In recent years, alternative diets have become somewhat of a fad in social culture, with healthier, more sustainable and ethical options being taken into consideration like never before.
A whole new sweep of Instagram superstars are dominating our newsfeeds in modern day with their latest kitchen concoctions, and it seems that just about everyone is hopping on the bandwagon in pursuit of the healthier, happier “#newyou”.
Over the past decade, a whole new relationship between people and food has developed. Only exposed in recent years, it’s now proven that there are tonnes of reasons – such as environmental ethics, sustainability reasons, health reasons, and animal ethics – why more and more people are turning veggie.
As a vegetarian in Ireland for over 14 years, it is safe to say that the culinary landscape is a whole lot different than it was the day I decided to say goodbye to any food with a face (as I like to put it).
Over the years, however, I have become accustomed to life as a vegetarian in a somewhat slow-paced country; I know what to expect and can spot a potential place to have dinner over a, “I’ll just have some chips, please” kind of place.
Are you travelling Ireland and want to know what you’re in for as a veggie? Here are the five things I have learned!
5. Expect to be Offered Fish, a lot!
It is safe to say the offering for alternative diets outside of major hubs such as Dublin, Belfast or Galway city can be a bit niche. Not a lot of people understand vegetarianism (or veganism for that matter), so they don’t exactly know what to offer you.
It seems a common misconception in Ireland is that all vegetarians eat fish, so expect to be offered a lot of it. Seeing as Ireland is a small island community with a large fishing industry, it would certainly be ideal if we were all pescetarians (someone who eats fish but not meat).
However, a vegetarian diet is different altogether. Vegetarians don’t eat any meat or fish but do eat dairy products and egg unlike vegans, who choose to refrain from all products derived from animals.
4. Expect to Eat a lot of Chips
Unfortunately, once you venture out of the major cities, you’re unlikely to have many options when it comes to vegetarian dining. The most common dish you’re likely to consume in a traditional pub or small local restaurant is a plate of chips (French fries).
Sometimes a soup, salad or sandwich (asked for, without the meat) is an option, but don’t let your expectations run high.
My top tips for being a vegetarian in Ireland would be to always check a menu in advance before making a reservation. Remember to ask if substitutions can be made on meaty dishes, even if it doesn’t clearly say so; if you don’t ask you don’t get!
Another safe option is trying out the local café for lunch options. There’ll usually be a quiche, sandwiches to order or soup on the go.
3. Expect to See a lot of Confused Faces
It’s not all that common to have an alternative diet outside of major cities in Ireland. Bearing in mind Ireland is a small, old-school kind of place with massive farming and fishing industries, expect to see a lot of confused faces.
The Irish are inherently pleasant people and very helpful, too. Often when a menu doesn’t outline anything specifically-vegetarian, you’ll see a lot of bewildered looks as the servers scan over potential menu options, in a bid to make them meat-free.
2. Expect High Standards of Veggie Food in Cities
Now that this cultural zeitgeist is here and clearly here to stay, major cities in Ireland such as Belfast, Dublin and Galway have adjusted their offering to be more inclusive of veggie diets.
Dublin’s Cornucopia, Belfast’s Acton & Sons and Galway’s The Lighthouse are all huge contenders for vegetarian (and vegan) offerings, on an international level.
1. Expect to Lower Your Standards Outside of Cities
Whilst travelling as a vegetarian in Ireland, don’t expect to be eating the finest selection of meat-free meals outside of central hubs. It’s not a part of our culture, and although times are changing the slow-paced way of life in the countryside, is, well, slow to change.
Staff and servers are generally very helpful in trying to accommodate your diet so be patient and thankful for their assistance.
If all else fails, eat potatoes. It is what we’re famous for!