My experience: About a year ago, I was having dinner with friends at a Mexican restaurant located in downtown Toronto. I was excited to try the food at Rancho Relaxo because they serve vegan meats and tofu in place of dead chicken and cow flesh. I decided on the seitan fajitas while someone else who wasn’t vegan at the table unfortunately ordered chicken fajitas. When the meals arrived I started to dig in.
To my surprise, the “faux-chicken” tasted a little too real for my liking, so I mentioned it to the rest of the table. The person who ordered the dead, chicken fajita agreed and said theirs tasted like seitan. We cut a piece of each and noticed that I was served the chicken and the seitan had went to the other person–an honest mistake, right?
I showed the server the issue. Of course I was upset that I just consumed dead animals, but I thought it was a mistake anyone could have made. The server asked the manager to come over to the table. He looked at both of the entrees and asked me to cut into mine. He told me that mine was definitely seitan and the orders were served correctly. He informed me that he would not make me another entree because everything was correct. I was shocked!
Unfortunately, this is a extreme example of what could happen when dining out. It was embarrassing and totally uncalled for. As the picture above shows, the manager was wrong. Obviously, I’m still sour about the situation and I do not suggest anyone go to this restaurant. Plus, I didn’t get to eat anything! So, what do you do in a situation like this?
What to do: If you ever dine out, it’s not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when” a situation like this will come up-unless you only eat at vegan owned and operated restaurants (unlikely). The first step when this happens is to stay calm. For me, I’d like my body to stay pure of animal products but that’s not what being vegan is about. I think we need to trust others. We’re all human and we need to allow for human error. Sometimes vegans feel defeated after something like this happens. That’s not the way we should feel. You’ve done everything possible to be assured that the choice you’re making is vegan, but a mistake has occurred.
Once you realize your meal contains animal ingredients, you should stop eating and talk to the server. If you’re dining with friends this should be no problem. If the dinner is formal, it might be difficult. At a wedding or some other formal event, I may or may not say anything and just not finish the meal. Another option might be to excuse yourself from the table and talk to the server away from the table and have them prepare something else for you.
Usually the server or manager will do the right thing and make sure that you are happy by correcting the mistake. Sometimes the situation will not be resolved in a manner that you’re satisfied with. When that happens, you should remember why you are vegan and stay strong to your beliefs. You’re doing what you can do and at times it’s difficult to be vegan in a non-vegan world. Your choices are what make you vegan, not the mistakes of others or what you accidentally consume. Don’t get discouraged!
I’m interested to hear what other experiences vegans have had and how they’ve handled the situations. Send me an email or write a comment!