Today we have a guest post from two ladies who, along with their spouses, are campground hosts in northwest Wyoming where as Barbara says “the rural grocery store is an hour away; in other words, REMOTE!”
Thank you Barbara and Danette for taking the time to share with all of us your insight on how to remain mostly vegan with no grocery store nearby.
Vegan means different things to different people: juicing, organic, ‘pure,’ raw, rotation diet, ‘plant strong,’ etc. We are not experts and this is not a comprehensive discussion on all aspects of vegan eating in remote locations. This IS the experience of two vegan couples living in 24’ class C motor homes serving as camp hosts one summer in Yellowstone. One of us looks for organic products whenever possible and is particularly sensitive to the impact on animals of human choices (ethical vegan). Both of us are ‘plant strong’ (little oil, sugar, honey) but not plant perfect. Especially in a remote location, choices can be limited and one might make compromises that one wouldn’t make at home. One consolation is something Joel Fuhrman, MD writes: 10% of one’s diet can contain low nutrient foods & still provide a health promoting, disease preventing diet. (http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/foodpyramid.aspx)
Flexibility is important when you are away from your own environment. Remember you’re eating to be healthy, not to be stressed trying to do it right. What you want to aim for is an approximation of your values, rather than perfection. In Yellowstone, the nearest grocery store is an hour away in a small town. Some adjustments are necessary in this situation included taking a l-o-n-g time getting to know the store at first because of the need to constantly think ’substitution’ when a desired item is not available. We found that the ethnic section of the store had some items we wanted that were not in the ‘regular’ section. We each frequently asked our fellow host to pick up items for us on her shopping trips. Being ‘plant strong’ rather than plant perfect is a variation of flexibility. If this works for you, your ‘approved list’ of choices can be expanded. (Think the 10% rule here.) Organic products may not be available or perhaps a different brand from what you prefer is the only product on the shelf. When eating out you may choose to eat coleslaw because it has cabbage and other veggies although it contains mayonnaise, or if you are tired of eating oatmeal – available for breakfast almost everywhere – you may decide on whole wheat pancakes occasionally even though they contain eggs.
Eating ‘out‘ (vegan) is possible in the Yellowstone region. This year National Parks are making a point to offer more local, healthy food items on their menus; that is the case in Yellowstone. Limited though they are, on the menu of the General Stores is a black bean burger, in the Lodges are a salad bar and a different black bean burger. The Cafeterias offer vegetable soup, a ginger noodle bowl, and a hummus wrap. At one of the cafeterias where a vegetable plate was not on the menu, simply asking for a plate of three vegetables resulted in a satisfying meal. These choices may not be up to your standards, but they do offer a night of no-cooking! The closest place outside the park also offers some options. There is a Taco Bus where one can get veggie tacos, burritos and quesadillas. (BTW, ethnic restaurants often have more vegan menu choices than standard American restaurants.) At a pancake place, I ordered a veggie scramble without the eggs. The puzzled expression on the server’s face prompted me to explain that I prefer not to eat animal products and with that explanation, my order was submitted. (I usually make a point to explain why I am ordering this way so the server understands my rationale AND so the restaurant might begin think about accommodating future plant strong customers.) In cities a bit farther afield - two hours away - we discovered several places that offered plant strong possibilities. Using Yelp and HappyCow.net we found health/natural food stores that had small cafés we enjoyed. On our last ‘weekend’ off we went to Jackson, WY and enjoyed the highly recommended Lotus Café. Even in Wyoming, “Beef Country,” one CAN find plant strong options.
What about eating ‘in’? Both of us couples eat in most of the time. Knowing we would be living in a ‘remote’ location for several months, we brought with us items we didn’t think we could get locally. Our combined list includes: steel cut oats, Coaches Oats, quinoa, orzo, barley, whole wheat pastas, EnerG egg replacer, nutritional yeast, flaxseed meal, almond meal, raw nuts, arrowroot powder, tempeh, dried fruit, IZZE drinks and favorite spices.* [*Wal-Mart has, in their small-items-for-travel section, very small plastic containers that are perfect for RV spice use.] What we found commonly here were canned and frozen beans, fruits and vegetables; seasonal produce (maybe not organic), whole wheat flour and - surprising to us – hummus, a non-cheese spread, gluten free products and tofu (not organic). Farmer’s markets are found almost everywhere in summers, but we haven’t been able to take advantage of the ones nearest Yellowstone because of our schedules. Between us – keeping in mind our space, menu and food item limitations – we brought these conveniences: slow cooker, waffle maker, griddle, toaster, immersion blender, coffee grinder, nut grinder, Yonana ice cream maker, VitaMix, rice cooker and reverse osmosis water filter. And we have used them all! As a rule of thumb for our camp host summer we planned around recipes and ingredients that would be commonly found and easy to prepare. Both of us have been delighted to find that experimentation within these limits is fun. Here’s how it works for us. Dinnertime is near. One of us consults her menu plan, checks the perishable produce and prioritizes the meal for that night from the menu plan accordingly – always making a little extra for leftovers. The other one of us goes to the refrigerator to see what needs to be used up, checks the cupboard, pantry or freezer to see what is there to supplement the produce, gets out what will work for that meal, combines those items and voila! Dinner is soon ready!
Both couples agree that we are extraordinarily lucky to have each other in this situation. It was a particular serendipity in the random chance of camp hosts to discover that we both had plant strong values and we have enjoyed sharing that with each other. She makes cookies and brings us some and I invite them for dinner when what I am making will serve a crowd. She shows me a great vegan cook(ie) book and I introduce her to Rip Esselstyn’s latest. Whatever direction our lives take after this summer, we will remember what we have shared during these months as much for our vegan values as for the inherent excitement and wonder of working in Yellowstone.