Before leaving the vegan-haven that is NYC, I was very anxious about finding vegan food in Paris. Traditional French food is anything but vegan-friendly. And last time I went to Venice for 10 days, I felt very undernourished…while eating a delightful pizza or pasta twice a day. To non-vegans that sounds outrageous, but we vegans know that eating a lot of calories doesn’t mean eating well-balanced, nutrient-dense meals–and the lack of any protein for 10 days was really difficult. So when well-meaning omni friends said things like “you won’t have any problems in Paris, they have excellent salads there,” I inwardly thought, ‘I’d like to see you try being happy ordering salads without cheese for 12 days!’
But I’m happy to report that it’s very easy to eat well as a vegan in Paris! For the past six days I’ve been having some of the (dare I say it?) most delicious meals I’ve ever had. Of course there are tips and tricks to this. Let me show you what I mean!
1. Look for un bio magasin (organic store) and load up on vegan groceries.
In our neighborhood of Montmartre alone we found 2 different organic stores simply by walking around. On our first day here, we took a shopping bag and loaded up on fresh vegetables, fruits, and vegan groceries (see below).
These places sell all manner of vegan goodies, like hazelnut milk, tofu, seitan, vegan granola bars, even soy chocolate pudding!
2. If at all possible, try to stay at an apartment or some place with a kitchen.
Because of my “condition,” we knew we’d have the best time if we rented an apartment. It’s also usually cheaper than a hotel, and you get a better feel for a life as a local. Most of all, it’s so much easier if you can cook at least some of the meals. Here are some delicious home-cooked meals I’ve had.
True story: France has better soy products than the U.S. A few times already, we both looked at each other and said, “what just happened here?? How do they know how to make their tofu so good??” Their packaged tofu and seitan are simply incredible! We tend not to buy so much packaged soy goods at home other than plain tofu, but these were so amazing–and were great time savers when we were trying to speed through work so we can go outside and enjoy Paris! 🙂
We also didn’t feel pressured to eat dinner out, either! It’s almost a more authentic experience to do dinner at home, as the locals do, than always try to eat out (which is more expensive and usually less satisfying for the vegan).
3. Research vegan restaurants.
Before I left, I was given tons of recommendations from friends and Peaceful Dumpling readers! 🙂 I marked them on my Fodor’s Guide and whenever we were in the neighborhood, I tried to gently nudge my boyfriend that direction. When we were in Le Marais, we stopped by Hank, which ended up being a much more casual vegan burger place than I imagined. I ordered a BBQ burger and had a really nice conversation with our cook/cashier/server, who explained the difficulties of being vegan in France–and even told us that the law imposes strict meat requirements for school children, effectively banning vegetarianism. I told her that in some schools in U.S., they only serve vegetarian meals. But even though we come from such different cultures, vegans everywhere share a common thread. With her earnest and kind manners (and hipster clothes) she’d have fit right in Williamsburg.
Without any prior planning, we ran right into Au Grain de Folie just a few blocks from our apartment. It’s a very homey, unpretentious hole-in-the-wall with grains, vegetables, and legumes cooked simply–sort of like how I eat at home.
4. Take advantage of the amazing fruits and vegetables and try something new!
Even if you don’t find a bio, you’ll still see plenty of fruit stores. We picked up this gorgeous mushroom called cepe for dinner one night.
5. Last but not least–know the essential French phrases.
Here vegan (pronounced vey-gan) has more ethical / lifestyle connotations (including what you wear, etc), whereas vegetalien/ vegetalienne means someone who eats a strict plant-based diet. Vegetarian means lacto-ovo vegetarian.
Je suis vegetalienne. (I am vegan).
Est-ce qu’il y a du fromage (du beurre) dedans? (Is there cheese (butter) in it?)
Sans fromage. (without cheese)
Always remember to say Bon jour / bonne journee (hello / good day), Bon soir / bonne soiree (good evening / good night), Merci / s’il vous plait (thank you / please) to anyone you meet! People have very good manners here.
I’m still here for another 6 days! Leave your restaurant recommendations in the comments below! 🙂
Related: Healthy Eating While Traveling
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling