Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Vegetarian etiquette dilemmas - the first in an occasional series

I was reminded the other day of a vegetarian etiquette dilemma that I have experienced.

The situation:  you're the only vegetarian in a group of friends dining at a restaurant.  The restaurant is the sort where it is common/typical to order a number of dishes for the group to share - think Indian, Chinese, tapas, Mexican, Lebanese, that sort of thing.  What do you do?

What I usually do is say, when we're all at the perusing of menus stage, that I'm vegetarian (or, if everyone knows that, to remind people), that I'm happy to share if everyone else is happy to order a reasonable number of vegetarian dishes so that I can have enough to eat but that, if the group as a whole would like to order lots and lots of meat, then I'll just get a vegetarian main course for myself.

Most of the time, what happens is that my friends say that that's fine and we order - depending on the place - usually around a half to three quarters vegetarian food, my friends all assume that I will (as I do) eat more than my "fair" share of the vegetarian dishes and, in exchange, they get my "share" of the meat to split between them.

However, I did have one bad experience, of going out to eat and doing this and having the other members of the group making passive aggressive comments about how they hadn't had a chance to try [insert name of vegetarian dishes that I had more than my "fair" share of and finished (NB - not that I did so without leaving the final pieces on the table for quite some time, giving ample opportunity for others to take them instead) ] which I found quite difficult.  Particularly because I kind of wanted to explain - "but we're splitting the bill evenly and I don't think that's particularly fair if I have had significantly less food than you" - but couldn't really do so because the comments weren't quite direct enough that I could tackle them without sounding extremely defensive.  I also sort of of felt like it was pretty obvious that I would be eating more than 1/number of people at the table's worth of the vegetarian stuff.   Basically because everyone else clearly felt that that wasn't sufficient for them because they had ordered meat dishes to supplement.  So why would it be enough for me?  However, I had forgotten that so many people suffer from the assumption that vegetarians are mysteriously able to survive on half the food that omnivores eat.  Vegetarianism, not just about leaving out the meat and eating what's left on the plate, people.  /End digression

This made me wonder whether I might be better advised to add to my opening spiel - "and, incidentally, I am assuming that you're ok with having my share of the meat in exchange for me having more than 1/number of people at the table's worth of the vegetarian food?" - though that seems tremendously awkward.

What would you /do you do?

1 comment:

  1. These days, TBH, I would just order a huge swathe of vegetarian food, far more than I could eat, and suck up the price difference. In a casual restaurant, vegetarian dishes are around the £4-£8 price point, where I live, so I'd add two to three extra.

    In my experience, meat eaters often don't bother with the passive aggressive comments - they see the 'side dishes' arrive, tuck in and leave me with a tail of aubergine and some bread. So I'd rather order more and make sure I have enough to eat. Especially as I feel it's bad manners to point out that a vegetarian's share of a bill is usually substantially less...