People tend to worry over vegetarians and overly stress about what they eat during holidays because they can’t eat “meat”. My parents fit in this category, they know I’m vegetarian, they always have food for me, yet they always stress. They never know where to take me, what to cook, what to buy… the list goes on. I recently posted my ultimate vegetarian Christmas menu to help fellow vegetarians, parents and everyone interested in preparing a Christmas dinner that is vegetarian friendly. Today, I want to focus on what a vegetarian eats during Christmas and give you some tips and ideas to make it as smooth as possible for you!
But before we start, I hope you all had a nice holiday season and that it continues to be so until the end of 2019 (and 2020). Also, this is a long read with tons of pictures and food content!
What a vegetarian eats during Christmas: Restaurants
Tip #1: Check for veggie menus at restaurants
I know we have already talked about this but during holiday season, at least in Spain, there are “pre-made” menus that rarely have any vegetarian option. Usually the entire table is constrained to this menu and you can’t choose anything else.
My first tip then is to check for vegetarian menus. Nowadays it is becoming easier to eat out as a vegetarian but make sure to check that out. I went to three restaurants in Spain and before I went I made sure they all had some vegetarian menu for me, or they were willing to serve me something vegetarian.
Restaurant #1: La Vall del Montseny
We went to la Vall del Montseny twice. Once was to have a “Calçotada”, the second was to celebrate with the family the 26th of December (A day off in Catalunya). Both days they had vegetarian options for me (even vegan ones!) and they had a large selection to choose from.
It is far away from Barcelona, but if you want to go a bit more up to the mountains, this is a great place to drop by. Here the address: Carretera Montseny, 408, 08461 Sant Esteve de Palautordera, Barcelona, Spain
Calçots are the best thing ever invented. If you guys are ever in Catalunya, make sure you go and try them. Calçots are a type of scallion/green onion that come from the region of Catalunya. Every year, when it is the season of Calçots, most people do a “Calçotada”, which means that they eat a lot of calçots with a lot of meat. One is vegetarian, the other one is not. Most restaurants change the meat with some roasted veggies but the one we went to served me a lot of veggies and beans, but also an amazing veggie risotto (It was huge, I took the leftovers home).
Calçots are served over roof tiles like the one above. You peel off the charred part and eat the white bulb while dipping it in a traditional sauce called “Romesco” made off tomato, garlic and almonds. We could eat as many tiles as we wanted.
Celebrating the 26th of December
We went to the same restaurant to celebrate the 26th of December because they had an all vegetarian/vegan menu prepared. The menu had 2 small dishes as a starter/appetizer, then two main dishes that I could choose from a list of 8 options. The vegetarian menu was so great even my dad (who isn’t vegetarian) chose it over the meat one.
I had a beetroot cream with some nori, and babaganoush with chips as an appetizer. Then I chose wild mushroom rice (since the risotto was so good last time, I had to try again their rice!) and a super nice invention, that I will maybe try to do at home, which was a cabbage cannelloni filled with wild mushrooms and veggies, topped with a butternut béchamel sauce.
Restaurant #2: Koku Kitchen
We met with a friend of ours in Barcelona and she absolutely wanted to have Japanese food. I love ramen but finding veggie ramen has been hard, yet I found this restaurant in Barcelona where they had not only one but two veggie options! I had the spicy veggie ramen and it was delish. It had that ramen egg marinated in soy sauce, kimchi, seaweed, shiitake and tofu. The strong flavored broth was a delight. I took a picture but the lighting in the restaurant was pretty bad so I will let you go and discover for yourself.
The address of the restaurant: Carrer d’en Carabassa, 19, 08002 Barcelona, Spain.
What a vegetarian eats during Christmas: Eating at home
The restaurant experience was intense because during holidays it always is, specially in Spain where the restaurant culture is quite intense (At least from my own experience). But, what about eating at home? How can it be more smooth for a vegetarian eating at home during Christmas?
Tip #2: Propose to help with the groceries
This might seem dumb, but it does help your parents / people you are staying at. Helping with the groceries not only helps them understand what you will eat during the meals, but also feel useful. I know everyone can buy carrots and salad, but maybe you don’t want to be eating that during Christmas dinner while everyone else is eating super flavorful things (not shaming salads here, but… salads).
I proposed to help with the groceries and gave them a couple of ideas: tofu (to make tofu nuggets), chickpeas (to make some hummus), lentils (to make my veggie wellington), … the list goes on. One ingredient can trigger many ideas that aren’t bland, and sometimes they even get their own ideas.
For example, I asked my mom to buy some tofu and she proposed to make some tofu nuggets herself. And they ended up being delicious.
Tip #3 : Propose to help with the cooking
Besides the grocery shopping, you can also propose to help with the cooking. I proposed to cook my veggie wellington and the gravy sauce for the 24th at night and it was great. They didn’t stress and they could focus on other stuff.
Tip #4 : Look out for traditional options that do have veggie alternatives
Alright, this one might seem basic but it is the easiest way to get your family to understand your vegetarianism and accept it, as you are still eating “traditional” food. In Spain, we eat a lot of “spreads” made of meat (Foie, meat Pâté, tuna spreads, …). Ask to see if some veggie alternatives are available: My dad found some mushroom spread, some olive spread. I have already talked about hummus, which can be a great alternative to these.
Croquetas (Croquette) are a traditional thing in Spain, they are made with a food roll usually with ground meat, or fish and mashed potatoes mixed with some sauce (like béchamel or brown sauce) and coated with breadcrumbs and fried. They are basically one of the best inventions (like calçots) of Spain. Really. Croquetas are life. And there are many veggie alternatives!! Yes, the traditional options are meat based, but there are also cheese croquetas, or spinach and nut croquetas, and they are very easy to find.
If you aren’t vegan (and if you are you can look for vegan cheese), cheese is always a good alternative for the holidays. Most tables will always have a tray of cheese and that is always a great way to have some fancy food during the holidays. If you are in Spain, you will eat it as an appetizer. If you are in France, you will eat it before dessert.
What a vegetarian eats during Christmas: Other stuff I ate
I ate many things during the holidays but I couldn’t list them all because in Spain holidays means stuffing your bellies till you basically come back home rolling which is crazy. Besides all the stuff I mentioned already, I also had some spinach cannelloni, some chickpea&white beans stew, some vegetarian stew, veggie toasts with cheese, and other stuff. The food was great this year.
If I talk this much about food and what I personally ate during the holidays is because I know these days it can be hard, and because in most cultures, there is a huge emphasis on eating good food these days. Obviously, this is my own experience and this is what I enjoyed eating during my holidays but each experience is unique and maybe you enjoy eating soups or burgers, or whatever, treat yourself. And if you have family that is not welcoming on this, try to work your way around it and make it enjoyable for yourself, as much as you can.
Remember, whatever you eat, wherever you are and whomever you are with, you enjoy the holidays your own way.