Going out to eat is one of the world’s great pastimes (at least in the West). It’s a time when we can come together with friends, family and even strangers, and indulge in delicious food and enjoy good company and conversation. It is, in essence, how every meal should be: a communal event. Dining out is the sharing of both time and space, a complete immersion in the present moment with food anchored in the center.
Following the vegetarian diet, though, can be problematic when it comes to sharing food. Conflicts can arise on issues of the where, what, and how’s of dining out with meat eaters. Take a few things into consideration before heading out the door to meet friends at the restaurant.
Meat at the Table
For some, sharing the table with meat eaters is an everyday reality. Households can often times have both vegetarians and meat eaters under the same roof, so each meal becomes an exercise in designating cutlery, cutting boards, and pans. Being around meat is a non-issue for these folks.
For others, though, simply the smell and sight of meat can cause for serious revulsions in the non-meat eater. Seeing a cooked steak dripping with blood might send them away from the table and into another room. These people are often vegetarians or vegans for ethical reasons, so the values are so deep seeded, that it can be nearly impossible to mask. Dining out with meat eating friends, therefore, may simply not be an option. And that’s fine. It can become an issue, though, when you are prodded into going out to eat with co-workers or attend a wedding. This is a separate issue, and is better addressed in another article. For now, though, these people should just choose to not dine with people who eat meat.
If you’re new to vegetarianism, or are dining out with someone new in your life, let them know beforehand that you’re a vegetarian. Don’t come right out and say it first thing, as this might be considered pushy or rude. Instead, try discussing what type of restaurant you both want to go to, and slip it in. If they suggest a steakhouse, you might want to interject that this would be difficult for you, as you’re vegetarian. You’ll probably end up deciding on some sort of ethnic food, such as Mexican, Chinese, or Japanese, as these are the most vegetarian friendly places to dine at.
Don’t Talk About Meat
Once everyone has settled into the cozy restaurant booth, relax and enjoy yourself. When the food arrives, and your friend has ordered chicken parmesan do not talk about meat. Really, don’t. Talking about inhumane chicken rearing practices while your friend pushes around a chicken leg on their plate will result in a supremely unpleasant dining experience. It’s important to not judge people on their dietary choices – it’s a personal decision for all parties involved, and pushing your values on someone else is never enjoyable. And, really, you’ve come to share both space and time with your friends and loved one, so enjoy it – don’t inject your views on morality into the conversation.
Sometimes you’ll come across someone who is adamant about talking about your vegetarianism – finding it novel or simply wanting to know more about it. When this happens (and, if you’re at all social, it will inevitably happen) I try to answer their questions as quickly and succinctly as possible, and move the conversation forward to different topics. If they are extremely pushy about it, just inform them that maybe this is a conversation better had after the meal.