Eggs-traneous Ingredients

Pineapple Fried RiceTonight Jane and I went out for Thai food. We've eaten at this particular restaurant a number of times, and are fairly confident we're getting a vegan meal - as long as we specify that we want no eggs, and no meat. We know we need to do that regardless of the menu description because they tend to use a lot of egg and some kind of dried shredded pork or shredded fish product in Thai cooking, at least in the Thai restaurants we frequent.

After a rather busy day for both of us, we were tired. We knew what we wanted, and so we ordered our favorite dishes... Pineapple fried rice, no meat; Pineapple Curry; and Glass Noodle Deluxe - Tofu. No meat. Do you see our mistake? We missed it!

Everything arrived and looked lovely. We were very hungry, and so we dug in. About halfway into our meal, we noticed there was egg in both the Pineapple Fried Rice and the Glass Noodle. And we both looked at eachGlass Noodle Deluxe other with dismay. We'd forgotten to specify "no egg" when we placed our order.

This was our dilemma: the eggs had been "consumed," regardless of whether or not we ate the egg, it was already incorporated into the meal. (And good luck trying to get bits of fried egg out of a fried rice dish!) If it had been the restaurant's error, we would have returned the meal, to make the point (and because we would have specifically ordered "no egg"). But this was our mistake. So we talked about it for awhile and decided to continue eating. Why? Because the eggs were used and the restaurant had depleted their inventory by one or two eggs. Even if we'd felt comfortable returning the dishes (we'd eaten more than half, and it was our mistake), the eggs were still "consumed." So we continued eating, and even brought home the leftovers.

Regardless of where we're eating (unless it's a vegan restaurant), we typically tell our servers we're vegan, and specify "no milk, no egg, no meat, no butter" when we are ordering our meals. We like to eat out, and we know our servers aren't going to necessarily know the ingredients in everything we question them about. So we make our most informed choices and hope for the best. But we're often taking a leap of faith that the bread we're being served has no milk or egg, and that when we've asked for our meal to be prepared with oil not butter, we're actually getting it prepared that way. We also ask for more vegan options at restaurants we frequent, either by asking our server or manager directly, or dashing off an email if the restaurant's particularly busy. We've even had some success getting restaurants to carry more vegan items. (Or rather, us and whomever else might have been asking for the same thing.)

We are vegan at home, and we strive to be vegan outside our home. We never knowingly order a non-vegan meal, except for that occasional slice of pizza we're still planning on eating when we're in NY. Unfortunately, we're fairly confident that occasionally we wind up with something vegetarian, whether we know it or not. So this was our conclusion, in the instances where it's their error, we will return the meal because it's not what we ordered. In the instances where it's our error, we will eat the meal, and make a note of how to request the meal for the next time, or we will never go back.

How do you handle these situations?

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Comments

  1. I would have handled it exactly the same way . . .

    And speaking of which, I just want to say that I really admire you and Jane’s philosophy towards veganism. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and it’s nice to see a non-dogmatic approach to veganism out there in blogland. I know you’ve said y’all have been criticized for being “not vegan enough”, but I think that everyone has a different approach to veganism, and it’s not anyone else’s place to judge. There’s too much finger-pointing and labeling in the vegetarian/vegan community as it is!

  2. The exact same thing happened to me at a Thai restaurant in Buffalo. I picked around the egg as best as I could.

    I had a terrible stomachache later that night, though. Not sure if the eggs had anything to do with it or if it was just psychosomatic guilt.

  3. I handle things the same way. I don’t want to make my lifestyle a burden on other people, so if its my mistake, I’m not going to make it a big deal about it. I have been vegetarian for 3 and half years and just switched completely over to vegan a week ago. i have been doing tons of research about it and looking up different blogs and I so far yours is my favorite. You and your wife have such a good down to earth additude about veganism and it’s very refreshing with all the uptight people out there.

  4. That’s how I would handle it, too. I would eat around the egg as much as possible, in part from fear that it wouldn’t set well in my gut.

  5. There would have been nothing to be gained from not finishing your meal. Sounds like one to put down to experience :)

  6. I just have to agree with everyone else in that I simply love your approach and how you handle your veganism. While I’m still quite a way from being vegan, I tend to take very similar approach with my vegetarianism.

    Just the other day, I had a friend – who knows I’m vegetarian – insist on bringing me a salad from her favorite coffee shop. She kept saying how great they were and that I should try them. So I asked her what was on them, because a lot of times salads like that have chicken breast, etc. She swore that I could have one and listed off all the delicious ingredients – romaine lettuce, strawberries, walnuts, flaxseeds, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc. I finally accepted her offer.

    The salad arrived and with the first bite I knew I was in trouble – there were bacon bits sprinkled throughout the entire salad. Real small pieces of REAL bacon. She knew on my face that something was wrong and I asked nicely, “Is that bacon?” The look on her face was the equivalent of the cartoon lightbulb over the head.

    I politely declined to eat the salad, despite the extreme guilt I felt about her buying the salad for me. But it wasn’t *MY* error, it was hers. She knows I don’t eat meat. And she even said herself that she *knew* about the bacon bits but just didn’t think about it.

    Meat eaters tend to not think about the *small* things like bacon bits. If there aren’t any HUGE chunks of meat in the meal, then it doesn’t matter. To them. Which is fine, but I don’t want to be part of it.

    All was not lost, though. One of my coworkers didn’t hesitate to eat the salad and she enjoyed it.

  7. I’m with everyone else on really admiring your philosophy and the way it plays out in your life. I think you made the totally right decision about the eggs. (Of course, I say that, but – I’m a vegetarian – if I did the same thing and accidentally got a meaty fried rice, I wouldn’t eat it. But I also wouldn’t send it back. Unless the menu didn’t list the meat – for some reason “I didn’t realize it had pork” seems more okay than “I didn’t realize it had egg.” Maybe vegetarianism’s more mainstream acceptance? Anyway, just an interesting distinction in my head.) But thank you for being a voice out in the world for sane, levelheaded veganism.

  8. That was a totally innocent mistake, and I don’t think you guys are any less vegan for eating the egg anyway because it had already been prepared for you. The damage had already been done.

    I use my veganism to prevent animal products being used for my sake. Recently, I was at a smoothie place with my sisters, and I had a tasty juice-based, coconut-based smoothie, but there was a small sample cup of a smoothie on our table that looked good, but it had dairy in it. My sisters were going to throw the entire thing out and not bring it with and give it to anyone else, so I tried some because the products were already used. They were going to end up in the garbage (like what would have happened if you had just picked out the eggs from your meal) And I find animal ingredients ending up in the garbage worse than them ending up in someone’s stomach (vegan or not) because I can’t stand the thought that an animal was just tortured for its products for no end but the garbage. Ending up as food is not that much better of an end, but in my opinion, it is still better. Even when I was a young nonvegetarian and knew nothing about the torture that exists in factory farms, I always felt funny when my mom would throw away meat, eggs, or dairy products.
    On the other hand, if it had been meat on our table, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to stomach that, and it would have ended up in the garbage.

    So this story might make people say that I can’t call myself a vegan because I knowingly ate something with dairy in it, but I would never intentionally order something with animal ingredients in it or consume something with animal products that could still be used by another person. Also, I’m rarely in situations like this, so it’s not like I’m doing stuff like this everyday and still calling myself a vegan.
    Now if I accidentally bought something at the grocery store with animal ingredients, I would try to pass it on to a food pantry or to a friend because it would still be use-able to another person.

    Anyway, it’s nice that you guys are so open and honest about your vegan adventures!

  9. I think that you did the right thing here.

    Since I’m only eating a Vegan diet 1 or 2 days in a week (Vegetarian 3 days a week) I often find myself making these mistakes when I forget that I’m on a Vegan day, and usually turn it into a Veggie day if I can. However, when you’ve made the full lifestyle choice, I can imagine you’re amazed you forgot but dairy & eggs hide in so many foods its amazing.

    I thought the comments above were quite interesting — It really bothers me when perfectly good food ends up uneaten. I have this thing where I feel like when you buy something, you’re basically making a promise that you’ll eat it and if you don’t, it’s just a waste. So, I think you totally did the right thing and haven’t sacrificed or compromised your beliefs in any way.

    Thanks for linking this on twitter! Great read!

    Shannon B.
    Community Manager
    Zeer.com

  10. Yeah, you do the best you can when you eat out, ask as many questions as possible and hope for the best. Especially when there’s a language barrier, it can be frustrating. That’s why when I go to a VEGAN restaurant, it’s the most relaxing feeling!

    FYI with Thai, and all Asian cuisine, you need to specify that you want no chicken or beef broth/stock, fish sauce or shrimp paste. They might consider a soup “vegetarian” with chicken stock, for instance. I’ve had that happen…

  11. I think you made the right choice for you, but I wouldn’t have been able to eat it. I wouldn’t have sent it back, because it would have been my mistake, but I couldn’t have eaten it because it would have made me sick.

    My body has changed since going low-fat strict vegetarian and eggs make me sick. Dairy makes me sick. And high fat foods make me sick. My body doesn’t want them anymore and won’t hesitate to let me know by making me miserable.

    I tried a veggie burger, no cheese, no dressing at a restaurant with very few food options and it made me sick. I know it wasn’t the fat content because I can handle Boca vegan Originals at home. The next time someone dragged me to the restaurant (this is a small town and everyone wants to go to that restaurant) I asked what brand veggie burger they were using and it turned out to be one with dairy.

    I never would have imagined that the tiny amount of dairy that goes in a veggie burger would be enough to make me sick, but I was feeling pretty bad after eating that veggie burger and I don’t think it was psychosomatic because I honestly thought it was a vegan burger when I ate it.

    I ended up ordering one of their salads – hold this, hold that, hold this – and paying $8 for some lettuce and dried cranberries with vinegar.

    I just really don’t much like eating out any more. It’s like playing Russian Roulette with my gut. And even though I can find something vegan anywhere, it’s usually not something I’m terribly excited to eat.

    Sizzler is an exception. I love their salad bar with a passion. But no one ever wants to go there because “it’s too expensive.” (Sure, if you’re getting steak.) It’s the only place in town where I can go to eat and really feel happy about the food and not leave starving.

  12. I wanted to mention also- I read your blog about guiness not being vegan n was so sad to find that out. but I have good news- guiness was my fav beer until I tried this australian beer which I thought was even better. the brand is coopers n there are several dif brews, the dark ale n the extra stout are the best but all their beers are good and vegan.

  13. I’ve become quite fond of Corona which is a vegan beer :)

  14. Even if it was my mistake, I wouldn’t have eaten it. I just can’t stand the thought of putting any sort of animal product in my body. I know where it came from, and how it got there.

    I would have just asked politely if it could be taken back and remade. I’ll pay if need be. And if at all possible I try to make sure it doesn’t get tossed.

    (Passing no judgement, just stating what I would do. :) )

  15. i love your story. i totally know what you mean about never knowing exactly what is in your food in restaurants. i am sure i have unknowingly eaten lots of unvegan stuff. i only recently realized that most mexican restaurants use chicken stock in their rice! i was eating burritos with chicken stock in them for years!!! i guess at the end of the day you can’t beat yourself up over it. nice post. :)

  16. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for the kind words!

    Hi Katie,
    “Psychosomatic Guilt” — I’ll have to remember that one, I’ve definitely experienced it before. Yes, we felt badly about the egg, and it tainted our meal a bit. (Because we thought about the chickens involved.) But I’d rather eat the egg than throw it away uneaten.

    Hi Kristin,
    Thanks. That’s exactly what we’re striving for. There’s no use condemning people for trying and slipping up occasionally.

    Hi Sue,
    We weren’t concerned about the egg not agreeing with us (after all, we were eating eggs as little as a year ago, and for many years), but the guilt was another story. It’s not like we really really wanted these eggs and decided to step off the path for a meal. We made a mistake and were faced with the choice of eating the eggs, or “wasting” them.

    Hi Kate,
    Yes, we definitely learned from that one! Hopefully we’ll remember!

    Hi Lee,
    It’s funny how omni’s perceive veg*ism. “Yes, but do you eat fish?” is one of my all time favorites. Not that my diet should be anyone else’s concern. But if someone is buying /preparing food for me, I’d like to have a sense of confidence that what I’m eating is something I would actually choose to eat.
    If we’d had an omni or vegetarian with us, we most certainly would have left those dishes to them and ordered a new entree for ourselves.

    Hi Jaime,
    Thank you for your kind words. Yes, we all have to decide for ourselves where our lines are drawn.

    Hi Lindsey,
    Jane’s take exactly. It’s better to eat the “offending” food item than to throw it away. We believe it’s the cumulative impact you make. One meal, one snack, one item isn’t the end of the world. However, it can get you started down a slippery slope….

    Hi Shannon,
    Interesting… are you transitioning to veganism? Or do you like your diet as is. Jane used to have a raw vegetable day one day/week for a few years (long before I met her). Yes, we had a d’oh moment there! ;-)

    Hi Kim,
    Yes, I forgot to mention that (fish sauce and stocks) It is a huge leap of faith to go to a non-vegan restaurant and assume you’re getting a vegan meal, but we have to take that risk since we’re not cooking every meal here. I’m most comfortable in Akbar, our local Indian restaurant.

    Hi Sparrow,
    That’s awful (or is it actually a good thing?). We haven’t reached that point yet. Maybe because we’d eaten that way for 40 years. I’ll be curious to see how my body reacts to pizza the next time I have some. I understand a lot of people have trouble eating cheese after they’ve been away from it for awhile.
    Yes, it is Russian Roulette. That’s part of why I’m loathe to condemn people for stepping off the path. We may be doing it more often than we know!

    Hi Kristin,
    Looking for Coopers… Must try Coopers. Seriously though, thanks for the recommendation.

    Hi Kate,
    When Jane drinks beer, that’s her preference. With a sliver of lime in the bottle. I tend to prefer the lagers.

    Hi Jaxin,
    We asked, because we’re curious what other’s do! We might have returned the dish up front if we’d noticed the egg, but it wasn’t visible immediately. We only noticed after eating almost half the dish. To return it at that point seemed rude to us. Also, health code here wouldn’t permit the restaurant to reuse any food from a customers table. They’re supposed to throw away untouched rolls, or butter (not the individually wrapped pats) if it’s been served to you. It bothered us to know what we were eating. We justified it to ourselves because we didn’t try to sneak it onto our plates. So rather than throw it away, we figured it was better to eat it.

    Hi QuarryGirl,
    Uh Oh. Chicken stock in rice? I’ve never thought to ask about that. You’ve illustrated my point perfectly. It’s probably not only the Mexican restaurants…. Jane’s telling me that a lot of cookbooks recommend cooking rice in stock or wine to give it an added flavor. Argh!

  17. I made a similar mistake two days ago and thought back to this post. I forgot to ask for a soy latte the other day and didn’t realize it until after I had already had a few delicious sips. Oh well. I finished drinking it but definitely felt a little guilty :)

  18. Hi Nate,
    I guess it comes down to which side of the theoretical fence you fall. We know plenty of people who believe there is no excuse to ever ingest animal product of any kind. We’re on the other side… we believe it’s worse to waste the food… provided it was your mistake. And yes, for us there’s still guilt associated with that decision.

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