Just Say You’re Allergic!!!

images-1After my recent “sauce-age” fiasco, I started to really think about all the times I was in a non-vegan restaurant (which is most of the time) and my meal came out of the kitchen with meat, butter or cheese in it. Unfortunately, this happens to me way too often!!! I am always certain that I ordered the dish without meat or dairy. It seems to me that the waiter/waitress will just “yes” me to death and then serve whatever is easiest for the restaurant to do. Apparently, there must be something wrong with the way that I’m ordering; or, maybe, the restaurants just simply don’t care. Who knows?

I always thought that it was important to tell the waiter/waitress in a non-vegan restaurant that you follow a vegan diet. My rationale was that the more times they heard the word “vegan”, the more likely they were to see that “vegans” are a growing population and the more likely they would be to include vegan options on their menu in the future. Unfortunately, this method has not been working for me.

My “veg” friend, Ellen, suggested (after my sausage incident) that every time I order, I should look the waiter/waitress straight in the eyes and say “I’m vegan.” This obviously works for Ellen who lives in Southern California where veganism is more prominent than on Long Island.  In my neck of the woods, I will often get a totally blank look from the waiter/waitress if I try Ellen’s method indicating to me that they don’t know what “vegan” means. I’m also tired of spotting cheese or butter in a meal when I was assured that the meal was “dairy-free.” What’s a vegan to do?


Last night, I went for a “girls night out” to a non-vegan restaurant. As usual, I was the only vegan of the bunch. When I spotted an organic barley risotto with vegetables on the menu amongst the various chicken and fish entrees, I was thrilled. When the waiter came to take our orders, I asked him if he could make the risotto with no dairy. His response was “why, are you allergic”? Considering the ethical dilemna of stating that I was allergic to dairy (when I’m not), I blurted out “yes, I’m allergic!”

It finally dawned on me, after being vegan for almost 3 years, that the only way a non-vegan restaurant would surely comply with my request for a non-dairy meal was to put the fear of an anaphylactic shock episode happening on their premises. This wouldn’t look so good to the other diners. Right? My risotto arrived dairy-free as I ordered!! I guess I’m a bit slow to learn the little tricks of life!! Hopefully, in the near future, ordering a vegan meal in a non-vegan restaurant will be commonplace and embraced by all!!

In the interim, may I suggest that, if you are a vegan in a non-vegan restaurant and suspect that your “vegan” order might not be taken seriously, you simply say you’re allergic!!





  1. In restaurants I always just make my requests for what I want or do not want in my food. I don’t give a reason, because I know that a lot of the people I meet will not understand the word “vegan” or will not care. I also don’t feel the need to lie to them because I don’t need to justify my dietary decisions to strangers.
    If my food comes to me and it’s been marred with non-vegan things, I simply send it back and restate my specifications.

    That said, there’s no shame in wanting to make it easier on yourself and I totally believe that they’d be much more attentive if you said you had an allergy.

  2. Thanks for the great advice! Sometimes I really do need to make it easier on myself!

  3. I totally agree with this post, and feel that certain cuisines are more accommodating to the idea of “veganism,” or even those following an oil-free diet. Unfortunately, small–business restaurants, still have not embraced this “novice” idea, and I am often times left with an uneasy feeling after ordering, that I will, once again, have to eat a cold salad, because the kitchen screwed up my order…

    • I am glad that you agree with me because I sometimes feel bad saying I’m allergic: however, I am hopeful that times will change soon and that restaurants will begin to do what’s best for the customers and not just what’s easiest for them to do!

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