Recently I posted about finding a large chunk of chicken in my “vegan” Sofritas bowl at Chipotle.
Vegans and vegetarians were, of course, sympathetic.
So were most of my omnivore friends.
Yet I was still asked this question, several times, by most likely well-meaning people …
“So, what’s the big deal?”
“Aren’t you overreacting a little?”
I’m sure most of my readers have encountered those questions before, too, when a restaurant screws up our orders. Or cross-contaminates them.
And if you’re like me, your first instinct is probably to explain yourself, either to the servers or your dining companions …
“I’m an ethical vegan”
“I’m allergic to dairy”
“I’ve been vegetarian since birth”
“My religion forbids me to eat meat”
“I acquired an allergy to meat after e-coli (or a tick bite)”
“I don’t eat any dairy after my heart attack”
and so on and so forth.
THIS IS WHAT THE BIG DEAL IS.
As consumers, with money to spend, vegans and vegetarians can’t buy what we want.
We should be able to order a meat-free, dairy-free, or completely vegan meal at appropriate restaurants, WITHOUT giving any justifications (allergies, ethics, religion, health, or anything else).
Imagine this, omnivore friends. Time-travel back 20 years ago to Anderson’s Restaurant in Charlotte – Home of the World’s Best Pecan Pie.
(For those of you not familiar with Charlotte, NC – Anderson’s was a small diner near Presbyterian Hospital, famous for their moussaka and yes – their pecan pie probably WAS the world’s best.)
Mmmm. Pecan Piiie. You love pecan pie. But you are watching your waistline. So you order a salad without croutons, dressing on the side, for your dinner and a slice of pecan pie for dessert.
Your salad arrives, soaked in salad dressing, with croutons.
“Excuse me, I ordered my salad without croutons.”
The waitress sighs. “Can’t you just pick them off?”
“But I don’t want to. I specifically ordered my salad without croutons. And I wanted my salad dressing on the side, not already poured on the lettuce.”
She gives you a look that says you are wasting far too much of her time.
Your dining companion pipes up, “Just take your napkin and blot most of the salad dressing off.”
This is insane. You send your salad back to the kitchen and ask for your pie.
You get a slice of apple pie.
“Excuse me,” you say. “I didn’t order this pie. I ordered PECAN pie.”
Your dining companion rolls their eyes. “Oh, c’mon, is it that big a deal?”
“Yes, because I ordered pecan pie.”
“What’s wrong? Why can’t you eat apple pie? Are you allergic to apples?”
“No, but …”
“Are apples against your religion or something?”
“No, but …”
“You always OVERREACT. You are always making such a BIG DEAL about everything.”
“But this isn’t what I ordered! They have pecan pie on the menu, I ordered pecan pie and I am only paying for pecan pie, NOT apple pie! I want what I ordered!”
Your companions mutters, “You are SUCH a drama queen.” (Somehow, the restaurant got everything in your companion’s order right.)
Yes, dear omnivore friends, THIS is what it’s like for vegans when we go out to dine. We order something (often straight off the menu), we may make a change (usually requesting a condiment be left off, not added on) … and if the order is wrong or contaminated and we complain … we’re just being drama queens.
Yet WE are the consumer. WE are paying for the meal. It’s not being a diva to ask for what we want … ESPECIALLY if the restaurant already has it on their menu or is actively promoting it. (Chipotle is heavily promoting their Sofritas as vegan – which means I had every right not to expect large chunks of chicken.)
It really doesn’t matter what our reasons are or what our justifications are.
Some of us might be able to slap serious lawsuits if the restaurant gets it wrong; some of us can’t. (Chipotle is just d*mn lucky the chicken wound up in my bowl and not my friend Amarjit’s, a vegetarian since birth who doesn’t eat meat because of her religion.)
But, vegans and vegetarians should be able to eat out without having to list reasons that could lead to lawsuits.
We should get what we order and pay for.
Our money should be worth the same as omnivores. And quite honestly, it makes me FREAKING FURIOUS that I am constantly being told I should accept something other than what I paid for.
It doesn’t matter my motivations for wanting what I want … I can pay for it, I want it. Don’t anyone tell me I should accept less or different than exactly what I ordered and paid for, just because I am a vegan.
And I’m getting off my soapbox, now. Peace out, friends.
Comments are welcome and appreciated
UPDATE 11/11/14 – A reader comment that I think is particularly appropriate: “I, nor ANYONE, should have to justify WHY I choose to eat a certain way, vegan or not, to anyone or any establishment I am putting my hard earned money into.”
Says it all. We are consumers. We can pay. Respect our money.
That was so well written that I read it aloud to my husband. We agree entirely.
Oh, thank you! 🙂
Great topic to bring up. I can’t imagine why any establishment employee would want to make anyone feel like they’re being dramatic over a mistake they have made. I recently got tempeh instead of tofu at Mellow Mushroom and the manager was extremely apologetic.
Restaurants, chefs, food preparers need to be more educated on dietary restrictions. The more we demand it as the consumer, not just the vegan/vegetarian consumer, the more they will be willing to prioritize contamination.
Thanks! As a vegan RD (please correct me if that is not your title) your voice and presence in the Charlotte community will probably go a long way towards educating the public on dietary restrictions.
Mellow Mushroom is a great example to bring up, because I feel they value me as a consumer. I’ve had a couple of snafus there and at Brixx, but nothing really horrible like finding meat on my vegan pizza, and both places always fix things right away!
I’m not an RD yet, Catherine. I’m currently in school to become one. I have several hoops to jump through before getting that title. I do plan on being a voice for dietary restrictions in Charlotte and hope to be a part of the change we need to see for a healthier community.
I do believe it needs to start with Safeserv certifications. They should be spending more time on cross contamination, food allergies, and other dietary restrictions. All those that handle food should have a general understanding of why certain procedures are in place; so that when a dietary restriction comes up, it’s not on the consumer to explain their reasoning. When I go to the bank to withdraw money, I’m asked about what type of bills I want. If I say, “All twenties,” they don’t expect an explanation, they don’t judge my choice, nor do they hand me anything other than the bills I have asked for.
I love it. Great comparison! Why should we have to explain?
Can’t wait till you are an RD and reasonable voice in Charlotte.
Absolutely incredible article. I totally agree with the line “And quite honestly, it makes me FREAKING FURIOUS that I am constantly being told I should accept something other than what I paid for.” I feel you 100%. You are paying for a pecan pie and you should GET a pecan pie – It just makes sense. Besides, omnivores get very upset when they get something other than what they ordered.
Thank you for the compliment 🙂
And .. EXACTLY … pay for a pecan pie, you should get a pecan pie. Pay for a vegan burrito, you should get a vegan burrito. Pay for a veggie burger without mayo, get a veggie burger without mayo. No one blinks an eye when the restaurant gets an omnivore’s order wrong and are asked to fix it. Why do we as vegans have to justify our reasons for wanting what was offered and what we paid for? We order something reasonable, that is on the menu … we pay … we should get what we pay for. Simple consumer transaction.
Ugh this is so frustrating and true. Additionally, if you ask for a non vegan component to be removed, they still charge the same price! How does that make sense?
It doesn’t. At all.
Remove chicken from a salad or a pasta? and it still costs the same?
No, it doesn’t, and we all know it.
Very well said. I have had someone say to me beggars can’t be choosey. And I’m like excuse me but I am paying for this so I am not begging. It is quite the phenomenom isn’t it?
It certainly is.
And if you are paying for it you are not begging.
It just hit me yesterday … why do we have to justify reasons to order stuff that is for sale?
The same stuff happens to “omnivores” all the time, in regards to you point about buying what you want. How many times have I received an onion ring in my French fry basket? Quite a few. Most of us just haven’t written blogs about it with lots of angry bold letters. Restaurants and cooks make mistakes.
And did you get your money back when you received an onion ring in your French Fry basket? Did you stop eating your French Fries right away and turn in your order and demand a refund? Did you even bother to take it to Management and complain? Or did you just scarf it up as an extra bonus to your meal? There are some people who would strongly object to receiving onion rings in their French Fry Baskets .. Jains, for example. Also some Hindus. Restaurants and cooks can make mistakes … BUT they can also fix them.
An onion ring in your french fry basket doesn’t even begin to compare with a chunk of chicken in a nationally advertised vegan “Sofritas bowl.” Sorry, but trolls like you make me want to vomit.
I rather think the Jains would object to the potatoes the French fries are made of, nevermind the onion…
True!!! Nice catch!
But still … what you order versus what you get … if Jains ordered something advertised to be friendly to them,and be free of onions and potatoes and root vegetables … same situation. They should not have to explain their beliefs, they should be able to just purchase what they want with their valid money.
Thanks so much for this! I was at Carabbas and asked whether there was any dairy/eggs used in the batter for fried zucchini. The waiter: , “And we are asking this why? You can’t have dairy or eggs?” I simply replied, “No. I cannot nor will not.” He had the hardest time finding out the ingredients in the food, yet when my friend asked for the gluten free menu, he hopped right on it because it was pretty much straight forward for omnivores. It’s terribly frustrating. He didn’t get a large tip at all from me. I, nor ANYONE, should have to justify WHY I choose to eat a certain way, vegan or not, to anyone or any establishment I am putting my hard earned money into.
One of the many reasons I simply don’t go out to eat as much unless I know the menu.
Another thing you may want to write about: Things omnivores tell vegans. When I tell people I am vegan, omnivores usually pipe up with, “Oh! I don’t eat that much meat, just chicken, some lean pork, and seafood.” I love telling them: “Yeah. If it has an a$$hole, I don’t eat it.” Usually pipes them down.
LOVE IT, ANNA! ROFLMAO!
I also love your quote, “I, nor ANYONE, should have to justify WHY I choose to eat a certain way, vegan or not, to anyone or any establishment I am putting my hard earned money into.”
EXACTLY! We have money, we can pay like anyone else … why should we have to fight and justify meals restaurants say they can provide us?!!!
Why is our money not worth the same as omnivores???
Love this topic. As one who works in the food industry many places don’t fully understand the needs of Vegans or Vegetarians. Many places that offer a Vegetarian option means just no “meat” on plate. that does not mean that items like the sauce or soups don’t contain stocks or soup bases made from chicken or seafood. Many Mexican places have a vegetarian menu, however the rice almost always has chicken stock or the beans are made with lard. Also many places in the south sad to say still fry in Animal/Veg Shorting combo..so if you go with family don’t order fries or O rings just in case. Make sure our places like Viet or Thai don’t use fish sauce when making salads or dipping sauces.
Those are very excellent points, Ben. Thanks for the reminders!
Wonderful post Catherine. It’s given me lots of inspiration for the next time I have to deal with a similar situation. The funny thing is I can advocate for others but seem to be timid when it comes to myself.
Mavis, I think a lot of women have that problem – especially those of us who grew up in the South! I was raised to be polite and always remember my manners and not be “showy.” However women were expected to take care of everyone else! Hopefully young girls today are getting a different message!