I already planned yesterday to tell you a bit more about my own experiences in various restaurants with special food requirements – and here you go!
I have been vegetarian my whole life long. In my hometown Vrindavan, you actually won’t find any restaurant that sells meat. It is a vegetarian town. I travelled a lot in my childhood but in India, and especially in the circles that I was moving in, being vegetarian is nothing unusual. On the contrary, the people that I was around considered being non-vegetarian an outrageous way of living.
Then I started travelling abroad. I knew before that I would be doing a lot of cooking for myself – I also used to do that when I was on journeys on my own. I got to know that there were no vegetarian restaurants available abroad. When I went to restaurants, it was Indian restaurants where I could clearly explain that I didn’t eat meat, nor onions nor garlic and they would understand.
And finally my Western friends started taking me to other restaurants and I learned to be very clear with everyone around what I would eat and what not and also how I could eat.
Most vegetarians in the west are used to being the minority and being the only ones to eat vegetarian food while everyone else eats meat around them. I was and am not used to this at all – and I have to tell people who go out for dinner with me that I cannot eat when there is meat on the table. I don’t have appetite, on the contrary, I even feel like I could get sick. For me, there is just too much connected with that piece of dead animal on your plate!
If you call this intolerant, I can accept that. I am, in this regard, fully intolerant – and I don’t feel guilty about it. If you believe you cannot eat vegetarian for one day when we are out together, I have to tell you that I will not eat with you at the same table. And next time I will completely avoid eating together with you. That’s just the only way that I can get down food into my stomach.
Now that doesn’t mean that I want everyone else around me to eat like I do at all times. I don’t want you to pretend being someone who you are not. Of course I would appreciate others to become vegetarian – which is a general attitude because I believe it would be good for everyone – but just because I tell the waiter that I don’t want onion or garlic in my sauce, you don’t need to do the same. I don’t mind my Western friends drinking a glass of wine in the evening either, when we are sitting together – even if I don’t ever touch alcohol. And in this way, I have had thousands of wonderful dinners.
What I mean to show is that even though you may have different habits than others, even though you can accept some things and others not, you should not feel bad about it. Know your limits and make them clear in a friendly and polite way. No need for bad feelings if everyone knows about it.
Should someone decide to pass a stupid comment – so be it, you don’t need to give them the pleasure of your company while having lunch or dinner!