To the editor:
There are several fad diets currently making headlines; restaurants are learning to boost profits by accommodating these diets. Being vegetarian, however, doesn't always make one feel welcome at local eateries. For financial or cultural reasons, vegetarianism is sometimes misunderstood by Lawrence restaurants -- and the consequences can be tragic.
I am a strict vegetarian by choice. But my mother, who recently visited town, avoids meat for health reasons. She has severe allergies to most types of meat, but especially seafood. (Seafood attacks her involuntary muscles. Her heart can malfunction; her throat can close, leading to asphyxiation.) She was taken to an ethnic-themed restaurant downtown, and ordered the special after receiving assurances that it was "100 percent vegetarian." Upon eating, she discovered that the dish contained oysters. The waitress then asked the chef directly, and he said, well, it's vegetarian, but it also has oysters.
My mother spent three hours in the emergency room. Lucky for her, her reaction was mild, and she could afford the medical attention and prescription medication her condition required. Lucky for the restaurant, she's not suing.
Not all vegetarians are radicals; some are simply following doctors' orders. Any establishment that lies to its customers doesn't deserve to be in business, and restaurants have special responsibilities to tell the truth. It's not for restaurants to dictate which diets are valid or trivial. The owner has called to apologize, but that's not sufficient; his business should inform the public (and waitstaff!) clearly and openly about what is in its food.
J. D. Metz,