Finding meatless meals easier than you think
If you think giving up meat to become either vegan or vegetarian will destroy your chances of eating out and you’ll have to say goodbye to eating out forever—think again. This monthly column will explore the vegetarian and vegan opportunities in Eagle River and Anchorage area restaurants. It will also look at other healthy options available in area restaurants like whole grains and low fat.
Keep in mind restaurants, at least most, want your business and will do whatever they can to accommodate your lifestyle choices. That’s not to say that you’ll be successful at every one. Usually salads and stir fries are made for the customer rather than pre-prepared, so these items can usually be altered to suit the customer. Other items, like eggrolls and sushi are usually pre-prepared and usually not subject to negotiation.
Some time ago, when I visited Pho and Thai Cuisine, behind Northrim Bank in Eagle River, I was pleased to find brown rice on the menu. I knew then that I was off to a good start. As I scanned the menu I found several items that were vegetarian. As a appetizer I could choose: a Vietnamese sandwich, Tu Fu Tod (fried bean curd with ground peanuts and sweet and sour sauce). For a salad, I could have Sum Tum, (Papaya Salad). This was discovered without even asking. Any of the stir fried dishe, I could order without the meat or eggs. After talking to the waitress, I came to the conclusion that there are several delicious options at this restaurant even though there is no vegetarian section on the menu.
When discussing vegan or vegetarian options with the hostess be sure to be very specific about what you want: simply saying, “No meat,” doesn’t do it. (Many people don’t consider seafood, fish, or even chicken as meat.) Say something like, “I don’t eat anything that had a mother,” or if you’re vegan, “I don’t eat anything that comes from an animal, even eggs or milk products.” If your meal comes with meat despite having explained carefully what you wanted, let the waitress know, politely, that this is not what you ordered.
Even if you don’t see possibilities on the menu, ask anyway. At one restaurant while traveling in Pennsylvania, the hostess replied, “Oh of course! I’m vegetarian and my dad is the cook!”
A vegetarian since 1964, Ruth deGraaff lives in Eagle River. A retired teacher, she taught in Pennsylvania, Alaska and in international schools in various countries. Her grown two children, raised on a vegetarian diet, still follow the diet themselves. She does volunteer work for Adventist Community Services (ACS) and is a member of the Eagle River Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church, which promotes vegetarianism as part of its health program. Look for her column on vegetarian eating options once a month in the Star.