Moon (themoonlady) wrote in vegancooking,

How do I know? (Eating Out)

Friday, I had a really horrible experience. I went to a little Vietnamese place where I'd been once before that has a truly delightful Tofu and Veggie stir fry. The last time, after I told them I was vegan and allergic to dairy, they were very careful and the waitress brought me what she *TOLD* me was a vegitarian soup- and since it was obviously not a cream base and most broth soups not made with animal broth are also dairy free, I accepted that what I was eating was a vegan noodle soup with vegitable broth. I was totally pleased with the place.

So this time, I asked them to bring me the vegitarian soup, and something that had pork in it came out. So I called the waitress over and said it wasn't what I asked for and could she please bring me the vegitarian soup. By then, though, I was a bit nervous, and I wanted to make sure we were having a solid communication. (Language was a bit of a barrier.) So I asked her what was in the vegitarian soup.

She said it was a chicken broth base with noodles and vegitables.
I said "Chicken is meat."
She said "No, no meat in the soup."
ARG. So I said "But it's chicken broth?"
She said "Oh, yes. Chicken broth and vegtables. Vegetarian."

Which set me sputtering for a bit, and my fiance (who works as a waiter) said that, in fact, many people do not even think about the broth being animal or not animal...if you ask for a vegitarian thing, they will bring you a chicken broth based soup with no meat chunks and if there are no meat chunks they think " meat."

Later, I was ranting about it to my mother, who agreed that yes, people do not seem to understand the difference- and in fact my grandmother was incredibly upset when my sister refused to eat a chicken broth based soup she made with "no meat" (chunks) specifically for her.

The incident started a huge fight with my fiance and I, and it ended with me deciding I was just never going to eat out again, unless it was the restaraunt my fiance works in, because he knows the entres in and out and can protect me from inadvertantly consuming something I don't want to eat. He also feels like I over-reacted to finding pork in my soup and then finding out that I consumed a mislabeled chicken soup.

My fear at this point is not so much about an occasional slip up (I make them, I'm sure), but about not knowing what I'm consuming, and that it could make me sick. (I've been meat and dairy free for about a year and a half.) I'm not sure about meat, because I don't think I've consumed any great quantity since I stopped, but when I inadvertantly consume dairy, I get quite sick. On top of that, I really really believe that I have the right to know what it is that I am consuming, whether I'm in a restaurant or at home, or in the grocery store.

Does anyone have any suggestions for eating out, how to figure out what ingredients are in what, how to identify something that has been brought to the table in error or falsely labeled? I'm able to identify it if it has big ugly chunks of animal in it or if my salad arrives with cheese all over the top (the obvious stuff), but broths, hidden ingredients, not so much. How about suggestions for communicating to the wait staff? Expensive/high class restaurants seem to be OK, but especially little places and foreign places (which we really enjoy eating at) with non-native English speakers (or non-speakers, as it might be) are incredibly difficult.

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