Diet? What is a “diet”?
It is simple to define. It is what you or any individual eats. But while defining the word is simple and straightforward, defining what constitutes a particular diet is far more complex, requiring reasons, labels and rules.
Diets can be defined by many combinations of factors. These factors may be belief-based, guided by religious, moral, ethical, philosophical reasons or they may be health-based to facilitate healing, avoid food allergies and sensitivities or to support good health.
Diets may also be guided simply by personal choice and adhere to strict rules or be loosely followed as general trends.
Most people follow some sort of defined diet and those that follow strict diets are limited by where they can dine, whether that is at a restaurant, private home or public function. This is certainly true of those who follow an entirely plant-based or vegan diet.
For vegans it is a lifestyle choice and whether the choice for belief or health, it is as important for many vegans to adhere to their chosen diet as it is for anyone who follows other belief-based or health-based practices.
For most vegan diners and for that matter anyone following a strict diet, their chosen diet is uncompromising. Diners who follow diets defined by health or religious, moral, ethical or philosophical reasons need to be assured that the food served to them meets their diet’s defined rules and guidelines. This is not a nicety but rather a must.
A competent chef, cook or food service manager must be diligent about monitoring food ingredients. Servers and wait staff needs to briefed, if not trained, to understand the critical importance of the diet needs of dining patrons. Servers must have the knowledge or reference source to identify on demand the ingredients of any item on the menu and kitchen staff needs to follow food preparation and presentation rules that treat special dietary needs with the same diligence that they are required to follow for health reasons. Cross contamination does not only pertain to the potential transfer of pathogens from one food item to another but also the transfer of contaminants that may violate the religious, moral or ethical reasons that define the dietary needs of every customer.
This is not to say that the businesses or individuals who prepare our food have any obligation to accommodate any special dietary needs. However, food preparers should have an obligation of honesty in their craft. It is of utmost importance to bring integrity to the culinary crafts, whether it is for reasons of sanitation, adherence to preparation methods or honest disclosure of ingredients. Integrity in the craft can make or break a restaurant or commercial eatery.
Don’t claim to accommodate special diets or even casual request if cannot take the responsibility to deliver the plate with complete honesty.
Such diligence does not only serve the needs of dining patrons but is also good for business. Diners who follow strict diets simply will not patronize an eatery which does not offer the assurance that they can meet the dietary needs of their customers and this leads to the realization that groups of diners whose party consists of one or more with special dietary needs will be very selective about where the entire group chooses to dine. Restaurant managers need to realize that such groups will repeatedly patronize the same eateries for which they have the assurance that the entire group’s dietary needs are respected and met.
While it is easy to understand the business sense of respecting the diet from the restaurateur’s perspective, each and every one of us who prepares or serves food should respect the special diet needs of every one of our fellow earthlings.