Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Vegetarian's Dilemma: Eating at Omnivore Restaurants

I've often said I have the palate of a 10-year-old, so I'm never been one to try out lots of new restaurants. I like what I like, and go to the same handful of places, and order the same things at each place. 

I've had to branch out a bit more lately, both in self-imposed goals, and because of the influence and expectations of others in my life. Abe is definitely one who loves exploring new restaurants and flavors. His mom is also that way, but not only does she enjoy seeking out new restaurants, but she's very much into seeking out upscale restaurants.

Personally, even aside from the main issue I'm about to bring up, I don't think these fancy restaurants are worth the price. I guess the plates look pretty, and the food tastes good, but it doesn't taste proportionally better than food at lower price points. It doesn't have a value I would consider worth spending extra cash on. But, her money, if she wants to spend it at ritzy places and invite us along, that's her choice.

However, these upscale restaurants - even in a liberal hub like Portland - tend to have extremely limited vegetarian, much less vegan, options. There are some upscale veg restaurants (and especially as I think I'm going to set a goal for 2015 to try new vegan restaurants each month, I'll probably do what I can to push the group consensus in such directions as much as possible), but ultimately when it's her treat it's her decision, and it's often also influenced by location (e.g., when we're going out to dinner before a show).

There's been at least one place that literally had nothing vegetarian on the menu. Sure, since they're so fancy, you can just ask the chef to make something for you, or they'll willingly adapt something on the menu to make it vegetarian, but it still makes me uncomfortable that they don't think our patronage is important enough to deliberately set forth options, that meet their standards, on their menu in the first place. 

On the other hand, maybe they simply haven't had enough business by vegetarians to warrant investing in such options, and they need to have customers to ask for that in order for it to become economically feasible.

I'm not saying this isn't a problem at more budget-priced restaurants, but in my experience the more "family restaurant" style a place is, the more likely it actually does have vegetarian option. Something about the fancy places seems to have an ingrained concept that dishes must have meat to have merit.

Which do you think is better economic activism: rewarding restaurants who already provide numerous veg options, or pushing the request at restaurants who don't?



    Does she know you're vegetarian? Because I have to say, it's pretty creepy if you or he has mentioned it and/or reminded her, and she still makes no effort to accommodate you. Obviously you know all the relationship dynamics here, but if it were me, I'd tell him it's something I've noticed that kind of bothers me & would he mind checking in with her about that. (Even if she knows you don't eat meat, maybe she doesn't realize her picks have been so limiting for you?) And if he does mention it to her, and she continues to knowingly, actively, disregard your food preferences like that, I'd probably start opting out, and be honest about the reason if she asks why. (Which sucks, but that's a pretty aggressive, controlling move by the mother of your SO, and I definitely wouldn't want to set up the dynamic of it being totally okay with me.)

    As for the restaurants....I don't know, here in SF, it seems like pretty much everywhere has at least a couple of vegetarian options (I mean except like steak houses), and since veggie options are so cheap & easy to put together relative to meat dishes, I'm kind of surprised it's that different in Portland.

    1. Ha! I like your warning. :)

      You know the weirdest thing about that aspect of this is - she's semi-vegetarian herself! (So, yes, she also knows I'm veg. Probably doesn't realize the extent of my texture/palate issues that make having only one option potentially = having no options, or the extent of my moral reasons for being veg - her are more health-based reasons - and why I might feel like I don't want to support a business like that, though.)

      I think she makes occasional exceptions, particularly I think for seafood, but she's limiting herself in these restaurant choices too! Sure, she has a more varied palate so she's more likely than me to like that one option, but somehow it seems that the upscale vibe is more important to her than having a variety of dishes to choose from.

      In-laws are divorced, but FIL does weird stuff like that to. He's semi-vegetarian (also eats seafood), his GF is omnivore, but like it'll be the four of us for dinner - one (gluten-free) omnivore, two semi-vegetarians (Abe is also semi-veg or flexitarian) and one vegetarian, and he makes ham as the *main* entree. He makes sure there are side dishes I can eat, but he doesn't just, say, make meat on the side for the one omnivore, he makes it as the main dish when 3 of the 4 people won't or lean against it and just has a side or two that everyone can eat. IT'S WEIRD!!!

      There ARE other relationship dynamics in play (MIL was a pediatric surgeon, and if you've watched Grey's Anatomy kind of reminds me of Elis Grey), and I've diagnosed it as she likes to "take care of" people and having money is her tool available to do so, etc. And after an extremely dysfunction family of my last serious relationship ex (like, "why did you not divorce someone accused of sexual abuse" kind of dysfunction), I'm thrilled that they're all relatively normal people and divorced parents who get along, etc. But there are some weird food issues going on there.


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