Prague: On an Impossible Mission to Find Vegetables

Phoebe Walsh, Contributing Writer

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I just ate the best sweet potato of my life. When I found this sweet potato in a street market in Vienna — four and a half hours from Prague — I bought an entire bag and carried it around for the remainder of my weekend trip. Sweet potatoes are a big part of my diet at home because they offer many health benefits and are a great provider of Vitamin A, potassium and fiber; I’ve been known to microwave a sweet potato and eat it for an entire meal.

Over the last two years I have gone through many stints of clean eating, eliminating added sugars from my diet and calorie-counting in an effort to know my body and feel more in control of my health. I like to think these adventures in nutrition have turned me into a better person — one who doesn’t necessarily limit themselves, but knows how to maximize and love their relationship with food. I’ve developed a love for salad, an appreciation for nuts and kale chips and an attachment to vegetables.

When I began to research and prepare myself for Prague, I read a lot about the focus on meat and starch in classic Czech cuisine. This scared me, but I also felt comfort in thinking that the American realities I came to know would follow me to the Czech Republic. It wasn’t like I was going to be going out every day for every meal, it wasn’t like they wouldn’t have vegetables in the grocery store, it wasn’t like there wouldn’t be options for someone trying to eat a more balanced diet. So I forgot about it; I rested easy in the knowledge and habits I had collected throughout my nutrition research and the lifestyle I had adapted.

But the Czech Republic isn’t anything like the United States in that regard — finding vegetables in Prague is like trying to find kids who care about sports at NYU. Sweet potatoes are among the many fruits and vegetables I can’t seem to find readily available in Prague grocery stores — others being leafy greens like kale, any type of berry and other winter favorites like squash. I recently found myself trying to find dinner in Budapest, nearly in tears over how much I missed vegetables. The next weekend, I brought home my bag of sweet potatoes from Vienna. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I’m adapting, though. I eat lots of eggs, spinach, hummus and apples at home and I’m starting to find cafes and specialty stores where I can get beautiful salads and entire plates of vegetables. New York City makes it so easy — ready-to-go salads, no-added-sugar snacks at every convenience store and growing chains of vegan and vegetarian restaurants. I need to try a little bit harder in Prague, but it’s rewarding and I’ve found my go-to places. Although seeking vegetables in Prague has become more about getting vegetables and fruit on my plate than a fully-balanced meal, the meals I’m beginning to find in this city are always highlights of my day — refreshing and, more importantly, worthy of making it into my Instagram diary of my abroad experience.

Email Phoebe Walsh at [email protected].