I'm reading The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason, and it might be my favorite piece of "when in doubt, don't eat the animal product" propaganda to date (besides cookbooks, anyway). But I just got to the chapter on eating out, and I'm a little worried, because of this passage:
In almost any eating situation, you can make more ethical and less ethical choices. If you find yourself in a restaurant that doesn't offer any guidance on how the animals from which its meats came were raised or whether its seafood came from a sustainable fishery, asking the server is always a good idea. Waiters baffled by such questions will soon learn that they need to find the answers. If you can't get a satisfactory answer, you may want to leave.... But even if you are not going to leave and will end up eating the least problematic option on a generally unethical menu, asking questions can be part of a process of producing change. When the server has to go to the kitchen to make enquiries, you know that the message is getting through to someone else. (170-1)
Just for the record, readers, if the server has to go to the kitchen to make enquiries, the message is getting through to the cook, who thinks you are a pain in the ass. And I say that coming from the relatively privileged position of someone who works in a restaurant that respects my opinions about the food we serve; in most restaurants, the cooks and floor staff have way the hell less say about the menu or its ingredients than I do at Morning Glory. I remember when the Glenwood redesigned its menu, the head cook argued vehemently against steak, to no avail. Tim was the guy responsible for all our ordering, I might point out, but when push came to shove Jacqui said no and that was the end of it. Period. So maybe write the management of your favorite restaurant about the joys of ethical eating or whatever else you'd like them to do for you, but don't harass your servers beyond simple questions. They've got more than enough to do. This has been a public service announcement.
That ranted, I am hoping very much that Singer and Mason will conclude that if you really want to eat out ethically, you should either patronize only restaurants that proudly advertise the origin of their ingredients, or forget it and eat only what you cook at home from ingredients whose sources you know and love (and good luck with that; this book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and of course Marion Nestle's fantastic What To Eat are good places to start). I'm keeping my fingers crossed, because the book has been very smart and in touch with reality so far, and I'm more than halfway through. And now I will return to my reading.
Update, 11:18 PM --- Nope, but then again the chapter turned out to be a more general thing about the food industry and three businesses in particular. I thought they went a little too easy on Whole Foods, too, but oh well. Maybe they'll give the "either choose your restaurant with care or stay home" advice in the conclusion of the book.