Excerpted from the WSJ:
As I grew older and my tastes changed, I increasingly favored meat-free cuisine. When I moved to Berlin, where dining out is affordable, even on an intern’s wage, I was shocked. Haben Sie auch etwas vegetarisches? I would ask the waitress, after scouring the menu for several minutes. “Do you have anything vegetarian?”
Natürlich, she would say, much to my relief, and then give me the choice of a duck salad, a salmon filet and a meal of king prawns—accompanied, of course, by copious amounts of potato.
The label “meat,” it turns out, is reserved for beef, pork, venison and veal.
Returning to Switzerland for visits with my family, I often faced a similar scenario. Once during a ski holiday, I ordered the “vegetarian option,” a traditional barley soup called Gerstensuppe, only to find myself with a mouthful of thin bacon strips.
It turns out in Switzerland, too, if meat isn’t the centerpiece of a meal, it’s deemed fit for herbivores.
I should have known that being vegetarian in London—a city where you can get a decaf soy latte, almond-milk shake or wheatgrass smoothie on practically every corner—is almost as normal as being blonde, brunette or not liking Marmite. “Vegetarian? Great, we have halloumi salads, quorn Bolognese, tofu burgers, braised tempeh and nut roasts.”
I once ordered a quinoa salad in an eatery in London’s Soho, and the waitress asked me if I was fine eating the honey dressing. “I just wanted to check that you weren’t a strict vegan,” she said, full of concern (and, ironically, with a German accent).
The lesson I would pass on to fellow vegetarian, or partially vegetarian, globetrotters is, Do your research, and keep an open mind.
Make sure you ask, and be firm, if you have strict dietary requirements, intolerances or allergies. Seek a translator if language barriers are an issue. No one should force you to eat what you don’t want But who knows—on your quest for meat-free options you might discover culinary gems you didn’t know existed.