Meatless in Miami: A Case of Chickenitis B
Once in a while being a vegetarian can be a royal letdown. You espy a lovely bean burrito on a menu, but upon inquiry it turns out that the beans are cooked con puerco and the rice was simmered in chicken stock. Or how about this sumptuous-looking roasted tomato soup? Ahh, the base is beef stock. Thank you, but no thank you.
Many omnivores still need it explained to them that even if a food isn't made of meat, if it was cooked with meat it is absolutely no longer suitable for vegetarians. My brother, the comedian, accused such foods of being tainted with Chickenitis B, as in "You don't wanna eat those mashed potatoes Laur, they were served right under my dripping chicken filet and have Chickenitis B."
Par example: At a recent business dinner, the gracious host ordered an appetizer that featured exquisite-looking asparagus spears but was topped with a mixture that included (wince) foie gras. He insisted I brush it aside and try the veggies below but trust me dude, that was just not going to happen. Clearly I wouldn't die if goose liver molecules got in my mouth, but once you stop seeing "meat" as "food" the possibility becomes wholly unappetizing. I politely declined and no harm was done.
The main thing one should take away from this post is this: When in doubt, ask. If you blindly trust that you'll be served a vegetarian or vegan dish simply because it seems veggie, you're going to be ingesting a lot of animal by-products. I'd say at least half the time I've had a waiter check with the kitchen, it turns out that Chickenitis indeed abounds. The scary part is that most of those times, the waiter was "almost certain" it was "safe."
Most Miami restaurants seem to be just registering the whole vegetarian thing (and making good progress!) but the realm of veganism is still a bit foreign. So until the day comes when you can sit down at a steakhouse and can order the vegan field roast with soy-butter mashed potatoes, the only way to vaccinate yourself against Chickenitis is by being very, very, very nice to your server.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Miami dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.