Food For Thought: But I’m Vegetarian?

On September 16, 2014 by Bethany
icewing

Almando’s ice chicken leg he made for me!

Oh it’s you! My fellow “I eat a specific diet” friends!

My Gluten Free friends.

My Vegetarian and Vegan friends.

My Diabetic friends.

My Allergy-list-a-mile-long friends.

I’ve not been vegetarian for long, just 5 years this March. When not pregnant, I also try to stay away from dairy and eggs (not quite vegan though).

I have no medical reasons that necessitate me to be vegetarian other than I feel much better and my tendency for migraines is drastically reduced. I simply choose it as my diet. I do not look down upon those who eat meat, I still cook meat for Eric, my forever carnivore of a husband. So when I first went to Haiti in 2012, I had held loosely to the hope that I would be able to maintain a vegetarian diet. Thinking that since I would be essentially out of control of the food prepared for me, that I would just deal with whatever circumstance I found myself in. If I was going to need to eat meat, then I would.

If you’re like me, you get it. The countless confusing conversations that revolve around your eating habits. The questions upon questions. The worry that you’ll upset someone by not eating the food they’ve prepared (seriously, the biggest worry). So we make do, we eat sides, we skirt around the truth, we pick out the meat from the pasta and we move on. Which, in all honesty, is the best way to be when others are preparing your food, if you don’t have a health concern eating a particular food. It’s my mantra: “No one makes me choose this diet, I choose it and I know sometimes that means I go without or with little.”

Anyways…

What I wasn’t expecting when I came to Haiti was this: complete and total acceptance. And let me say this loud and clear, even more love and acceptance than I ever once have received here in the States about being a vegetarian. None of the continual jokes about eating meat. No one making me feel bad because it’s what I choose.

And now that I’ve been working in Haiti for 3 years, I’ve never once had to make that hard choice. Especially if our cooks are cooking for us. They know all about how to cook for Vegetarians, Pescetarians, Gluten-free diets, Diabetic needs and Allergies.

Read here about Rachel (who eats Gluten Free and promotes awareness for Celiac Disease) and her time spent with our cooks one day: http://findingjoy.net/why-cooking-and-laundry-changed-my-life/ 

“Everything is done by hand. In fact, one lady was helping me prepare those hamburger meat balls and I noticed a bowl was set aside. No bread was put in it. And then I humbly realized that was my bowl – they were making me gluten free food. So I pointed at the bowl and then me and I said “that mwen, mwen.” And the look of joy on their faces when they realized that I was the one they were preparing a separate meal for made me teary. And the joy I felt – especially after seeing how hard it was to make meals – that they made gluten free food for me was humbling, incredible, and endearing. “

fb2a40efa700498ff5b4eceef109e2cd833c0617Each week, we have a handful of participants who have allergies, at the very least. Our cooks adapt the menus to work within those parameters and keep things healthy for everyone. Often, if we have someone with nut allergies, even if it isn’t listed on our information as “severe” our cooks with keep nuts off the menu for everyone for the week. And contrary to what you may believe, due to the media and news… they are educated, they know about American diets, they care about keeping us safe. 

So you may be thinking – “what do you even eat then?”

It’s generally an easy answer. Around 80% of the time, the cooks prepare the same dish as what the majority of the team is eating, except on the side without meat. And while some days, my meals consist of french fries and water, that’s due to my picky nature – not for lack of food available.

Here are a few examples of what a vegetarian like myself, might eat.

1. Kalalou and Beef (no beef for me)

Thanks to Rudy Bazin and his momma for putting these recipes together!

Begin with a general Creole (Red) Sauce recipe:  Place some oil in a pan, wait till it’s hot. Add in spices (mashed green onion and garlic. Some people will also add clove). Wait till everything starts turning yellow and simmering. Add tomato paste. Add in beef (not here) and Kalalou (okra) – cover with some water and wait to boil. Keep stirring it while adding very little bit of water in it every once an a while to keep it from burning for about a minute to two. At this point, some people will add vegetables in it such as green pepper, onion and carrots. Let it simmer until it is a good consistency – not too soupy!

When you are done, it’s a beautiful stew of veggies and okra in a rich Creole sauce. Pour this over some white boiled rice and you’re done!

IMG_20121027_1202572. Sous Pwa – Bean Sauce

I took this recipe from myhaitiankitchen.blogspot.com. She has all sorts of great Haitian recipes, check it out!

Bean sauce is one of my favorite meals in Haiti. A simple bean puree that is served over white rice, is so hearty and filling even in it’s simplicity. Everyone knows, it’s my favorite.

Ingredients:

1-2 cups of raw beans (red or black) or
{For semicookers: 1 can}
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of thyme
1 teaspoon of pepper
Blender
10 cups of water
Mesh strainer
1 Bay leaf
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon of Adobe seasoning (optional)

In a saucepan, add beans, 4 cups of water, salt and boil until beans are soft and edible. Pour 1 cup of cooked beans into blender and add 1 cup of water. Be sure to add garlic clove and puree for 2 minutes. Place mesh strainer over bowl and strain puree then discard whatever is left in strainer. In a saucepan on medium temperature, pour in puree, 1 1/2 cup of water, oil, remaining beans, add thyme and bay leaf.

Cook on medium temperature for 5 minutes and remove bay leaf. Add Adobe seasoning and cook on medium low temperature for an additional 5 minutes allowing sauce to thicken. Add more water if you want a thinner sauce.

spaghetti3. Haitian Spaghetti

Thanks to Rudy Bazin and his momma for putting these recipes together!

fish sauce or ketchup style – which is your favorite?

Boil your noodles, then drain. You make the Creole (Red) sauce from earlier, either with tomato paste or without it.

Instead of beef like Americans, fry hotdog or top with a dry fish called “aransò”. Mix this into the sauce. Drain the noodles then put it in the sauce, mix it really well to get the sauce all over the noodles.

OR (my favorite)

Boil your noodles, then drain. Fry noodles with the spice Maggi, onions, bell peppers and garlic clove. Add in cheese to noodles while they fry. Top with Ketchup and/or Hot sauce and/or Mayonnaise.

4. Legume (without meat)

Once again, I got this awesome recipe from myhaitiankitcken.blogspot.com.

Legume is probably what our cooks prepare for me on a daily basis. On the side it can be eaten by itself, mixed in with other Haitian staples, like rice and beans or pasta or used as a filling with cheese in a Pati (deep-fried empanada style sandwhich) It is healthy, full of goodies and yet, takes a long time to make.

It’s generally a boiled down mash up of Spinach and other greens and spices.

This one is a long recipe, so I’ll just place the link here:

http://myhaitiankitchen.blogspot.com/2011/12/legumes-epinard-chou-berejen-militon.html

—-

As you can see from these four recipes, our cooks take care of us. These are just four simple recipes they use. It doesn’t even scratch the surface!

Some days, if I’m not being intentional about eating, they’ll hunt me down and make me take a break to eat. And although I used to feel guilty about being a Vegetarian in Haiti, now I do not at all. Our cooks tell me time and time again how much they love me, want me to eat well and I’ve come to understand that it is their personal ministry – to provide food to our teams. They show their love in this way. And secretly, I think they love the challenge!

So if you’re like I was and was worried about food on your mission trip with having a special diet – be not afraid! Know you are in good hands.

Come to Haiti and experience all the flavors the country has to provide!

 Check out more on trips to Haiti here: http://www.prayingpelicanmissions.org/haiti-mission-trip

Interested in joining with us on a trip? Email me at bethany@prayingpelicanmissions.org

-Bethany

When starting to think through the realities of day to day life on a mission trip, one question you may be thinking is “What will I eat?” In this series, PPM’s Missions Coordinators and Full-time Missionaries want to offer you a little insight into the delicious international cuisine we get to eat on a day to day basis. So come and join us on a trip and don’t be afraid to taste the flavors of the world!

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