Between transitioning to a new eating schedule, navigating menus in a different language, and trying new foods, adapting to Spanish cuisine can be a challenge for any student. Before arriving in Madrid in January, I was particularly wary about my future diet. I had gone vegan in June of 2016, and, although I was eager to maintain my new lifestyle while abroad, I was unsure what options I would have in a foreign city. My apprehension, however, was unfounded – it has been more than easy to find vegan food in Madrid.
My homestay host has been incredibly accommodating, and I have loved just about every new dish I’ve tried. My host and her family have gone out of their way in cooking for me; some recipes are pure inventions, and many are variations on classic Spanish dishes. While it is still relatively uncommon to find vegans in Madrid, it is becoming increasingly popular. I am in the process of compiling a growing list of exclusively vegan restaurants, in addition to the many sites that are vegan- and vegetarian-friendly. These restaurants offer a variety of healthy options, from soups and salads to dishes with tofu and seitan. The neighborhoods of Lavapiés and Malasaña in particular have plenty of choices for vegans. I was pleasantly surprised at how many vegan restaurants there are here. There are a few stores that sell specifically vegan groceries and other ecological products, but I have also been able to find most of what I need at the larger grocery stores when I go shopping for my lunches. Even when I go to traditional Spanish restaurants or tapas bars, I am always able to find vegan options, such as fried eggplant and grilled vegetables.
Although sometimes it takes extra effort to maintain a vegan diet while abroad, it has not been nearly as difficult as I had feared. Many of the meals I have tried here in Spain are new favorites that I fully intend to cook for myself when I return to the United States (such as garbanzos and cooked spinach). With so many vegan restaurants, the freedom to cook my own lunches, and the help of my homestay host, my diet in Madrid has never been bland or boring. Since it is so easy to find vegan versions of Spanish staples like croquetas and tortilla de patatas, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything either. This semester has been an amazing opportunity to experience Spanish cuisine while maintaining a lifestyle that is so important to me.
Reilly Cohn, University of Notre Dame