The vegetarian and the restaurant

One thing I've learned at culinary school is that vegetarians are in trouble when it comes to eating out.

Big trouble. As in, way more than I ever thought.

Which means there is only one solution if you want a vegetarian meal.

Is your vegetarian meal really vegetarian?
I've eaten at plenty of restaurants, from fast food to fine dining, and when I look for the vegetarian entree, I assume I am getting a vegetarian meal.

After all, how difficult is it to keep meat and other animal products out of a meal?

Very difficult, it turns out.

Those hidden animal ingredients
From gelatin to rennet, animal byproducts sneak into all sorts of products and dishes, from the cheese plate to the dessert tray.

And, while you and I know about these meat-based ingredients, an awful lot of people do not.

Which means your vegetarian meal, alas, may very well not be.

But it gets worse.

Those pesky tongs
Restaurant kitchens run so fast and so hard that it isn't difficult for a cook to grab a vegetarian entree with the same tongs, for example, that were used to, say, cook a meat-based entree.

It's not like they have a separate station that does nothing but vegetarian foods. They don't have the space. And they certainly don't have the time, personnel, and equipment to have a dedicated vegetarian station.

So what is a vegetarian to do?
My best advices is to eat at a vegetarian restaurant. That way, there is no room for mistakes.

And, hey, it certainly can't hurt to be supporting the vegetarian community. After all, if enough money goes to vegetarian restaurants, then, certainly, more are bound to open. And that's good for all of us!

Where to find vegetarian restaurants?
So how do your find a vegetarian restaurant? Your best bet is the The Vegetarian Journal's Guide to Natural Foods Restaurants in the U.S. and Canada.

Bon Apetit!