I get flak from friends at mealtime because my preferred diet appears to be so restrictive. In reality, there are only a few types of foods I don’t eat, but because those foods comprise about 85% of the regular American diet, it’s common that I can’t find anything on a restaurant menu that I’m willing to order.
Recently I went out for pizza with a group of omnivorous friends. My entrée included a side salad, which I requested be made without onions, not so much because it’s one of the foods I’ve grown to find revolting, but because onions don’t agree with me.
Ordering the entrée was slightly more complex. This was my first restaurant pizza since my recent decision to stop eating cheese on pizza — the last application of dairy I made regular exceptions for. So I tried to brace the waitress. “I’d like to order a pizza, but it’s going to be strange,” I said, “because I don’t want any cheese.” She took it well. Often, especially outside California, I get an incredulous look, like opting out of cheese is like opting out of oxygen.
We worked through the restaurant’s peculiar ordering approach, which apparently allows for customized pies but requires nonetheless that the order begin with something on the menu. In other words, I couldn’t order “tomato sauce, tomatoes, basil”; I had to order “The #2 except without parmesan, mozzarella, or cheddar, with basil and sliced tomatoes.” I was tempted to find the most elaborate, top-heavy pizza on the menu and then individually subtract every topping in reverse order, leaving a bare crust upon which to construct my vegan masterpiece, e.g. “I’d like the saffron-chive-prawn and bacon pesto / roasted potato rosemary havardi egg combo pizza, except without the rosemary, egg, roasted potatoes on the one half or the saffron-chive-prawns or bacon or pesto on the other half, with a little marinara sauce and sliced tomato and basil, thank you” and then watch with a bemused grin while the waitress dutifully copied down paragraphs of pointless exceptions, just to prove the idiocy of the exercise.
Finally she moved on to the next person’s order. It came in one word: “supreme.” I had to laugh. The next order took only two words: “me, too.”
I laughed again later when my instruction-manual pizza was delivered exactly as requested, whereas the one- and two-word supremes, like my side salad, all had no onion. So much for ordering simply.
The odd thing is, I can’t order so easily in California either, not because I need to cross-examine the chef about hidden meat products, but because the granola restaurants I frequent offer lots of choices, specifically to accomodate neo-non-ovo/lacto-pescatarians, Soy Zonians, McDougall/Atkins/Hollywood dieticians, and even those most curious of all, the people who eat chicken on waffles.