I saw an Instagram post recently which read that when eating intuitively, birthdays are pretty much regular days with enough celebration foods to feel satisfied. It got me thinking how true that is for when I travel these days. Not the practice of intuitive eating, but eating well for less, when home and away. A week’s holiday in Belgrade, Serbia were pretty ordinary days eating-wise with enough holiday foods to feel extremely satisfied!
During the working week, and some weekends, I do not leave the house without a refillable water bottle, flask, tea bags and a packed lunch; setting off to Heathrow airport was no different. Heathrow have water fountains and when I’ve not spotted them at airports I’ve had no qualms about asking for tap water in a coffee shop; in the UK we are fortunate to have readily available, drinking water. I have been on flights where there has been no free cold water available but quickly cottoned on that there is no shortage of hot; how else are they going to make teas and coffees for paying customers! Hence why I always have tea bags and cabin crew have happily filled my bottles.
I do like the occasional barista brew and couldn’t resist stopping by Pret in the departure lounge. Ok, so when I say couldn’t resist, what I mean is at 50p off when you use your own flask and their filter coffee being 99p, they had me at 49p a coffee. I’ve heard the rumours about Pret but have never been on the receiving end of free food from a friendly server. I figured, you don’t ask you don’t get, so asked if I could try their vegan dark chocolate & almond cookie for free. What do you know, the friendly server said yes bringing my overall saving up to £1.95.
I’m so often asked whether food can be taken through security and onto a plane… yes! No fluids, but no one said anything about food. If you are familiar with my Instagram you’ll know that my food shop is made up of yellow stickers (food reduced near its expiry date or because of damaged packaging), and free foods; be it from friends, family, social media apps. So my lunch of veggie sausage and tomato chutney baps, parsnip chips, apple crisps and cucumber sticks came to a total of 40p; far more palatable than €4 for a bog standard bap, on flight.
I love cooking for friends and the favour was returned when I reached Sammy’s house in Belgrade. I was treated to a Mexican feast of veggie chilli, cauliflower rice, guacamole, salsa, tortilla chips. Not only was the food delicious but unlike a restaurant she didn’t frown at me when I asked for seconds, and we were able to sit outside till the early hours catching up, although I’m not sure her neighbours appreciated our hackling!
We had a couple more nights of eating in, it can get a bit much dining out three times a day, it’s costly and you can’t beat the comfort of home cooked food. The personal touch, thought and care that goes in when cooking for those we care about just can’t be replicated in eateries. I can’t overlook Sammy’s carnivore other half hosting a totally vegan BBQ for us.
Serbian Yellow Stickers
Summer in Serbia is beautiful so eating outside is a must. I’m a lover of leftovers and they were perfect for picnics along the beautiful lake Ada Ciganlija, river Sava, we even packed our own food for a spa day at a 5* hotel and had the cheek to fill our bags with their fruit! You can be so creative with picnics; ours included leftover sausages, burgers, roast potatoes, aubergine steaks from the barbecue. Take away udon noodles, shop bought gyozas, leftover curry; all from the freezer.
No Poodle in this Pot Noodle
We ate out at some gorgeous restaurants; I’d recommend Mandala, Istok, Radost Fina Kuhinjica. The food is fantastic in Belgrade, they cater for so many dietary requirements and it is great value. We paid less than £40 for a meal for 2; 3 courses each, the extra bread we asked for and a bottle wine.
I did find myself having the same conversations that I do with waiters at home. “Can I get you water, still, sparkling?”… “tap” (safe to drink in Serbia). “I’d recommend this wine”… “the house wine is fine”. With large wine production in Serbia you can’t go far wrong. Alcohol is cheap, although be sure to drink local brands. Importation comes at a cost; a Coca Cola was the same price as a measure of house brandy.
At home, I’m blessed with a work bestie who supplies me with fruit and veg grown in his allotment. In Serbia, my bestie has a fig tree growing over her garden; they made for delicious smoothies!
Homemade Fig Smoothie!
Speaking of local, it’s amazing how prices seem to vary, worldwide, depending on your proximity to tourist attractions. Continuing to walk through the city saw the price of street food, barbecued corn on the cob, drop from when we were at Kalemegdan park.
Street Food Corn-ival
I had some of the best ice cream at an ice cream parlour near Sammy’s house. The server raved about her favourite vegan flavours inviting me to try them all; none of this 3 is your limit that I hear in London! She even spoke candidly about how their other store in the centre was more expensive.
The hidden expense of food and drink on holiday is never ending. Having a flask bottle means that soft drinks are one less expense when you are on the move. With their local beer Jelen being not much more I know where I’d rather spend my money!
My sadness at leaving, and hangover, were softened by being upgraded to Business Class. You can’t visit Belgrade without making a splash on a Splav; their river nightclubs! Imagining all the free food I’d get in Business Class, I momentarily regretted making a packed lunch with what Sammy had left in the fridge; a roasted veg and ajvar (delicious Serbian roast pepper and aubergine dip) roll. I needn’t have worried, the Business Class lounge and flight were not particularly vegan friendly and there may have been some air rage had I not been fed. I was able to take salad from the lounge onto the flight; the advantages of having Tupperware in your hand luggage!
All in all, it was an amazing trip, being able to eat and holiday well for less means that I’m already planning my return. It also feels good to not mindlessly waste food in one of the poorest countries in Europe. Serbia, and I still have a way to go in terms of sustainability. Waste management, recycling needs developing in Serbia and there were too few recycle bins in the city. I really need to get into the habit of refusing straws in bars, especially at the rate we were going through cocktails! Throwing napkins in the air as if they were banknotes seems to be common practice in some Splavs which are clearly striving for West End club vibes; think sparklers, Grey Goose, scantily dressed dancers. Yet, I can’t imagine it does much for their beautiful greenery. I guess holidays, like life, are based on journeys eh.