Wednesday, 17 December 2008

My worst "vegan" meal ever...

... happened last night.

Two years ago, we had our work Christmas dinner at a fancy restaurant that served me a nice and inventive vegan meal.
Last year I didn't attend work's Xmas party because I was in a kinda aggressive animal rights phase and would've ruined everybody's night.

This year we had a long discussion whether we should go to a traditional German or an Italian restaurant. Italian won, and I was very happy and so looking forward to it.
My co-worker who organizes the dinners is well aware what "vegan" means and made things pretty clear with the restaurant that said vegan options impose no problem for them.

As you'd expect for an Italian place. C'mon, even for people who don't know the first thing about veganism and cooking, pasta and risottos plus salad and antipasti are no-brainers.

Well, turned out I was wrong.
We arrived and were greeted with a prosecco. Very nice red wine was provided, and the antipasti were little, but ok.

Then the pasta dish arrived. First I thought they'd only accidentally used some parmesan for garnish (next to the pasta), then I realized the whole pasta was drowned in it :( They had substituted olive oil for butter but used cheese!
So I returned my first plate untouched, the waitress looked embarrassed.

20 minutes later, my next plate arrived, no cheese this time! But this time the filling of the pasta felt a little "eggy" to me. I asked others what their filling was and nobody could really tell from the taste. So I asked the waitress what's in their and she answered something in Italian of which I didn't quite get the first ingredient, but the second was pecorino cheese.

Turned out the first ingredient was fish!!!

I only ate a tiny fork full, but was so disgusted.
I was close to getting up and leaving instantly, but well, it was a work thing. Nobody would have been mad at me (actually, people around me got angrier than I did), but sometimes there's a bit of politeness inside me.

Even worse: we were quite a large group and there were two vegetarians that were served the same. They still don't know they ate dead animal last night (I only found out today)!

After the restaurant people actually figured what "vegan" meant, I was offered... nothing.
Organizing co-worker suggested me ordering a dish a la carte. I smugly listed all the vegan dishes they had on the regular menu to the waitress (I had checked online in advanced).
An hour later, I got a place of mushy spaghetti aglio olio.
Waitresses made very sure my wine glass was always filled to the brim.

When I left, they even dared asking if I was full from the meal. I did not answer because it would have turned out in a very long and angry speech.

In my private life, I would have been an incredibly nasty and complaining customer.
Hell, what if I had a fish allergy?

But then, I was utterly stupefied. I've been vegan for almost three years and I eat out a lot.
I've never had any problems getting something to eat, and have never been forced to get chips and a plain salad. There are no vegetarian restaurants in my city and I'm a very happy foodie here! The last place on earth that I would have suspected of fooling vegans was a trattoria.
Once I've recovered, I'll leave a bunch of destroying reviews online and on their website.

Rant over, sorry.

Good news: before the dinner, I went to sattgruen for a cappucino and found out they've replaced all their dairy cheese in their take-away sandwiches with vegan cheese a couple of weeks ago and nobody has noticed!


VeggieGirl said...

YIKES!! Thank goodness for good news at the end though ;-)

a vegan about town said...

The other thing to consider is that often italian restaurants make their pasta with egg in them. When I go to italian restaurants I always have to call ahead to ask the chef whether or not their pasta is fresh and eggy.

Sal said...

that stinks!! normally italian restaurants are able to accommodate us vegans! no fair and totally wrong of them to offer you nothing!!

Alice (in Veganland) said...

I'm SO sorry Steffi... I've had some misunderstandings in restaurants before, but always related to dairy. Never with fish. I mean COME ON! I could understand they have problems understanding what vegan is (even though... really?) but everybody knows vegetarians don't eat fish!
Anyway, what I do now is I choose a vegetarian dish and I tell them I cannot eat dairy so please check.
I still got some melted cheese mixed with my spaghetti the other day... I asked explicitly without cheese, but then I had something melted in my fork that looked a lot like melted parmesan (and it wasn't on the pasta, so it must have been mixed somehow...).
I don't want to get more angry than it's necessary, but god how I hate these situations...

Margot said...

Woah, that sucks! Kudos to you for staying so calm and polite.

Rachel said...

ugh. i want to say that I know the feeling, but i've never gotten it THAT bad. i mean, what if you did have a food allergy? well, as isa chandra moskowitz has said before, you do have an allergy... to oppression.

cappuccino at stadtgrun sounds nice! now I know I don't have to go all the way to Köln for a soyamilch kaffee.

Mihl said...

I am so sorry that you had to go through this! I sort of hate work Christmas dinners. This year we went to a traditional German restaurant, where even the Brussels sprouts were "spiced" with bacon bits. Ewww. Fortunately it was a brunch so I could pick some fruit, jam, and bread.

Kelly said...

I am so sorry to hear about that. A christmas dinner with co-workers is supposed to be a relaxing and joyous time so it is unacceptable that instead you found yourself worrying about what you would eat. I am always surprised to find out how many people don't understand what vegan means.

Kristel (TofuParty) said...

Oh no, that must have felt bad. Good of you that you left some bad comments. Hopefully they learn something from it. Imagine you're allergic, paying money for a good diner and they make you sick because they are ignorant or stupid?

Erin said...

How absolutely horrible! I'm sorry you had to go through that. If anybody ever gave me fish I would raise hell. Good that you could remain calm since it was a work function though, unfortunately you have to pick your battles.

Sarah said...

oh ICK about the fish thing... fish and cheese is nasty anyways but good lord! Did you check in advance with the planner about the menu?? What place was it - gotta steer clear!

Emme said...

Ich hatte ein sehr ähnliches Erlebnis während unserer Firmen X-Mas Feier:

Wir waren auch in einer Trattoria. Es gab plattenweise Bruschetta und diese Weißbrotsandwiches und irgendwelche Fleischkügelchen. Ich informierte die Bedienung, dass ich keine Tierprodukte esse, und ob ich bitte eine Bruschetta mit gegrilltem Gemüse oder Antipasti bekommen könnte. Er wies mich darauf hin, es gäbe auch Sandwiches mit Thunfisch. Äh,ja. Ist ja wohl auch ein Tier, merkte ich an.

Ich saß erstmal weiter hungernd am Tisch, bis er sich schließlich bequemte, mir einen SAlat anzubieten. Da ich nicht in Streitlaune war, und ohnehin schon genug ungewollte AUfmerksamkeit von meinen Kollegen auf mich zog, zeigte ich mich gegenüber diesem originellen Angebot aufgeschlossen. Der Salat bestand aus kaum mehr als ein paar grünen Blättern, aber immerhin: er war vegan. Dafür kaum sättigend, insbesondere da nicht einmal Brot dazu gereicht wurde.

Die Antipasti musste ich dann (soweit ich mich erinnere) doch noch explizit einfordern (und auch der kam ohne Brot).

Anonymous said...