A blog article by Bonniejean Alford (Educator, Activist, World Citizen)
I am a vegetarian. Well, more specifically, a pecto, lacto, ovo vegetarian, meaning I eat fish, dairy, and eggs (or fishetarian as my nephew and I joke). It is one of the stages of vegetarianism that was depicted in a Time magazine article several years ago discussing the “five stages of vegetarianism.” At least, I think it was Time magazine. Truth is, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is the fact that our society has an increasing number of people choosing a food lifestyle without meat, for whatever reason.
For me, I chose to omit poultry, beef, and pork for health reasons that are not really relevant to the point I am trying to make here. I don’t have a problem if people want to go hunting or eat bacon. I don’t care how others choose to eat, so long as they don’t judge me and are willing to provide me with the same opportunities to enjoy culinary delights as they do my meat eating counterparts in society.
What is sad, is that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of places that I cannot enjoy because they refuse to recognize a growing part of the population. I cannot even imagine how my vegan counterparts manage to eat out.
I was moved to write something when I received an e-mail invitation to a series of luncheons with the hospitality students at the school I teach. At least it gave the courtesy of letting potential attendees know that there would be no vegetarian option, something most places don’t bother with. Yet at the same time it sent a clear message that we were not wanted there, even if the focus of the lessons for these luncheons is not on the food this go around (note that when I heard back from the director, who was sympathetic, I was invited to the fall and spring class luncheons which do offer a vegetarian option).
And now the only choice I have is to miss out on an opportunity to meet colleagues or simply pay money for a lunch I cannot eat. Yes, I suppose it is a choice and I have to make it, but shouldn’t my dietary needs be honored in a place of academia that is supposed to recognize and honor diversity?
And what lesson is it teaching the hospitality students? That only meat eaters without health issues are viable commodities in the world’s eating environment. Shouldn’t we be teaching them that while there is a focus on one particular type of food, honoring requests to keep a person healthy and within their needs is a better way to go? I mean, had they said, vegetarian options will be considered by request only, I would have felt more welcome.
And this is by no means the first time I have felt this way…. Once I was given the opportunity to substitute, but I would have to pay for both entrees and they could take the food I could eat off each of the other two entrees to create a new entree (for the price of two). Suffice to say, I didn’t eat that day.
There are restaurants that get it right. They never complain about checking ingredients and are willing to make substitutions, working within someone’s dietary needs, whether those needs are due to choice or necessity. Restaurants such as those that put the customer first are the ones in my rotating list of places to go on a night out (for fear of excluding one place I won’t publish the list).
At the very least, a restaurant experience should be about equal access to a variety of foods. I don’t like being forced to the back of the culinary bus!