Eating plant-based in France

Being vegan in the capital of foie gras and 10 course cheese-with-meat-and-more-meat-and-more-cheese dinners has been a challenge to say the least. However, the silver lining is that it’s made our family meals better and healthier than they would have been if we lived somewhere with unlimited access to a whole world of meat-free alternatives.

Becoming vegan was always an idea at the back of my mind, but one that had to come to light when Thalia was born and we realised that she had a cow’s milk intolerance – no more cheese for this mumma, the most appealing thing about living in France had been taken away from me. And let me be honest and say that at this point, I was struggling to find much else that I liked about living in France.

All this is fairly manageable when you’re one of those super mums who plans ahead and never finds themselves 40 minutes away from home with no lunch. I am not one of those mums…though I strive to be every. single. day.

If we were to shut ourselves up at home and never accept a dinner invitation or eat out at a restaurant, a vegan diet here wouldn’t be a problem. Our cupboard is teeming with all kinds of beans, pulses and vegan deliciousness ready to cook with – though all of that also comes with a hefty price tag in French supermarkets. It’s the eating out that has been the biggest problem. Forget grabbing a quick lunch – on multiple occasions, I’ve spent over an hour searching for a vegan take-away option, only to eventually give up and go home with a really grumbly belly and a lot of feeling sorry for myself. Following this diet in France really makes you feel like the cliché, awkward, can’t-really-speak-French, “ummm, there’s nothing here that I can eat” addition to any table. Which is one of the only reasons that I still eat fish, and am not strict with dairy. If I were to adhere to a strict vegan diet, two things would happen:

  1. I would starve and gaze longingly at the cheeseboard when eating out (or bring a packed lunch with me, but I don’t think the French would appreciate that).
  2. My in-laws might implode.

Luckily this is less of a problem here in Toulouse, we’re slowly discovering restaurants that not only serve vegan food, but have more than one option!! But don’t get excited, it’s still slim pickings.

Though we’re already pretty healthy on the diet scale, we can always be better – so it’s out with the fish and dairy (minus François who covers every meal with cheese), and in with an even bigger attempt at providing my petite famille with nutritious, plant-based meals. I really hope my in-laws don’t implode. Sorry Jean-Luc.