Sunday, April 19, 2009

alert and alarmed

I was going to call this “The pig and I”, as some misguided tribute to Deborah Kerr but I digress, the topic of today’s post is no laughing matter.

Well, it may be to carnivores. In fact it is guaranteed to put a smile on the average meat-eater, in a schadenfreude kind of way.

So, I am at a café having a little breakfast. It’s been a while since I ate there but it was a ridiculously early hour to be up and walking on a Sunday morning, making the before 9 am eating choices in that neck of the woods limited.

The specials looked good, so I opted for “potato rosti with smoked salmon, poached egg and dill hollandaise”.

Service was prompt and friendly, the coffee just right.

I have a bit of a thing about potato for breakfast and a good rosti is an item of wonder. My mum used to make a great one from parboiled spuds, grated and fried in rounds. In Switzerland I almost rostied myself out, each one more fabulous than the last.

A rosti is not a hash brown, a latke or goddess forbid a “tater tot”. Gourmet’s version is pretty standard. What arrived was largely mashed potato shaped into a sizable disk and fried til brown. In other words, refried mash. Not a rosti. There was some cooked spinach on top that didn’t get a mention on the menu. Fortunately I like spinach.

What I don’t like in my piscaterian breakfast however is bacon. Yes halfway through, when I had a mouthful of “rosti” without the smoked salmon I realised there was another texture in the mix that felt suspiciously meaty. I stopped eating and flagged down a passing waiter and asked. “Oh the rosti has onion and bacon in it”, he nonchalantly answered.

What? Some people are allergic to onion. But we will leave that issue aside for now. Bacon avoidance includes a long list of reasons – religious, health and ethical, as well as life threatening reactions to preservatives.

I felt sick. Ok, this is the bit when the carnivores can have a good chuckle. I know it’s hilarious, isn’t it? However what hit me was two fold. One, when you stop eating meat you loose the enzymes you need to digest it (in most cases you can produce them again with repeated exposure to meat) causing the ingested flesh to trigger some short term gut err, discomfort. But what struck me on a much deeper level was my empathy for the pig. Just read Peter Singer if you need to know more about the way we treat this incredible creature, so genetically similar to humans we harvest their heart valves as spares for our own race.

I didn’t initially stop eating meat over 20 years ago over ethical issues, it was because I no longer desired it. In recent years, this decision has been reinforced by humanitarian reasons along with the carbon footprint.

Ethics, in other words.

So how did the café deal with the problem ethically?

They apologised and offered me a replacement breakfast.
They promised to amend the blackboard specials immediately.
When I decided I didn’t feel like eating and I just wanted to go, my bill came with another apology and was charged for only the coffee.

But the board did not change. Not in the 10 minutes I stayed for anyway.

I am not here to vilify a local business. They did the right thing money-wise, but how many other pig-averse customers ordered pseudo-rosti in the meantime?

Tin Pot Café - 248 St Georges Rd, North Fitzroy.

You decide!

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Blogger Ed said...

Sounds like the cafe really is "tin pot".

5:15 pm  
Blogger Zoe said...

I had pork for dinner and I don't think it's funny. The kind of carnivores that would think it's funny would not be people whose opinion was worth a shit, anyway.

It's a horrible thing to happen to you and a stoopid cafe.

7:58 pm  
Blogger Suse said...

I'm an average meat eater and I didn't smile one little bit. I think it's terrible to a) put meat in a dish that does not generally contain meat and b) not announce it.

Shame on them.

7:59 pm  
Blogger Johanna said...

I feel your pain - I once ordered a lentil burger that came with a slab of bacon on top of it which was not mentioned on the menu - but it is also about attitude when places make a mistake too.

I ate at the tin pot recently and wasn't overly impressed with the veg options - the carnivores with me enjoyed it more - do you think they aren't so bothered with mentioning the bacon because there is fish and so it is not vegetarian?

10:46 pm  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Who puts bacon and smoked salmon together anyway? Isn't that just too much smokiness on one plate?

To not change just laziness and very poor form. As is the notion that something named 'rosti' is in fact a lump of fried mash.

What is it with bacon, anyway? I now a lot of vego's who go weak at the knees for a bit of cured pig. Interesting.

Hope you're feeling better.

8:29 am  
Blogger Maggie said...

Wow, the Tin Pot was not what I was expecting. Last time I was around, a couple of years ago now, they seemed very veg friendly. And staffed entirely but a bunch of dread-locked hippies too. Maybe things have changed, and obviously appearances are deceiving.

11:36 am  
Blogger shula said...

I'm underwhelmed by that cafe at the best of times.

3:02 pm  
Anonymous kitchen hand said...

If they are diligent enough to let you know there is dill in the hollandaise you should certainly be told there is bacon in the refried potato. Logic alone should have them that the dish would appeal to vegetarians and others who might want to avoid pork for several reasons that I can think of.

6:31 pm  
Blogger docwitch said...

That's totally shit. I don't eat pig, and I can understand your horror completely.

It's a case of total thoughtlessness. And basic enough to get right.

7:12 pm  
Blogger mangocheeks said...

I had a similar experience with what I thought was a vegetarian soup and this was at my works canteen. Unfortunately, there is a long way for many food establishments to go. and

5:08 am  
Blogger sampada said...

That's really horrible thing... brainless fellows.

3:21 am  
Blogger Wendy said...

Crappy experience, crappy service too. This carnivore feels for you.

In my vegetarian years I remember having similar experiences in France and Italy and being told that bacon wasn't meat at all. It was bacon. One place, in fact, after I had sent back a pasta dish with bits of bacon in it came back with a replacement vegetarian dish. It was four slices of cheese. Period.

4:29 pm  
Anonymous Old Hobart said...

Whilst sympathising with you, I'm intrigued you think we don't have the requisite enzymes to digest meat if we don't eat it all the time.

6:00 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Old Hobart - spoken like an old school carnivore. The enzymes *are* reduced though with repeated exposure they come back to full strength.

Don't knock it til you've experienced it mate.

1:57 pm  
Anonymous old hobart said...

There's nothing old school about being an omnivore, if you don't mind.
Although I am actually trying to cut out meat somewhat. It's the shameful treatment of the beasties I can't stand any longer.
I'm down to free-range chicken and tuna...NO piggie, moo moo or baa-baas for me, or any other meat.

9:38 pm  

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