Food for Thought

Sun, Surf, and . . . Salad?

A vegan visit to TCI.

By Rachel Craft

When I landed in Providenciales for a week-long beach vacation, my suitcase was packed with the usual: swimsuits, snorkel gear, gallons of sunscreen—and plenty of emergency snacks. No offense, TCI; I do this everywhere I travel. It’s one of the survival instincts you develop when you go vegan. 

A stricter version of the now-popular “plant-based” diet, a vegan diet eschews all animal products, including meat, fish (yep, that includes conch), and dairy. This can make dining out a challenge, especially while traveling, as many regional cuisines rely heavily on nonvegan ingredients like eggs and butter. The word “vegan” is virtually unheard-of in some countries—and most of the southern United States, which, culinarily speaking, is practically another country. Last time I was in Alabama, I had to spell the word “salad” into a McDonald’s drive-through window. If you can believe it, they didn’t have any.

The Avocado Toast served at Shay Café Lounge at Le Vele Plaza in Grace Bay was a favorite breakfast or brunch stop for the vegan author.

After 15 years as a vegan, I’ve learned how to reconcile my penchant for travel with my caloric needs. I book hotels with kitchens wherever possible (thank you, Inn at Grace Bay), and I have no shame packing an entire jar of peanut butter and loaf of bread in my checked bag. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of vegan dining options I discovered on the small island of Providenciales. Most menus had at least one dish that was either vegan or easily veganized, and all the servers I spoke to were familiar with veganism and happy to help me tweak my order as needed. Between beach sessions and snorkel trips, I sampled a variety of filling, flavorful vegan dishes across the island. 

For breakfast and brunch, I visited Shay Café on Grace Bay for a hearty slab of avocado toast. The Graceway Gourmet supermarket has a long list of vegan smoothies made with oat milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, and rice protein; and the drink shop Beans & Leaves offers many flavors of nondairy boba tea. Sail Shades, a new restaurant in Long Bay, is known for its “doubles”—sandwiches made of curried chickpeas nestled between deep-fried flatbreads. This addictive breakfast dish and hangover cure originated in Trinidad & Tobago, and has grown into a popular street food throughout the Caribbean. It seems veganism is on trend in many Caribbean islands, which is no surprise for places where fruits like coconut are easy to grow and where the local cuisine has been heavily influenced by Indian, Asian, and African traditions.

Solana! at Ocean Club West offers this colorful, appealing, and tasty tofu stir-fry as a vegan option.

At home in the US, I’ve learned non-Western restaurants are some of the most dependable places to find vegan food—and TCI is no exception. Grace Bay’s Thai Orchid offers several tofu dishes, and the Mexican eatery Skull Rock serves sizzling tofu fajitas. Turks Kebab uses falafel and hummus as protein in their vegetarian pitas, which can be veganized by removing the feta and tzatziki. Yoshi’s Sushi has several veg-friendly options, including the rather vaguely named “spring roll with avocado.” This title fails to do justice to the unique deliciousness of this sushi roll, which has a deep-fried veggie spring roll, still hot, wrapped up inside.

In TCI, the burgeoning vegan scene seems closely tied to the health food movement. Provo’s two fully vegan cafés, the Farmacy and Island Raw, cater to both vegans and health-conscious diners seeking organic eats free of preservatives and other additives. Island Raw’s founder, Regina Radisic, says her café is frequented by Rastafarians, many of whom follow a clean, mostly plant-based “ital” diet as a way to strengthen their sacred bond with nature. 

Health is a common reason for people to adopt a vegan diet, and you don’t have to be a nutritionist to see why. Less meat and dairy means less fat and cholesterol; more veggies means more fiber and vitamins. Studies have shown plant-based eating to lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and more.

But health is just one facet of the vibrant world of veganism. Some vegans do it for ethical reasons, to avoid contributing to the inhumane practices and animal suffering that occur on factory farms. Many of these less health-minded vegans, myself included, don’t mind eating “slutty” vegan foods like veggie burgers and coconut milk ice cream. I was pleased to discover that many restaurants on Provo, including the iconic Cocovan, offer a veggie burger—though Big Al’s Island Grill wins the prize with three different types of vegan patty. On my first night on the island, I discovered acai sorbet and nondairy mango soft-serve at the candy and ice cream shop Giggles. (I returned shamelessly every night until my plane left for the US.)

Island Raw’s founder Regina Radisic operates a fully vegan café. It specializes in locally crafted kombucha (at left) and cold pressed juice (at right). Her goal is to create “plant-based cuisine committed to helping you elevate your body, beauty, and well-being.”

Another common reason people adopt a vegan diet is to shrink their environmental footprint. According to the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization, the meat and dairy industries alone account for nearly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions—and that’s not to mention the vast amounts of land and water required to raise livestock, or the pollution caused by manure runoff. While the positive environmental impact of a vegan diet is well established, it’s a little different on an island, where so many foods have to be shipped in over long distances. This leads to more greenhouse gas emissions, and more preservatives added to food to ensure it survives the journey. 

As a result, some restaurants in TCI are striving to incorporate more locally grown ingredients. The Farm, the latest culinary venture by Grace Bay’s Seven Stars Resort, harvests their produce from an on-site hydroponic farm—bringing diners fresh, minimally processed fruit and vegetables without the financial and environmental costs of transportation. This isn’t the only vegan-friendly resort restaurant; many of the swanky beachfront spots along Grace Bay offer at least one vegan option. Infiniti has a vegan curry entrée, Solana has a tofu stir-fry, and Vita at Rock House has an entire vegan/vegetarian menu. 

As a vegan, I sometimes field questions about my opinion on vegetarians, Meatless Monday-ers, or other “less committed” people in this dietary lifestyle. The answer is: I love them all. I’m thrilled to see others recognizing the benefits of vegan eating and partaking in whatever way works for them. I love to support fully vegan restaurants, but I also think it’s important to recognize omnivorous eateries that offer a vegan menu or even a single vegan dish. It’s encouraging to see so many people learning about the vegan lifestyle and joining the movement, even in a small way. And like many people and places across the globe, TCI is moving in the right direction. 

When I returned home from my blissful beach vacation, I still had half a jar of leftover peanut butter in my suitcase—and I count that as a win.

Rachel Craft is a Colorado-based writer and recovered engineer who loves all things outdoors. When she’s not busy exploring, she writes fantasy and sci-fi stories for children. You can learn more about her at www.racheldelaneycraft.com.



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