Friday, February 4, 2011

Dining Out: Asking the Right Way

We've all been there... we go to a new restaurant and realize that the menu is somewhat lacking in details.  You find you have to ask if it has bacon in the salad, was the refried beans cooked with lard, etc.  However, you may discover that you had been lied to at some point by a waiter who, making an assumption on whether or not you wanted bacon or lard in your food, would answer your question in a way he believes would make you happy regardless of the truth.

For example, you ask if the refried beans are cooked in lard and you make it quite clear in the way you ask that you definitely do not WANT lard in the beans.  The waiter, not really wanting to go ask the cook or not even knowing what lard was (yes, I've met a few who didn't), would assure you the beans were not.  Now, this isn't your fault and you performed due diligence to make certain so it would hardly be your fault if you consumed lard (of course, you might pay the penalty later when your body, no longer used to pork, rejects its reintroduction to your digestive system).

However, what if there was a way of ensuring that the answer, whether the truth or not, would always lead to you not consuming unclean animals and their by-products.

I once went to a Tippins restaurant and on the menu was listed "Italian Meat Pie".  Now, I know most of the time, an Italian dish will be made with sausage.  Knowing the above about how the waitstaff will do its best to make you happy, I chose a different approach.  Instead of asking the question such that it appeared to the waitress I did not want pork, I did the opposite.  I asked "Is the Italian Meat pie made with pork or Italian sausage?" with a look of hope.

Now, asking in this manner, I was going to get one of three possible answers.  The first would be "Yes" if the waitress knew it was made with pork.  The second would also be "Yes", but be a lie as the waitress would want me to be happy (whether or not the pie had pork in it).  The third, which is exactly what I heard, was "I'm sorry, sir, but it only contains beef."  I knew this last answer to be the truth in that she did not want to disappoint, but clearly knew what the pie contained.

Had I heard either of the first two answers (which are the same, but for different reasons), I would have ordered something else.  In all cases, my conscience was clear and there was little possibility that I would be consuming pork (of course, much later I realized I had no idea if the pie shell was made with lard or not, which it almost always is).

Sure, I may actually enjoy fewer food items because of the false "yes", but I knew I was enjoying MORE items that were not contaminated.

Some may believe this is a bit of lying on my part, but some people don't seem to respect religious beliefs when brought up.  I have a co-worker who believes it to be the most hilarious thing when he got a girlfriend of his who was Jewish to consume a pork chop without her knowledge.  These people exist and I would rather save myself the stomach ache later.

Of course, suggesting to the waitstaff that you are allergic to pork is also lying (unless it is absolutely true and tested by a doctor).

And as I pointed out above, some people don't know what pork encompasses.  At work, the H.R. department ordered in breakfast for everyone in the building.  Naturally, they ordered breakfast burritos and it was a choice of ham, bacon or sausage (they were pre-made so I couldn't have any).  When one of the representatives came around and told me about breakfast, I told her I can't because I don't eat pork for religious reasons.  She responded, "but one of the options is ham".  I was flabbergasted at having to explain that ham was also pork.  Wow.

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