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A Holiday in Mauritius by Leah Leneman, Vegan Views 77 (Autumn 1997)

Whenever one goes on holiday to a new destination, one always wonders how easy it will be to find vegan food, since this is not something that guidebooks ever mention. However, I did know from the guidebooks that about 60% of the population in Mauritius (an island in the Indian Ocean) is Hindu, which made it a good bet for vegetarian food at least. And I also knew from my partner that the main cooking medium is oil, not butter, which made it seem an even better bet. (He was at one time interested in a public health job there and learned that most of the people cook with something called 'ration oil'. This used to be palm oil, a saturated fat, which led to a high incidence of heart disease. The government, therefore, replaced it with an unsaturated vegetable oil, still sold as 'ration oil', and the health of the population improved markedly).

We decided for the first time ever to go to an 'all inclusive' resort, where meals are included in the price. The hotel (The 'Maritim') had so much to offer we reckoned that, even if we didn't want to eat there every night, it would still be good value. But in fact we ate out only on one evening, because the choice was terrific, and the food was delicious. Most nights it was a buffet, and there were always plenty of cold and hot vegetarian choices, nearly all of which were vegan. (The only exceptions were salads with mayonnaise or cheese and French-style 'granite'). On the first night there was a rice dish, another dish of different, brightly coloured varieties of pumpkin and squash, plus a pulse dish. On other nights there were various vegetable curries. On the two nights when it was not a buffet, there was a vegetarian choice on the menu which, by simply leaving out the sauce, was vegan. There was an endless supply of tropical fruit - and lovely sorbets.

The lunchtime places offered salads which were freshly made, so that one could simply ask that the odd non-vegan ingredient be left out, and vegetable samosas were also on offer. We had one lunch out in Port Louis, the capital, at a cafe offering South Indian food. We also found a divine Indian sweet shop where, because they don't use butter ghee, anything milk-free was also vegan. One night we treated ourselves to a Japanese meal at Grand Baie. There was nothing vegetarian on the menu, but as soon as we enquired, we were told they could make me a 7-course meal. 'Do you eat eggs?' 'No.' 'Fine'. How reassuring to be asked instead of having to do the asking! And it was a lovely meal.

Although staying in a resort we hired a car and didn't feel 'cut off' from the 'real' Mauritius. The fascinating mixture of cultures and languages (English is the official language, but Creole French is what the people speak amongst themselves), the friendliness and helpfulness of everyone we encountered (the economy there, based on sugar cane and tourism, is very healthy), the high standards and quality of everything, the gorgeous coral reef surrounding the island, and the wonderfully relaxed ambience, not to mention the ease in obtaining superb vegan food, made for a marvellous holiday.

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Cross-reference: Travel