Today was another gem of idiotic menus and order taking foolishness for the food service stupidity in my books. I called up one of my favorite burrito places, where I planned to venture outside of the Beans Rice and Cheese burrito comfort zone and try one of their VEGETARIAN burritos. First I had to figure out exactly what a vegetarian burrito was on their menu, as I had never seen this elusive menu option when I was there on previous occasions. So I called and spoke to my friendly order taker, Alma, and it was Alma who filled me in on the exciting Vegetarian burrito news. Vegetarian burritos are any of their non-vegetarian burritos just without the meat. So, I could choose a chicken fajita burrito or a chipotle burrito and get it without chicken or beef, and voila I have a vegetarian burrito.
Okay, so first of all if you are Vegetarian you know to be skeptical about these alleged “Vegetarian” menu options. I mean they give you exactly what you ask for, but often times you end up cobbling together a meal out of random veggies and you have no concept of how the end result is going to taste, and what’s worse…you can’t say this isn’t very good, could I get something else? After all you put that atrocity together yourself, you’ve only got your poor understanding of culinary techniques, restaurant/chef seasoning techniques, and general lack of cooking skills to blame. So there I am on the phone trying to order my chicken fajita burrito without chicken and without sour cream, and oh yeah, wouldn’t you know it…getting the burrito without sour cream is a “substitution” and is not allowed. Excellent. Yeah, you can pay more to “build your own burrito” but to get something left out of the burrito, be prepared to throw down an extra 55¢ for a “substitution”.
Being vegetarian and living in a world, even in California, where that is apparently a complete oddity I have my issues with the food service industry. So I have written a Vegetarian’s Manifesto, my “baker’s dozen”, in no order of importance, on the irksome habits of restaurants out there:
1. Why do I get charged more to take meat out of a sandwich and add cheese to it?! Seriously?! What the hell is in that meat that it costs MORE to add cheese than it does to have meat? GROSS.
2. Cheesecake Factory, this one’s for your. Substituting BROCCOLI for Chicken in the Pasta Da Vinci, at $14.95 pasta dish, is not a $2.00 add on. It’s just not.
3. Celestino in Pasadena, yes Celestino you of the Zagat rated, Food & Wine featured, Best of Pasadena 2009 award winning restaurants. News flash, maybe they don’t cover this in Chef School 101, but grilling up some quartered vegetables until they are either leathery or mushy and serving it artfully on my plate next to people getting Osso Bucco, steak, and fresh grilled fish is not right. Then to add insult to injury expecting me to say “YUMMY” when asked, “Bella, Bella, beautiful vegetables, no?!” is just stupid.
4. When I ask, “is there anything you can recommend that’s Vegetarian on the menu?” and you start out by laughing uncomfortably, and then saying, “well on our kids menu we have a really good grilled cheese sandwich” you have already lost my interest, and more than likely a chance to swipe my credit card.
5. No, fish and chicken aren’t acceptable substitutes for beef or pork.
6. McDonalds, heads up, slipping the meat out of a breakfast sandwich and then putting a sticker on the sandwich wrapping that says “made specially for you”, or something like that is a total mockery. You spit on the good name of McDonalds (HA HA HA HA). Oh, and how do I know you slipped the meat out of a pre-made sandwich?! Because you LEAVE PART OF THE MEAT IN THE SANDWICH, if you are going to be unethical at least be good at it.
7. My food, touching food with meat is gross. If I said I HATED the taste of tuna and you had my food in someway touching tuna, everyone would instantly understand my level of disgust. But somehow when you say you don’t care for your food touching food with meat there are all sorts of arguments about whether your food touched the other food or not, when you can clearly see it did.
8. Glove changing and Subway. How does Subway get away with:
a. Cutting open your bread
b. Putting meat in a sandwich
c. Picking up a five inch stack of cheese they are definitely not going to use all on one sandwich, putting two slices on your sandwich, and then throwing the rest of the cheese back in the bin after it was touched with meaty gloves
d. Still wearing the same gloves they used to touch the meat to touch all of the veggies
e. Then to finish it off to cut all the sandwiches with a knife stored in some sort of putrid looking ice water bath at the end of the bar to cut all the sandwiches.
f. Hello Health Department, isn’t that CROSS CONTAMINATION or something nasty!?!!?!
9. Having 10 specialty salads on the menu all sitting at the bargain price of $12.99, none of them without meat, and then charging me the same price for the meatless version of that salad is irritating and unfair.
10. Sometimes Vegetarians want something unhealthy too! Not just grilled radicchio and grilled squash served with a wedge of lemon and dash of salt and pepper. VEGETARIANS HAVE TASTEBUDS TOO!
11. Unidentified pieces of food will instantly be deemed to be meat and will result in me sending my meal back to the kitchen, repeatedly if necessary. Oh and, no, I cannot pick it out, and please don’t spit in my food I am not trying to be a bitch! I will still tip you well if you handle this food faux pas with grace!
12. Getting my order totally wrong is way better than giving me food with a random piece or two of chicken in it. If the order is completely wrong, I assume it was just a mix up, if there are a couple of random pieces of meat in my food I picture someone in the kitchen picking meat out of my dish and then “hoping” they got all of them.
13. There is a difference between Gardenburger patties, Boca Burger patties, and these new bastardized versions of Gardenburger patties that a lot of restaurants seem to be using recently. Please don’t give me attitude when your menu says Veggie Burger and doesn’t list the type of patty used. It’s the meat eaters equivalent of not knowing if they are getting a chicken patty or a beef patty, aka it’s a big deal!
14. A bonus, not only for vegetarians, just for people in general. Margarine is not butter. Margarine IS NOT butter. MARGARINE IS NOT BUTTER.
All in all, sometimes I feel like it still isn’t safe for vegetarians to eat out, there are so many idiosyncrasies, and so many stupid menu designers out there that don’t understand the number of Vegetarians and Vegans are on the rise! They also don’t understand that EVERYONE questions the quality of meat when it costs less to use it than cheese, likely processed cheese, and veggies!