Audrey Nickel - The Grapevine (Chapel Hills, NC)
It's noon. You're hungry. Unfortunately, you left your eggplant casserole on the kitchen counter this morning, and you don't have time go home and get it. You dash into the nearest pizza joint and order a slice of the veggie special. . . heck, it's not the healthiest option in the world, but at least it's vegetarian, right?
Well. . . maybe not!
Hidden meat is still a big problem for vegetarians who eat out. Sometimes that meat hides in unexpected places. Earlier, someone caused a furor on a vegetarian (Internet) bulletin board by insisting that Pizza Hut uses beef stock in its pizza sauce. A month before that, someone raised the question of chicken meat in the rice at Taco Bell. While both rumors proved to be unfounded, our calls turned up information on hidden meat in other products from those restaurants.
The regular pizza sauce at Pizza Hut is indeed vegetarian, but the sauce on the stuffed crust pizza contains chicken fat, and the pasta and bread stick sauce is beef-based. Both the plain and the Mexican style rices at Taco Bell are meat-free, but the sour cream contains gelatin, and the guacamole is made with the sour cream. In addition, the sauce used on the new Veggie Fajita Wrap contains both chicken meat and clam extract (a seafood).
Some would say that the best option is not to eat out at all, or at least to avoid fast-food restaurants. But what is a hungry veggie on the run to do? ASK. Never assume that, just because there are no visible chunks of meat in a product, that it is vegetarian (at least not unless you're really desperate!). And don't just take a harried employee's word for it -- ask to see the package, or speak with a manager. If you're dealing with a national chain, you can often call a consumer hotline for a rundown of ingredients (usually these are toll free numbers, which you can obtain by calling 1-800-555-1212).