It can be tricky for a vegetarian to eat out. Sure, with vegetarianism becoming more mainstream, it is easier and easier to find restaurants that offer vegetarian dishes. And with disclosure becoming more and more commonplace, it is easier and easier to find out what you are eating.
But not every restaurant will tell you what you are putting in your body. A problem I smacked into when I happened to call a California pizza restaurant called Zachary's to ask how I could get an ingredient list.
What does it mean when a restaurant won't tell you what's in their food?
I was in Oakland (near San Francisco) and a pizza from a local chain, Zachary's, came up.
So trying-to-eat-healthy almost vegetarian me decided to call and ask what was in their pizza.
Chains, such as Jamba Juice, tend to tell to be very forthright about their ingredients, up-scale restaurants let you quiz the waiter, and packaged supermarket foods have food labels. Heck, even cash register receipts can at least tell you the nutrients in your meal.
So no problem, I thought. And, boy, did I think wrong.
"We don't like the word refuse," said Becky, manager, Zachary's
I called. I asked. I was put on hold. Guy who answered the phone said I'd have to get it from their suppliers. Buh bye, right? Not for me. I said "OK, who are your suppliers?"
Put on hold again. This time a manager came to deal with me. Becky. She was nice. She was firm. She refused to provide any information.
I said "I want to be clear here. You are refusing to provide an ingredient list?"
She said she did not like the word "refused." But she would not tell me what was in their food.
Twenty questions, the most absurd game on the planet
She did offer to tell me if any specific ingredient I asked about was in their food. I just had to ask.
I can see it now. Is there meat? Is there shortening? Is there palm kernel oil? Is there ... four hours later and, yeah, no way.
Nutritional analysis? Refused again
If at first you don't succeed ... so I tried a different angle. I asked, instead, for a nutritional analysis. Something you can, also, easily find, again, elsewhere.
And, at least I would have some information. Such as how much sodium I was ingesting. And caloric content. And so on.
Nope. No way. Good old Becky refused to even provide this. Not that they didn't have one. Oh no! Becky was happy to tell me they had done one a few years earlier. But they don't actually give it to anyone.
So what is in my pizza? Is the crust fried? Am I eating trans fats? What type of cheese is it? I would assume mozzarella, but, if they won't tell me, is it safe to assume anything? I know there are chunks of tomato in the sauce but ... oh, I hope those are chunks of tomato.
Full disclosure is the name of the game these days. And, without it, the reality is I know nothing for sure. I could be eating anything. Anything at all.
What's an almost vegetarian to do?
What would you do?