Being Vegetarian in Piedmont!

This place is a meatlovers dream! What an irony… everyone I first meet in Italy always jokes, “ahhh Americana, BIG BISTECA!!! you eat lots of meat! hamburgers!” Ummm actually no.. this is where I get offended.. I guess maybe it was my upbringing or living in California instead of Texas or something but I have never eaten a lot of meat and choose not to eat it at all. The ironic part is that the Piemontese are the ones who devour meat and eat it in every course sometimes without seeing one green item on the table during a whole meal! So don’t call me the American meat eater! I am tired of every time I get any form of ailment, older people telling me it is because I don’t eat meat!

The Menu

The hard part is that in agriturismos, which are like osterias from “una volta”, they sometimes have no menus and only cook the freshest ingredients. You are stuck with what they’ve got. And when you say that you are vegetarian they look at you like you have come to make their lives miserable! Sometimes they ask you if prosciutto is ok as if that isn’t from an animal and when you say no they bring you boiled chicken salad with pride. They found you something! I have to say it’s getting a little better compared to 6 years ago when I first got here and I felt like a complete alien. I dreaded going to restuarants because I knew I would feel bad and end up eating endless plates of cheese and egg soufflès, bloated like cow.

The History

I guess you can’t blame the Piemontese. They have a long and hard history. Their cuisine is based on what was readily found from the mountains. Polenta with Sausage, the famouse Piedmontese veal, raw meat (carne crudo). Working in the mountains must have been hard work and they needed the energy to get them through the day. It is cold and vegetables easily grown in Southern Italy aren’t so abundant in these regions. As Turin was once the capital of Italy, rich foods like creams and prestigious meats were appreciated, not poor farmer’s crops like tomatoes and eggplant.

My Conversion

When I first came to Piedmont from L.A. I was vegan for almost 2 years so no animal derivitives at all. What a change! I openly accepted eating cheese, especially for the pizza experience while I was here. But I had to open my horizons and become a little more lenient with some things if I wanted a more balanced diet. I couldn’t find my Vegan Pizzas and Drive Thru veggie burgers like in LA. Or tofu scrambles for brunch like everyone ate. This weekend I paid 20 euros for a full course menu at Sovversivi at an Organic Restaurant. I thought of all places here I could have had some options. Instead there was one item I could eat and was yet again the one who got the least for my buck. BAGNA CAUDA! But if you wanted to be technical…not even the bagna cauda was vegetarian because of the anchovies! That is why I have incorporated fish into my diet. So I guess I am not even a vegetarian anymore! Thanks piemonte! I want my Trader Joe’s eggless egg salad!!!