My philosophy is to not be afraid to ask questions and get answers, but also to just do the best you can. You may still unknowingly eat an animal by-product but at least you're trying.
The questions you ask or (if you go with the little white lie route) the lie you tell may need to change depending on the restaurant. For example, in a Thai restaurant, you're less likely to get hidden dairy than you are to get hidden fish.
I always do as much research on the restaurant as possible, checking out the menu, looking at Yelp for reviews, checking Happy Cow and calling to ask it they can or will accommodate my requests. But I also use the allergy line often. Every restaurant understands an allergy and doesn't want an ambulance showing up at dinner but they don't understand what vegan means and often suggest just picking things out. I always ask for what I want and if it's not right I send it back and ask for it to be taken off the bill. I won't eat food that has been returned to the kitchen. I haven't had great experiences with that.
A man who wants something will find a way; a man who doesn't will find an excuse. - Stephen Dolley Jr.
Fitness Minutes: (75,182) Posts: 2,311 8/9/12 5:40 A
Thank you for asking the question. I have resorted to calling the local restaurants before hand to see if they offer vegan, or vegetarian, options. Only 1 restaurant was happy with the question, the Mediterranean one within 5 miles of my house. I was told that when I arrive to ask for the chef and let him know what I would like and they will fix it for me. I guess there aren't a lot of vegans locally who take their veganism out with them.
"Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy."
BILBY4, I've actually thought about using the allergy thing for the very reasons you mentioned and I might resort to that in the future. People look at you like you have three heads when you tell them you don't eat dairy or meat. I can't tell you how many people have said, "what do you eat". My world has been opened up to such wonderful food since I quit eating meat and dairy and it makes me sad for all the people who think meat and dairy are the only things out there to eat. My family included.
Fitness Minutes: (182,881) Posts: 2,106 8/9/12 3:53 A
Regardless of what's on the menu I usually ask, "What vegan dishes do you have?" The answer I get tells me if the waiter understands what the issues are. Also, if they don't look sure about something ingredient-wise, insist they go and ask the chef or their supervisor about it.
Or, the white lie, "I'm allergic to dairy and eggs, do you have any vegetarian dishes without any of those in it?" Restaurants take the word 'allergy' a bit more seriously than they take the word 'vegan' in my experience. A pissed off vegan who was served the wrong thing means bad publicity. But a diner who's hospitalised beause they were served what they specifically asked the restaurant to not serve them has grounds for a law suit.
Ask for what you want. Years ago my first wife would ask to speak to the chef/cook. She would explain what her concerns were and ask what he could do to adjust to her wishes. I was so embarrassed as I was one step removed from being willing to pick the meat out of my food keep my mouth shut. I don't recall the embarrassment giving way to respect then but it certainly has since. She was satisfied and comfortable with her meal, the chef was happy that he had the opportunity to step out of his routine and please someone he knew appreciated his work. A few years later I was attending a 5 day training program housed in a hotel on Long Island. I let the organizers know I was a vegetarian as the meals were provided. The first evening the chef came out of the kitchen and asked me what my expectations were. I was embarrassed by the attention but that soon dissolved. That evening, and every evening thereafter, when the servers were handing out the turkey and mashed potatoes, the chef would roll out my food on a linen covered serving cart. As the room fell silent, the chef would present to me, with great flare and pride, a fabulous vegetarian dinner, explaining each item and how it was prepared. I admit to being a slow learner but that week something clicked. It doesn't hurt to ask for what you want, just be prepared to get what you ask for. Now when I eat out I go to restaurants that advertise vegan/vegetarian meals. If I'm out of town I might call ahead if I'm uncertain. If my request irritates the cook, or they blow me off, I may order something safe that night but I will eat elsewhere in the future.
When dining out what questions pop into your head to ask the server? For instance I went to a Thai place the other day and ordered an entree with tofu. When the dish came out it looked pretty oily and the tofu looked deep fried. I didn't think to ask how the tofu was prepared or if there was butter in the dish. I'm learning everyday about what's in certain foods but still don't know what to ask. I live in the south and we don't have many vegan options in our local restaurants. Thanks everyone!
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