I’ve been aware of this story for a few days, now, and I’ve been considering the pros and cons of commenting on it. Obviously, since I’m writing this, I’ve decided to post on it. The question remains: Which side to take in the ensuing dispute over the politics and etiquette of serving non-meat eaters…
Just the facts, ma’am…
This all started when Laura Goodman (Photo: Our Front Page Teaser, in happier times), Chef and co-owner of UK restaurant Carlini, boasted on Twitter of ‘spiking a vegan’. That simply means sneaking Animal food products into the Vegan customer’s order – presumably for the satisfaction of making an uppity, ‘snotty’, difficult Vegan customer betray themself.
The result was a major Twit-storm from both outraged Vegans and resto supporters. No surprise, there. But I was really ticked off that the mainly-sane, opinion-based online exchange became a platform for spreading bad science and false facts. One freaked-out Tweeter posted the following:
The only way serving a Vegan meat products could harm the person was if the food was not wholesome or prepared under conditions not consistent with the rules and practices for safe food handling. Tweeter Wren’s comment might have sent shock waves through the ranks of dedicated Vegans and their supporters if most people didn’t already know her ‘facts’ were completely wrong.
That’s not the worst of it, by far. Goodman reports in the Telegraph, that she’s even received death threats. Come on, pious, judgemental Vegans/Vegetarians! You’re totally out of line with death threats, in this scenario. In ANY scenario. Get a grip! It’s just a restaurant! You can kill it and force the Chef to live a life of everlasting shame just by not going there! And recommending that others you know do the same.
Here’s the bottom line: The resto has apologized and is closed for the week. The Chef has been told to resign, and there are hints of a top-level make-over, both in the administration and the kitchen, at Carlini’s.
Eating meat is NOT dangerous to your health!
Choosing to be a Vegan or Vegetarian is just that. A choice. ‘Not eating animal protein’ is not a natural choice for humans. We’ve all evolved over thousands of generations to be omnivores – creatures who can and do eat a wide range of animal and vegetable foods. This dichotomy between Vegan/Vegetarians and Meat Eaters is political and – for restaurant operators and their Chefs – one of etiquette.
Politically, one who fails to respect the dietary choices of Vegans/Vegetarians is automatically in for a barrage of criticism and condemnation, just like Chef Goodman received when she disclosed publicly that she’d ‘spiked the Vegan’. I’m old and cynical – who can escape a the darkness around them which only becomes more apparent with advancing age? I wonder if Chef Goodman decided to tweet her ‘spiking’ as a means of stirring up poop in her market niche and generating some free publicity. Certainly she doesn’t care what Vegan/Vegetarians think of her, her resto, or her food. I’ll bet her Veg clientele were few and far between to start with.
The happy medium…
There is a happy medium today, in the restaurant business. Vegans and Vegetarians are almost universally welcomed to eateries large and small. Even the Fast Food types have deigned to offer Vegetarian selections on their menus. But most Chefs, especially in ‘finer dining’ environments and with higher brand profiles to protect, make every reasonable effort to accommodate Vegetarian customers. Some even ask that Vegetarian and Vegan diners announce their impending presence in advance so they can be treated with the kind of respect, and receive the quality of service other diners expect from the establishment.
If, as I suspect, Chef Goodman just got fed up with the attitude and demands of one especially ‘difficult’ customer – adding up to what Goodman must have taken as an intolerable insult. We all have our limits, and Chefs must realize that they, personally, may not be up to the task of dealing with what the resto throws at them, all day, every day. Big-name Chefs with big egos may wait too long to ‘recuse’ themselves from the kitchen when the pressure becomes too onerous.
Or, maybe, Goodman went into her ‘spiking’ scenario with her eyes wide open looking to stir it up while ‘getting her own back’ on a detested customer.
We may never know.
What bothers me is, this genius chef who filled the resto every night with her menus and recipes is now out of a job. And, if she opens her own place (because no one else will hire her, now) she’ll still be burdened with the scandal and a permanent stain on her reputation.
She could cast about for a new partner who is willing to dive into the deep end and start up a ‘Proudly Meat Only’ resto where she can build a new – albeit off-beat – reputation and cater to the large-and-growing cadré of food lovers who position themselves ‘off the centre line’…
~ Maggie J.