One of the biggest responses I get when I tell people that I’m moving to France is, “So… are you planning on being a vegan in Paris? And how?”
The answer is a resounding YES.
Now, I’m not naive. I know it will be difficult. I have been spoiled for the last few years. It’s easy to have a special diet in the U.S., particularly in New York, and the food culture is just very different here. For one, we don’t really have a “signature” cuisine that it would be basically blaspheme to alter. For another, even in meat-happy restaurants, chefs are usually happy to accommodate special diets and substitutions.
There’s also the idea of what I will be missing. For which my response is this: Yeah, I know. I’ve been there before, when I wasn’t even a vegetarian. I’ve never had chicken like that before. The croissants were just incredible. The yogurt was ridiculous- and I liked to top it with lots of honey. And the seafood? Don’t even get me started. I still rave about the escargot (yes, I adored the snails!). Food is so much a part of the culture there, and not only might I be alienating myself by choosing to remain vegan, but I might be missing out.
The thing, however, is that I’m okay with that.
It might be different if I were a vegan solely for health reasons. But as my journey has continued I have learned so much about how my decision to become vegan has a positive impact on the planet in so many ways: the way that animals (and plants, actually) are “farmed” for mass consumption, the cruelty inflicted upon them when this happens, and, even more so, how this affects the environment are things that I’m just personally uncomfortable with. (I do think that there is a way to be a conscious, ethically-minded omnivore, but that’s another story for another post.)
What I will say is that I’m going with a very laissez-faire attitude. I’m lucky in that, barring huge amounts of dairy, my body will not react negatively if I make a “slip”. And I won’t beat myself up about it either. I’ll try my best, but there’s bound to be butter in a pastry that I didn’t know about or honey in a baguette that I assumed was vegan, or a vegetable soup might be made with chicken broth. Participating in the culinary culture is a part of this amazing experience, and I’m not going to sit there with a glass of water while everyone else enjoys their meal.
I’m also definitely doing my research. One of the advantages of living in a metropolitan area is that it is obviously pretty progressive, and even in the past couple of years, more and more restaurants and grocery stores have been popping up all over the city. I am also at an advantage in that I am choosing to live in an apartment where I can cook for myself… there markets in Paris are just incredible and I know I will never wont for fresh ingredients.
Finally, I’m doing my research! A lot of it will be learn-as-I-go, I’m sure, especially as I negotiate the area in which I end up living. But there are a ton of articles and blogs out there with great tips and lists of places to go. I’m considering making up a map of grocery stores and restaurants, since the city tends to differ from arrondissement to arrondissement, but I’m wondering if this might be too over the top. While some preparations are obviously necessary, I’m really trying not to overthink it. I’m also brushing up on my vocab:
- Je suis désolée, mais je suis végétalienne. I’m sorry, but I am vegan. (I love David Lebovitz‘s tip to apologize to the waiter before stating a special diet- you want them on your side, and cuisine is something that the French can take great offense to!)
- Est-ce qu’il y a des produits laitiers dans ce plat? Are there dairy products in this dish?
- biologique [or] bio… organic (not hugely necessary, but good to know!)
- Je voudrais une salade verte avec crudités, s’il vous plait. I would like a green salad with vegetables, please.
One of the many great things about the city is the ethnic diversity, and this definitely translates into the availability of different cuisines. The authentic Middle Eastern falafel I had over there was to die for, and there are also Asian options as well if I’m ever stuck.
So, in spite of this rambling post, I’m really not too concerned. I’ve got it covered. There will be times that will be hard, I’m sure, but I’m just going to roll with it. And I hope that by the end of my time there, I will be able to provide some helpful perspective to anyone else who will be visiting the area in the future.