This is the kind of thing I fear when eating out-whether travelling abroad or staying near home: vegetarian vegetable victimization. I was subjected to oversalted overcooked vegetables prepared without imagination at the Wendogenet resort in southern Ethiopia.
I was hungry and captive at an isolated resort without any other dining option. My power bar wasn’t going to cut it-besides I was saving it as my long haul flight appetizer.
The limited menu had the usual suspects of vegetarian options: mixed salad; tomato or lentil soup; spaghetti with tomato sauce and fasting food*.
The mixed salad was out. A cardinal rule for travellers is to usually avoid uncooked vegetables in countries that do not follow Health and Safety Standards for food preparation. Vegetable soups are often disguised as vegetarian so this is a dubious option at best. Chicken or beef stock is often used to make the soup. Try asking the waiter this when he knows only a few words of English and you know nothing of his language.
Pasta with sauce and fasting food didn’t appeal so I requested a plate of cooked vegetables with some bread. The spiral white dinner rolls arrived on its own plate. They were hard and crusty-most likely leftover from a previous meal setting and one had an interloper on it i.e. insect. I tried to salvage what was edible and ate around the hard spots. Then there was the plate of vegetables.
Half of the plate was filled with potatoes while cabbage, spinach, well-cooked onion and a few sparse carrots made up the rest. It was obvious these veggies were bathed in oil, what kind I’m not sure, then cooked into submission. Perhaps they too were leftover from another meal, or another person’s plate the night before.
The potatoes were o.k. but then they usually are when soaked and cooked in copious amounts of fat. The cabbage was extremely salty. It was as though they took an entire salt shaker, removed the lid and dumped the contents onto the cabbage while cooking. The crunchy grain texture wasn’t there but the saline taste surely was.
Quick tips to avoid vegetarian vegetable victimization:
- Steam most vegetables to retain nutrients.
- Lightly sauté with fresh herbs for flavour.
- Roast with a little bit of oil and seasonings to concentrate taste.
- Or simply eat them raw with a plant-based dip e.g. puréed nuts, nutritional yeast and spices.