Food or Bean Turds?
|Me: “Hello, I’m
vegan, and I eat no animal ingredients, no meat, dairy, or
eggs. I’m meeting some friends for lunch at your restaurant
later this week. What can you make for me?”
Restaurant #1: “We have a salad bar,
and our special today is fresh fish.”
Restaurant #2: “We have a skinless chicken breast.”
Me: “I’m sorry that you
don’t have any suitable plant foods. Please cancel our
lunch reservation for 8 as we’ll be going to that new
vegetarian restaurant across town.”
It can be a challenge and a half to communicate
your dietary preferences to an uneducated waitperson at a restaurant.
Be prepared to be patient to get exactly what you want, and most
definitely supply a definition of the type of vegetarian meal
you want. “I’m vegan (pronounced vee-gun), and I want
a meal that is all plant-based with no animal ingredients.”
Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time
you are dining out.
- There could be something ‘fishy’
about that veggie Thai dish! Thai cuisine often uses fish sauce.
- Nothing’s better to my palate than a pot
of fresh beans. But if you’re eating out Mexican style,
be sure to check whether there’s lard in them beans or
- What came first, the chicken or the egg? In
Asian food, be sure to inquire about eggs in the chow mein noodles
or potsticker/spring roll wrappers, and chicken or beef stock
in the gravies. And it’s almost a sure bet that the fortune
cookie contains egg. Note: oyster sauce does contain oyster
extracts (unless it’s a vegetarian oyster sauce, which
can be found in some Asian food stores); chow fun noodles (the
flat, wide rice noodles) are usually vegan.
- In Italian type foods, be wary of fresh pasta
noodles as most contain eggs, as do many dried ones -- be sure
to ask. Sometimes there’s also dairy (cheese) or animal
broth in spaghetti sauces; annoyingly, some pizza places ruin
a decent crust by adding milk to it, so be sure and ask. Oddly,
some restaurant folks do not recognize that “parmesan
cheese” is a cheese, as I’ve received restaurant
meals that would have been perfectly vegan except for the offensive
parmesan sprinkled on top.
- Yogurt or ghee (clarified butter) are traditional
staples in Indian foods, so ask first.
- And if you get tired of playing ‘Twenty
Questions’, there are many all-vegetarian restaurants
in the SF Bay Area, several of which are entirely vegan in their
||So, if you want to
know eggsactly what (not who!)
you are eating, ask! Don’t assume your definition of
vegetarian matches the restaurant’s. Call ahead if possible.
Most restaurants are very accommodating, and will make special
menu items for you or offer ordering suggestions. If you have
other tips that you would like to share and have added to
this list, please contact us.