Ahimsa on the Road: Tips for Eating More than Peanuts
The first rule in yoga: Ahimsa. Do no harm. To any sentient being, or the universe.
America’s Heartland Isn’t All Heart
As a veteran vegetarian road warrior, I crisscrossed the country. Among my stops were America’s heartland. Iowa. Kansas. North Carolina. Often, eating just nuts or popcorn, or nothing at all.
Iowa is the capital for the pork industry. The Iowa Pork Producers Association boasts, “At any one time, there are approximately 20 million pigs being raised in Iowa.” These are not your Green Acres Arnold Ziffel hogs that lounge in the living room. Rather, they are part of the killing industry that is propelled by Americans’ lack of mindfulness when it comes to eating.
Kansas has about 300 dairy “farms.” While traditionally yogis have consumed dairy, many (like me) are now vegan as a result of our increasingly inhumane industry. One of my first yoga masters was from Austria. She spoke about the happy cows that nourished her with milk and cheese in her childhood. You can bet the cows in Kansas are not happily roaming the countryside, periodically milked by a loving farmer’s hands.
Meanwhile, North Carolina is doomsday for chickens. About 6.5 billion pounds of these birds were packaged here last year. While Indian “pure veg” diets do not consume eggs, in the U.S., most vegetarians do. So, it’s important to understand that the egg-producing industry is no better than the broiler business. The North Carolina Egg Association acknowledges, “We have approximately 9 million birds which lay about 7 ½ million eggs a day.” Again, nothing like the eggs that your neighbor has in the backyard. Many claim the treatment of chickens in the U.S. is the dirtiest and cruelest of the industries.
The Plant-based Rare Bird Carries Its Own Twig
When I first went plant-based, in the 1970s, probably the most common term to describe us was rare bird. There was no acceptance of people with special diets. Even the airlines, back when they served food, would sometimes give me celery and carrot sticks.
As a result, the warrior within has learned to shut out a bit of that culture clash and just focus inward. That means providing for myself. When it comes to my extended trips out of the country, I pack quinoa, flax, protein powders, even dehydrated vegetables. Stateside, for shorter jaunts, if I don’t already know where Whole Foods is, Siri can steer me. Even if I’m going to be away from home for just a day or two, I pack power or protein foods.
To make it a bit tougher for me than my fellow vegetarian yogis, I refrain from all animal products (vegan), gluten, and high glycemic foods. And, I have to balance my doshas following other dietary rules, including the timing of my meals.
So, bringing my own meals just makes things easier. You can be scouring the terminals forever looking for something that fits your restrictions and equally importantly looks appetizing. From one city to another and even from one boarding area to the next, names may change but there’s still the same mixed salads sprinkled with ham, eggs and other non-desirable toppings.
For my fellow rare birds that take their trail mixes on planes, here are a few of my finds in the vegan desert of airports.
Deep in the Heart of Texas
Every now and then you come across a few decent karma-free offerings at an airport. La Frutería is at San Antonio and Houston’s IAH. The Frutería has an ample selection of smoothies and green juices. For salads and other dishes, the menu has the vegetarian leaf icon to help you choose. For those honoring ahimsa by being vegan, ask to hold the cheese, cream or eggs.
The city of Austin is yogi heaven for food. But, not at the airport. Seek and you shall find — bottled juices from Juiceland in the refrigerator case at Austin Java. Juiceland is like the Starbucks for a vegan yogi. However, at the airport, you only get your pick of a few of the best-selling fresh juices, kale chips, granola and gluten-free crackers. But, still a great find.
Beyond the Bagels
The Detroit airport may have the best selection for vegan (and gluten-free) bellies and taste buds.
Zingerman’s is like the holy grail to folks in Ann Arbor. This Michigan-based “community of businesses” has a dozen or so top-knotch culinary enterprises. Founded as a traditional Jewish deli 35 years ago, Zingerman’s is way past corned beef on rye. The Z way is to serve authentic global flavors, using local, slow and natural foods.
Under the names Plum Garden and Zingerman’s Coffee Company, air travelers can mix and match items from the coffee shop, deli or store where you can pick up Zingerman-made chocolate banana bread loaves, or cinnamon almonds. Refrigerated quick-serve dishes include a Mediterranean bento bowl, dolmas, hummus with veggies, yogurt parfaits, wraps, and more.
The deli counter serves hot scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, organic steel cut oatmeal and a French toast casserole. Vegan, g-f, lower carb alternatives abound. Brussels sprout shavings with colorful extras like cranberries and slivered almonds. Kale salad. A Texas caviar with beans, corns, peas and quinoa. An Asian stir-fry salad chock full of tofu and broccoli.
The Traveler’s Sankalpa
Whenever, wherever you travel, be mindful of what you eat. Make an intent to do no harm to yourself, animals, or our environment.
About the author: Deborah Charnes, C-IAYT, E-RYT 200, CYT-500, is a bilingual yoga instructor and therapist that tries to follow the rules of ahimsa in every way. When not teaching in Texas, she can often be found leading workshops and sessions in Mexico and Central America.
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