until dinner time when, after the exertion of the morning followed by an arduous afternoon slumber in the hammock, I would be ready for just about anything that happened to wind up on my plate.

Or so I feared....

You see, for those of you who are not divers or who do dive but have immense, magnificent and preternatural (ohhhh, I just knew at some point I'd be able to use that word!) control over yourselves and your appetite, diving is an exquisitely hunger-inducing activity.

Much more so than - say - light sleeping....or extreme origami.

This is especially true for me as I am horribly seasick and rarely fail to delight the fish with my early morning 'offerings'. So by the evening, I am generally ravenous.

In years past, I have devoured more than my share of chickens' body parts smothered in a variety of sauces, of cows' behinds grilled over fire and, of course, of fishes hauled out of their world directly onto my plate. But this year was different. That was all off the menu to me now. And I'll admit to having a twinge of anxiety that my hunger might triumph over my ethics while on this tiny island, far from home, far from censure, in the Caribbean. (BTW: we stayed here and I cannot recommend it too highly - it was wonderful!)

So it was with trepidation that I was introduced to the resort's chef on checking in. As My Beloved struggled with our enormous dive bags, I was introduced to Chef Gregory who strode out of the kitchen to shake my hand. 'Here's our vegan!', exclaimed the receptionist breathily, and with a beautiful tropical lilt and the kind of inflection usually reserved for calming small children. Attempting to strike a particularly veganly pose, I flashed Chef Gregory the most gracious smile I could muster at such short notice and declared that - ah well, salads are always good...I could do with losing a few pounds of course! - and then felt extremely silly.

I had fallen into the trap already of apologising for my choices - what a twit. Oh well, as it was, it made no difference. Every evening after scanning the buffet-style food available to everyone else, I was treated to a wonderful vegan entree - each night a surprise, but uniformly delicious. So excited was I at the fact that they'd gone to the effort of getting tofu for me - and learning to cook it - that I couldn't focus my camera well enough to get a good picture. What follows is blurry but crucial evidence that people will bend over backwards if you state what you want. And if you state it ahead of time, preferably by email so that if your anxiety gets the better of you, at least the groundwork's already been done!

Feeling hungry, albeit in a salad phase:

A tofu-based confection:

Damn, this was good and pretty as a picture:

And on our last night there, I was treated to this wonderous creation:

As said, my pix do not do the dishes justice as I was so excited by the prospect of it all that I screwed up the focus somewhat. However, My Beloved's cool composure managed to capture the image that summed it all up:

One very happy vegan!

Remember: wherever you are in the world - with only the fewest of exceptions - there are always vegetables, usually rice and generally fruits. So really: don't worry - stay vegan, friends!