He accidentally fed a vegetarian meat -- now what?
July 13, 2010 8:25 AM   Subscribe

If you accidentally fed a vegetarian a small amount of meat, what would you do?

Recently a friend, Omni, was hosting a dinner party and proudly made a vegetarian entree (or so he thought) for the party which included good friend Veggie. After Veggie (and everyone else) had eaten his entree and pronounced it excellent, he suddenly and stomach-sickeningly realized there was a small amount of chicken stock in the sauce, which for whatever reason hadn't registered with him as "meat." (He says he was focused on the dish itself and for some reason hadn't thought about the sauce, and doesn't really make that many non-tomato sauces so it just didn't even occur.) Veggie was eating her second helping when Omni realized it. Omni panicked and didn't say anything. Afterwards, a couple of us have been debating what he should have done and whether he should do anything now.

Veggie is an ethical vegetarian (not a religious vegetarian, or a health-issue vegetarian), whose spouse eats meat and who cooks with the same pans as her spouse and who doesn't mind others eating meat. She doesn't freak out at a barbecue when her Boca burger is cooked right where a beef burger was 30 seconds before.

My feeling was, since she'd already eaten it and it was a very small amount (a very thin sauce that just added a little flavor -- you don't eat much of the sauce), there was nothing to be gained by telling her except upsetting her, since she couldn't "fix" it. It already happened and couldn't be undone; it was an accident; and Omni will certainly not make that mistake again (nor will I, having heard about it!). But I'm uneasy with this answer because it feels dishonest. Still, I can't see what's to gain by telling Veggie about it.

What would you do? Would your answer be different if Veggie was a religious vegetarian? Or a medical-reasons vegetarian? (Mine would be, I think.) Would it matter if she'd just started eating? If she was halfway through? Done completely? Would it matter how big the quantity of meat was, or in what form? (Personally, I feel like by exploring the alternate cases I can get closer to isolating the ethical thinking going into my answer.) If you are a vegetarian, what do you wish Omni had done? Would you want him to say something to you now?

I will note again that this was ENTIRELY accidental; Omni was not trying to "trick" her into eating meat and was very, very proud of his vegetarian entree. He feels absolutely sick about it, and wants to "make it right," but realizes he can't because she already ate it. So he's trying to figure out if he should tell her, or if he should just keep it to himself and never make that mistake again.

(Omni thought MeFi might be a good place to get some answers from vegetarians who can't punch him in the face personally. He feels really crappy about the whole thing and can't get past it and keeps going over and over it. Try to be nice to him!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee to Religion & Philosophy (71 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Regardless of the kind of vegetarian the guest was, I would not say anything (as you say, there's nothing to be gained), but I would be a heck of a lot more vigilant thereafter when I was cooking for vegetarian or vegan friends.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:28 AM on July 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


In the exact circumstances described, I'd keep it to myself, learn my lesson, and move on with my life.
posted by kch at 8:29 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a vegetarian, I would like to know but would not be upset or anything. Make a donation to the SPCA in my name or something as an apology.

(and substitute in vegetable broth next time)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:30 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


My vegetarian friends have informed me that their policy is that ignorance is preferred after consumption. So, neither was informed about the bacon in the baked beans and in the corn bread, and I certainly shouldn't have said anything about the lard in the ingredients list of the Jiffy corn muffin mix in their pantry.
posted by mkb at 8:30 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd be seriously amazed if anyone makes a credible argument here for saying something — except insofar as Veggie sounds like a rather less highly-wound person than anyone else involved here, and would probably put your minds at ease by laughing it off. Unless you're desperate for her blessing, move on...
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:31 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think if Omni is really beating himself up over this, it might relieve his conscience to just get it over with and tell Veggie. All this worrying over what she's going to think seems pointless.

I can see how, on the other hand, what's done is done and telling Veggie doesn't really accomplish anything, but at least it lets Veggie know that she cannot trust Omni to make a completely vegetarian entree in the future, and lets her decide if she's OK with that.
posted by muddgirl at 8:32 AM on July 13, 2010


I think part of why Omni is SO upset about this is that it was more or less his first attempt at vegetarian cooking, and he's not a frequent cook to begin with, so he was really excited and proud about it ... only to discover he messed it up. He's not normally quite so high-strung. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:34 AM on July 13, 2010


Veggie is an ethical vegetarian, whose spouse eats meat and who cooks with the same pans as her spouse and who doesn't mind others eating meat. She doesn't freak out at a barbecue when her Boca burger is cooked right where a beef burger was 30 seconds before.

It's hard to say if you should tell or not, but I think this is probably the most important bit of information. Many people, in my experience, tend to assume that 'ethical' vegetarians are going to be completely unforgiving in a situation like this. That may not be true, and the above statements suggest as much.

As an example, someone could have ethical reasons for drinking fair trade coffee but not flip out upon learning they just drank Folgers.
posted by Adam_S at 8:35 AM on July 13, 2010


Also Omni doesn't know a lot of vegetarians, he says, so isn't sure how serious a lapse it is.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:35 AM on July 13, 2010


Props to Omni for realizing and feeling regretful. Some people just don't get that chicken stock isn't vegetarian, and still others don't care and will feed things including it to vegetarians anyway.

If it is over and done with, and there is no health-related reason for the vegetarianism, I wouldn't say anything. It achieves nothing. As a vegetarian it would be enough to me that Omni knows, fully understands, and respects my wishes and will certainly continue to do so in the future. (I can't speak to religious vegetarianism - but I lean toward not saying anything in that case because I'm approaching it from this Jewish perspective toward sin, wherein the main focus is "I'm gonna stop sinning and not do the sin again" - which is pretty much already taken care of in this case. But vegetarianism isn't a Jewish thing at all. I don't know if there are other still-relevant forms of penitence in religions that forbid meat-eating.)

If it were mid-bite, Omni should say something no matter what the reason for the vegetarianism or no matter the amount.

(I was a vegetarian for many many years, during which time my choices were often not respected or understood. I am not anymore.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:38 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've been in the same situation and not said anything. My wife doesn't eat red meat for ethical reasons, and her preference is not to know when stuff like this happens.
posted by xammerboy at 8:38 AM on July 13, 2010


I don't know any vegetarians who would get mad about this - it was an honest and easy mistake from someone who was trying. Also, the damn chicken was already dead - not eating the thing wouldn't make it any less dead. He shouldn't worry about it, and not making a big deal out of it at dinner was the right thing to do.
posted by Dasein at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2010


I've been an ethical vegetarian for about 20 years (I'm 29).

I'm sure I've unknowingly eaten meat stock. I used to order risotto in restaurants and buy canned soup all the time without checking or asking about the ingredients. I just thought, well, it's "mushroom" risotto or "vegetable" soup or whatever, so it's vegetarian. Now that I've gotten into cooking in the past few years, I'm more aware of these concerns.

But really, so what if I've inadvertently eaten meat? I'm still a vegetarian. If someone else wants to take away vegetarian points from me or claim that I'm not a vegetarian because trace amounts of meat have entered my body at some point in the past two decades, they're entitled to their opinion. It doesn't matter to me.

(However, in my opinion, eating food made with meat stock is worse than eating a veggie burger made on a grill where meat burgers are made. I don't care at all about the latter, but I avoid the former whenever possible.)

I see no point in anyone's continuing to worry about this or telling him.

In my opinion, meat-eaters worry way too much about vegetarians. I've never understood this. Why would you worry about what I eat? If you want to worry about people eating meat, I wish you'd worry about yourself eating meat instead of worrying about me or Veggie. We're adults -- we can take care of ourselves, and you're not really doing us any good by freaking out about the idea that we might every once in a while eat a few molecules of meat.

OK, so he didn't do a perfect job of doing his friend a favor by making a vegetarian dish, but as you said, he'll be extra careful to use vegetable stock in the future. That's the best you can do.

Did I mention that meat-eaters worry too much about vegetarians?
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2010 [24 favorites]


This was asked before - "Do I tell the vegetarian she ate bacon last night?" - and the general consensus was no, don't tell her.
posted by barnone at 8:43 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having been an on-and-off ethical vegetarian, he should stop feeling horrible about including the meat broth (it's the risk you take when you eat food you haven't cooked yourself).

It's hard to say how she will react. People vary in their ethical reasoning.

I personally try to avoid buying meat, but will eat it if it's around. Some people won't eat out of dishes that have had meat cooked in them. It's a spectrum.

The best way is to just tell her and tell her that he feels bad. I doubt she will cry or vomit. I'm sure it's happened to her before.

This is really too much drama for such a small incident, I think.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:43 AM on July 13, 2010


To be clearer on the religious thing: I don't know if religious vegetarians have any sort of ritualistic penance they are supposed to do after lapsing. I'm assuming not because that doesn't exist in my religious world, but I don't know.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:45 AM on July 13, 2010


I don't think Omni will feel comfortable here until he tells Veggie.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:45 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lifelong vegetarian here. Answer: move on. This happens. I mentally file it in the same place I file the knowledge that restaurant food falls on the floor, that salad bars are sneezed on, etcetera. Meat is not food to me, but one inadvertently eats plenty of things that are not food.
posted by kmennie at 8:47 AM on July 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


By "the risk you take" I don't mean to imply that it's okay to sneak meat into "vegetarian" dishes.

I mean that these kinds of accidents happen a lot, because a lot of people aren't used to eating/cooking vegetarian, and because meat and meat products sneak into EVERYTHING.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:48 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a former Vegetarian, I agree with everyone else that there is nothing to be gained by telling your friend about the mistake.

However, I agree with Furiousxgeorge that if Omni wants to ease his mind, maybe he should make a donation to an organization such as HSUS.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 8:48 AM on July 13, 2010


Maybe next time Omni should ask Veggie to help Omni cook?
posted by musofire at 8:49 AM on July 13, 2010


I try to stick to vegetarianism as much as possible but when it comes to soups... meat stocks are really really hard to beat. I think your friend saved themselves a lot of worry and probably a subpar meal by using it, even though it was unintentional. They should try to make it again using vegetable stocks (smaller serving of course) and see what I mean, and perhaps find a good vegetable stock that'll work next time. Learn, and move on.
posted by jwells at 8:56 AM on July 13, 2010


Omni should tell veggie, but only in order to remove her from the position she is presently in of being a member of a group all of whom know a secret about her, except her.

If he chooses not to, I predict you will be amazed at how quickly veggie will be pushed to the edges of the group and become diminished in everyone elses regard (I consider it to be a subtle manifestation of blaming the victim). No one will mean to do it, or want to do it, but no one will be able to stop it, either-- unless omni tells her.
posted by jamjam at 8:57 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been an "ethical vegetarian" for 35 years and this has happened to me several times.

When the person told me in the middle of the meal, I simply stopped eating that thing and thanked them for letting me know. I've felt a little uneasy about the amount that I'd already eaten, but if they were apologetic, I wasn't upset with the cook. Rather, I appreciated their effort and their honesty in letting me know about the mistake.

When people let me know after the meal was already over, I've pretty much wished they'd just not have told me and had rather simply made a mental note to not repeat the mistake.

So... give the two possible outcomes, I'd judge that ignorance is probably bliss.
posted by rhartong at 8:58 AM on July 13, 2010


The ONE case I would make for telling Veggie is that I have known some lifelong vegetarians who are so unused to animal protein that they can get quite stomach-churningly ill from accidentally ingesting any, even chicken stock. If she eats in proximity to meat frequently, this is really unlikely to be the case, but if she does get sick, that might be the the time to say "uh. there was a little bit of, erm, chicken stock in that. I'm really sorry and I'll never do it again."
posted by KathrynT at 8:59 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


He should tell her and he should apologize. He's not going to be okay with her until he does. Veggie is a good friend, and not telling her (to me) diminishes that and is definitely going to affect how Omni and Veggie relate, and probably how all of you relate to each other.

I doubt that Veggie wants her friends debating and angsting over something that happened to her that she doesn't even know about.

I think this one is more a friendship question than just a vegetarian question.
posted by mrs. taters at 9:04 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Omni should tell veggie, but only in order to remove her from the position she is presently in of being a member of a group all of whom know a secret about her, except her.

Good point, jamjam. In the future, if Omni isn't going to tell a vegetarian, he shouldn't tell anyone. I know he was looking for advice from more experienced friends, but regardless: the fact that he told some people behind Veggie's back makes this a special case than the regular "accidentally served some bacon in the beans".
posted by muddgirl at 9:04 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I definitely wouldn't say anything mid-meal (or especially mid-bite!) as this would potentially put her in an awkward position. If she stops eating based on the new information some people may think she is too uptight and if she continues eating, others may think she is a hypocrite (or take away the impression that it is ok to fudge a little when cooking for a vegetarian.) Better to just let her enjoy her meal in peace. At that point the damage was done anyway.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:04 AM on July 13, 2010


In addition to my earlier comment, I'd like to second this:

In the future, if Omni isn't going to tell a vegetarian, he shouldn't tell anyone.

As I said, it wouldn't bother me much if someone accidentally served me something with meat stock and called it vegetarian. I would, however, be creeped out if I thought people were talking about it behind my back.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:07 AM on July 13, 2010


Omni basically talked to me, since I stayed at the end to help clean up, and to his own spouse, who doesn't know Veggie very well. I like Veggie very much, but haven't known her very long and we're not "besties" either. These are good but still developing friendships due to a shared activity. Veggie does have a couple of very close friends in the group, but nobody but me and Omni in the group are aware of the stock incident.

(This thread is very, very interesting so far, and Omni has calmed down and isn't quite hyperventilating anymore!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:13 AM on July 13, 2010


I would like to know what I have eaten, but I wouldn't be upset at all at Omni for what was clearly an unintentional mistake.

What I would be upset about though, would be finding out later that everyone at a dinner party besides me knew that I had eaten chicken stock and decided to keep it a secret from me.
posted by headnsouth at 9:19 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Even though I agree with most of the posts here on some level, I think many of them are under-reacting a bit. Look, it's really not that hard to remember that chickens are animals and inform guests about the food accordingly. Obviously the stakes are different, but you wouldn't put a dab of peanut oil into food and then sheepishly remember that that won't fly for your friend who's allergic to peanuts. It's just a matter of thoughtfulness. I would be upset on the receiving end of this situation-- not angry, but grossed-out and frustrated that the host had been kind of careless. Not all vegetarians are flexible about what they eat, and I would feel very oogy about eating chicken stock.
posted by threeants at 9:21 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would tell Veggie. Full disclosure seems like the right thing especially in light of the fact that there seems to be a lot of people already talking about it and it will get back to her eventually. I would want to be the one to tell her myself if only to control the message.

I once gave a kosher friend some meatballs that had a small amount of Parmesan cheese in them. I told her. Before she ate the second one. She thanked me for telling her, ate the rest of the meatballs and has not looked back since. She did tell me that there was no reason to stop then as the "violation" had happened and eating the rest of the very tasty meatballs was her choice.

Obviously, not every one would react like that, but full disclosure is the way to go. Why should I be the one to decide what you don't know won't hurt you? You can make that call and I should take my lumps for making the mistake. We talk, we agree to try to avoid the same mistake again and we move on.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:23 AM on July 13, 2010


If he chooses not to, I predict you will be amazed at how quickly veggie will be pushed to the edges of the group and become diminished in everyone elses regard (I consider it to be a subtle manifestation of blaming the victim).

How do you figure that? Why would the friends push Veggie to the edge of the group? How would she be diminished? Blame the victim for what?

Also, for those saying "Nothing whould be gained by telling her," I would say that what would be accomplished is that Omni's mind would be put at rest. For Veggie, she would be in on what others are already talking about.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:30 AM on July 13, 2010


My sister, an ethical vegetarian for almost two decades now, says that sharing this information would just be awkward, and that Omni should just learn from his mistake and move on.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:32 AM on July 13, 2010


I've been vegetarian on and off for years, and I generally assume when eating in an omnivore context (most restaurants, dinner at a meat-eating friend's house) that there may be hidden meat products in the food. There's really nothing I can do about it, so it's not worth getting freaked out over unless I want to stop eating out or always bring special food to omnivore dinner parties.

Unless your friend is particularly neurotic or sanctimonious, she probably shares this attitude. Either way, nobody gains anything from telling her about it, since it's in the past. I wouldn't lie if she asks, and certainly if it made her sick or something I would fess up and apologize profusely. But she probably knows this is a thing that can happen.
posted by Sara C. at 9:34 AM on July 13, 2010


ThatCanadianGirl - you do realize that you're agreeing exactly with the sentiment of the comment you quoted? Perhaps you misread.
posted by muddgirl at 9:40 AM on July 13, 2010


If Omni is concerned, tell Veggie. Omni can then sleep well, and Veggie will know that Omni cares enough to tell about an accident.

As for someone who doesn't eat meat products due to health reasons, that's a different story. Giving someone who has a shellfish allergy some crabcake could be hazardous to their health.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:43 AM on July 13, 2010


Omni should tell Veggie so they can have their 'oh? Well, no biggie' moment and Omni can stop stressing and Veggie can know why Omni was acting so strange to them lately. Nobody likes to be treated like they're fragile or an outsider because of their ethical choices.

This is somewhat comparable to the adulterated EVOO article that was on the Blue a few days ago, though. There is a Rules Based Ethics case to be made for telling and not assuming that just because most people wouldn't want/care to know that Veggie is one of those people. Plus everyone gets experience in having difficult conversations with something that is pretty low stakes.
posted by Skwirl at 9:47 AM on July 13, 2010


This was an honest mistake made by someone with good intentions. As a veg of 7 or 8 years, I'd be fine with not knowing after the fact, though I'd probably be touched by Omni's consideration if he did fess up. Fine by me either way.

In this situation, since other people already know, probably best to just own up and apologize. Some mutual friend will no doubt make an offhand reference to it at some point down the road, and what is frankly not that big a deal will turn into one due to the group secrecy.

Chicken/beef stock is tricky and plenty of vegetarians will consume it in their lifetimes, either unknowingly or through willful blindness. Some vegetarians are very strict about stocks. Some let them slide as often as not. Really depends on the individual.
posted by nicoleincanada at 9:47 AM on July 13, 2010


Veggie was eating her second helping when Omni realized it. Omni panicked and didn't say anything.

Omni did have the obligation to tell, since she was in mid-eat. The mid-eat to me is crucial. Him knowing and not telling her had the effect of allowing her to eat food that is against her ethics.

I was a vegetarian for ten years or so. If a person made a mistake, so what, shit happens, but if a person realized the mistake while I was tucking into what I thought was a faux-burger, then, frankly I'd be a bit pissed off.

Since he didn't tell her then what should he do now? I don't know. To tell her would telegraph not just a mistake, but that Omni realized the mistake and kept quiet. If veg was a good friend, then perhaps telling her, and then telling her *why* he didn't stop her as soon as he realized the mistake ("I I froze, I am crap under pressure and well just froze!") might be the way to go.
posted by xetere at 9:49 AM on July 13, 2010


Oh and re the "But What If She Had An Allergy?!!!" response.

A friend of mine is allergic to mushrooms. I did not know this until recently. I make my own vegetable stock, to which I usually add miscellaneous vegetable scraps and leftover stuff from the crisper. Since I eat mushrooms, sometimes mushrooms find their way into my stock. This friend has eaten food I cooked on many occasions, including food that may very well have contained mushroom-contaminated stock.

Nowadays, if I know she's coming round for dinner I use the boxed stuff or make a special batch. And if she happens by, I'll warn her away from mushroom-containing stuff. But there are definitely times in the past that I didn't know and accidentally exposed her to something she was allergic to. I occasionally wonder if she ever got sick from my cooking, which makes me feel really bad because she's one of my favorite people. But I have no plans to announce, "Hey, remember 3 or 4 years ago when you came over for dinner and I made risotto? There was probably mushroom in it somewhere. Did it make you sick?" I mean, what is that going to accomplish?
posted by Sara C. at 9:49 AM on July 13, 2010


It would be awkward to tell the veggie now, but it would be even more awkward if she found out other people were told after the fact, but not her.

I would advise Omni to tell the veggie, if just for his own peace of mind. (I would however skip the bit about having found out during the meal.)
posted by HFSH at 9:53 AM on July 13, 2010


I say the following with no disrespect intended for vegetarianism and, although not a vegetarian, I feel it's a laudable and ethical choice. But meat products are so pervasive in the American diet that the vegetarian needs to assume there's a significant chance that any food may contain meat products unless served in vegetarian only restaurants and households, or food that the vegetarian has vetted and prepared themselves. Outside of those situations the vegetarian either accepts that they'll inadvertently consume meat at some point or are willfully ignorant of that possibility.

I admire both Omni's effort to prepare a vegetarian dish and his guilt upon realizing that he erred. So I say don't tell the friend; she either realizes she consumes meat products on occasion or chooses not to know.
posted by 6550 at 9:58 AM on July 13, 2010


I'm a vegetarian and this happened to me at a restaurant. I ordered something that said "vegetarian _____" but the beans turned out to be cooked in lard, and I got terribly sick for the rest of the night. My boyfriend (not a vegetarian) ate the same thing and didn't get sick.

If she got sick, definitely tell her. Have Omni tell her either way, especially if anyone, especially he or she, is still talking about the dinner. If she is pretty cool and understanding about other people eating meat (seems to be), and also understanding about people's misinformation regarding vegetarian meals (something we put up with constantly), she'll probably want to know, for future reference and just in general. I second what the other people say about explaining why he didn't tell her right away. (didn't want to make a scene, embarrass her, he froze, et cetera).
posted by tillie at 10:00 AM on July 13, 2010


no harm, no fowl. ;) given the fact the vegetarian in question doesn't strongly object to things like veggie burgers being cooked on a grill where meat burgers are cooked, it's best to just let it pass and take it as 'lesson learned' to be diligent about future food preparation.
posted by kuppajava at 10:07 AM on July 13, 2010


Omni thanks you all for your help (and will continue to read anything else you post). He wants to reiterate that it's just me (Eyebrows) and Omni's spouse who are aware of the situation (and Omni's spouse isn't part of the group activity; Spouse just came at the end to say hi and have some dessert) -- well, the two of us and all of metafilter, I suppose. :) But it's not "everyone in the group knows."

Omni's current feeling is that he will NOT tell her, since it won't help anything after the fact, and that he WILL make a donation to HSUS or similar. (There's a particular type of bird that Veggie rescues from bad owners, he says he may see if there's a related charity.) He has already written "VEGETARIAN VEGETABLE STOCK" really huge in his recipe and says he will definitely, definitely vet all ingredients very carefully in the future. He feels better knowing he isn't the only one who's made this mistake and that many vegetarians are aware things like this happen from time to time and don't feel the need to defriend people over it. He also likes the idea of having Veggie teach him more about vegetarian cooking, though he doesn't want to impose on her.

I've learned a lot from this thread as well. I was interested to read how vegetarians negotiate a society where meat is so common when eating out or at someone's house. (From my upbringing, I was familiar with how Jews who keep kosher navigate these issues, and through family I am familiar with how those with Celiac disease do so, but though I have several vegetarian friends, I hadn't really considered it in relation to them.) At my house we eat vegetarian probably 4 nights a week, but I do have my recipes divided by "true vegetarian" and "meat incidental" which are recipes I sort of mentally class as "vegetarian" but do in fact involve at least a small amount of meat product. While my initial instinct was to NOT tell Veggie because it isn't fixable, I have to say I'm much more torn now. I'm glad it's Omni's dilemma and not mine. :) (I may honestly use this in my ethics class next year because it's an interesting example of an everyday sort of dilemma!)

I'll have Omni let me know his "best answers" after work and I'll mark those up. We'll both keep reading new responses, and he really appreciates people taking the time to answer because he was so freaked out. I appreciate it too!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:14 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's a whoopsie! Omni should be commended for caring so much. As a vegetarian I kind of go with a "don't ask/don't tell" policy in situations like this. I'm sure I've eaten non-vegetarian stuff by accident. I'm okay with that. Life is what it is.

Lesson learned. Chicken is not a vegetable. ;-)
posted by ErikaB at 10:20 AM on July 13, 2010


6550: But meat products are so pervasive in the American diet that the vegetarian needs to assume there's a significant chance that any food may contain meat products unless served in vegetarian only restaurants and households, or food that the vegetarian has vetted and prepared themselves.

How much more vetting does a vegetarian have to do than to have a friend offer to cook them a vegetarian meal from scratch in their own home?

Omni and several of his/her guests know and are talking about the fact that veggie-guest was fed chicken stock. It was an honest mistake, but the whispering and angsting behind veggie-guest's back aren't. Omni should stop talking and worrying about veggie-guest, and instead talk to veggie-guest.

Eyebrows McGee: Omni's current feeling is that he will NOT tell her, since it won't help anything after the fact, and that he WILL make a donation to HSUS or similar.

That is a copout. If it bothers Omni enough to make a donation to HSUS, then he/she should man/woman up and talk to the veggie-guest. It's not up to Omni to decide on veggie-guest's behalf whether or not something will be helped by knowing after the fact. Veggie-guest has a right to decide that for herself.
posted by headnsouth at 10:25 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


18 year ethical vegetarian. I check everything, don't order things I know might contain non-veg stock, etcetc. Don't bother telling Veggie. As others said above, it could only upset him/her. I wouldn't want to know, either.

And I agree that Omni is beating himself up over this for nothing. It's a biggish deal that he tried in the first place. And now he knows.
posted by nevercalm at 10:29 AM on July 13, 2010


How much more vetting does a vegetarian have to do than to have a friend offer to cook them a vegetarian meal from scratch in their own home?

I think the vegetarian needs to assume that, at least in the US today, food prepared in non-vegetarian households and restaurants can't be guaranteed vegetarian. Meat products are just so incredibly pervasive that it's nearly unavoidable. Would a non-vegetarian know to check cheese for rennet, for example, or beer and wine for isinglass? Hell, plenty of vegetarians probably miss those things. Jews that keep strictly kosher realize that non-kosher households can't truly prepare kosher meals, and they eat (or don't) accordingly. Vegetarians need to do the same and realize, despite good faith efforts, at some point meat products will end up in the food prepared by non-vegetarians (and probably even by many vegetarians).

That's unfortunate but that's the situation as exists today.
posted by 6550 at 10:33 AM on July 13, 2010


"Omni and several of his/her guests"

Just to reiterate AGAIN -- Omni and *I* know, and Omni's spouse who is not part of the group. That's it! (And all of metafilter, now.) The other 10 members of the group, including Veggie's close friends, do not know. And I only know because I was helping with the cleanup afterwards when Omni couldn't keep his freaking out to himself anymore!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:38 AM on July 13, 2010


HSUS considerations . A better choice for donation might be a local group that you can see is actually doing good work.
posted by galadriel at 10:38 AM on July 13, 2010


Hell, plenty of vegetarians probably miss those things.

Most vegetarians I know eat rennet cheeses and drink any beer or wine you serve them. It's vegans who are more worried about that sort of thing.
posted by Sara C. at 10:41 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would want to know, and would think more highly of someone who apologised to me after the fact. It's a withholding of information that directly affects me that would bother me, rather than the actual information itself.

The only person whose opinion really matters, though, is Veggie's.
posted by Solomon at 10:50 AM on July 13, 2010


Just to reiterate AGAIN -- Omni and *I* know, and Omni's spouse who is not part of the group. That's it! (And all of metafilter, now.) The other 10 members of the group, including Veggie's close friends, do not know. And I only know because I was helping with the cleanup afterwards when Omni couldn't keep his freaking out to himself anymore!

Fine then, not omni and several guests, but omni and several friends. Whatever, same effect. This is something Omni is discussing with other people but not with the one person whose opinion matters. It was sweet that Omni cooked for veggie and friends. It was an honest mistake. But it's become/becoming a thing, and the only way to make it not a thing is to clear the air. Awkward maybe (although it doesn't really have to be, just a simple "you know, I used chicken broth in that recipe without even thinking about it being a meat-thing and I feel awful but I thought you should know, I'm really sorry"), but really the only option that shows any respect for veggie-guest.
posted by headnsouth at 10:57 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


16-year somewhat ethical "can't be bothered with meat" vegetarian. I'm in the "tell Veggie" camp, just because it's now shared knowledge and the person directly affected by it is out of the loop. (If Omni were posting for himself and hadn't told anyone else, then I'd go with silence and knowing better next time.) The whole HSUS / charity atonement thing seems silly. I also think that if I was in Veggie's position, I'd be suitably forgiving.

Outside of those situations the vegetarian either accepts that they'll inadvertently consume meat at some point or are willfully ignorant of that possibility.

While it's true that this happens inadvertently to most vegetarians, particularly in very meaty cultures with unhelpful labelling laws, there are degrees of confidence: I'm well aware than the vegetable sides at Grammy's Southern Homestyle Kitchen are going to have made acquaintance with a pig or two. I'm also happy to cater for myself if I'm an invited guest and potentially cramping the menu. But I'm going to let my guard down a little with potlucks and meals cooked by friends, and I hardly think that unreasonable.
posted by holgate at 11:05 AM on July 13, 2010


Ethical vegetarian of 20 years here. I seem to be in the minority, but I would definitely want to know, especially if my host realized mid-meal. I would be irritated, but I certainly wouldn't let on to that. And the next time I was invited over, I'd offer to bring a dish, or try to subtly hang out in the kitchen a bit, and maybe ask a veiled, "That looks/tastes delicious! How do you make it?" at some point (that last one I've done before, when a risotto tasted decidedly chicken stock-y).
posted by jocelmeow at 11:06 AM on July 13, 2010


A lot of people have said that telling Veggie won't help anything. However, I think it's possible to make the confession constructive. Omni can tell Veggie about the chicken stock accident, apologize, and then ask if there are any other common pitfalls he may not be aware of - e.g., maybe Veggie does not eat gelatin, or cheese made with animal rennet. If this dinner party was a one-time deal Omni does not need to bother with having this conversation, but if Omni expects to be having Veggie over again I think it would be thoughtful. Omni can also ask what Veggie wants him to do if there is a meat mistake in the future. (It's almost impossible to know what to do without asking, as you can see from the range of responses in this thread!)
posted by mandanza at 11:06 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've been an ethical vegetarian for most of the past twenty years. I wouldn't like to be told at this point, but wouldn't be too upset about it if I was. Just learn from it and move on.
posted by Grinder at 11:18 AM on July 13, 2010


As a long time vegetarian (formerly anyway), really I'd rather not know. However, if the people who know think its a big deal and it ends up being one of those things you hear about much later, it can end up being worse, like any secret. Basically, if you think people are trying to "slip" you meat you'll be pissed off. If it's an honest mistake --- most won't, but to be honest some vegetarians are REALLY touchy about this. Since there's nothing they can do after the fact, it's not going to hurt them to not know [unless someone is like allergic to meat or something -- like a seafood allergy or something, obviously].
posted by wildcrdj at 12:07 PM on July 13, 2010


(The "slip" thing can be an issue for many veggies --- both well-intentioned people thinking you're missing something in your diet and trying to sneak it in, and assholes who want to slip it in then tell you afterwards to make you feel bad. Ran into both.)
posted by wildcrdj at 12:09 PM on July 13, 2010


HSUS considerations . A better choice for donation might be a local group that you can see is actually doing good work.

What information in the post you linked to suggests that the Humane Society of the United States isn't "actually doing good work"? I'm not seeing it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:20 PM on July 13, 2010


My good friend who's a vegetarian says "I would prefer not to know."
posted by zippy at 12:23 PM on July 13, 2010


I'm vegan and I'd like to know, not because I'd be offended, but because it means you're 1) giving it actual thought and effort, and 2) you care enough about me to worry! That makes more of a difference to me than your accidentally slipping in a meaty product that wasn't even that large a component.

I know how hard it can be for people who aren't used to cooking with restrictions to make something that works for everyone present, so I really, really appreciate it when people try.
posted by lhall at 1:56 PM on July 13, 2010


As an almost lifelong vegetarian I'd like to reiterate what Jaltoch said. For reals.

Omni can tell Veggie about the chicken stock accident, apologize, and then ask if there are any other common pitfalls he may not be aware of - e.g., maybe Veggie does not eat gelatin, or cheese made with animal rennet

This sort of thing is not necessary.
posted by grapesaresour at 1:58 PM on July 13, 2010


I wouldn't tell after the fact unless Veggie got sick. At which point well, she'll probably have figured it out for herself anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:27 PM on July 13, 2010


Ethical vegetarian of 15+ years with attitudes that appear to match your description of Veggie's here. I wouldn't want to know (there's no fixing it, now is there?), but if you really must tell her it sounds like she's probably wouldn't flip out...but really, why bother fussing over it?

See also: What Jaltoch said.
posted by charmedimsure at 3:57 PM on July 13, 2010


I would tell. As a Veggie I would want to know; its important to me to know what I've eaten, even if I can't change or control it. As Omni I think it would relieve some guilt; honesty is almost always the best policy, especially as things like this often tend to be found out. I would also like to disagree with those who've said vegetarians should expect meat, etc.
posted by narcissus_and_ambrosia at 4:18 PM on July 13, 2010


Just another ethical vegetarian data point: I'd vote for whatever makes Omni more comfortable as I wouldn't be mad at him either way. The only things that would irk me are a sudden "stop the presses!" revelation at the table while I'm mid-chew, or the deliberate, jerkish spiking of my food.

I make my best effort to keep meat out of my diet without laying any burdens on friends or family. Whenever it's feasible, I bring vegetarian dishes to share so that people don't feel stressed about what they're going to feed me. It would be childish for me to be angry with someone for making an honest mistake while kindly trying to cater to my needs.

Jaltcoh's "meat-eaters worry way too much about vegetarians" is spot on.
posted by contrariwise at 5:13 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've marked the answers Omni says he found the most useful in thinking it through. he also adds he would like to mark kmennie's "grossest answer" and is off salad bars for the month.

He also adds that if anyone got the slightest bit sick he'd confess without hesitation, and that "slippers" are horrible, horrible people. (I've heard of that too and I just can't even imagine what goes through people's minds! I know some people with some stupid and ridiculous self-imposed food restrictions -- a friend who would only eat white foods AT THE AGE OF THIRTY comes to mind because basically his parents let him get away with it since he was two so he never learned to eat anything else (and the most hilarious bit was, HE WAS A FOODIE. who only ate white food.) -- but I still wouldn't try to "slip" them something. And vegetarianism is hardly novel or ridiculous.)

Thanks again!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:19 AM on July 14, 2010


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