As a vegetarian, I fare very well at home. When I travel, however, I say farewell to proper fare.
For example, we were in Spain and, as usual, I was reduced to living mostly on salads. I longed for a bowl of hot soup. We braved yet another restaurant and I asked for sopa calda, explaining that there must be no meat in it. I knew from experience that if I did not mention each variety of meat by name, the one I left out would be what I got. So I specified no chicken, no beef, no pork, no ham, and no fish, being careful to mention every kind of seafood on the menu.
In a few minutes my steaming bowl of soup arrived. It looked great, but around the lip of the plate was a telltale ring of fat, obviously chicken fat.
The waiter saw the look on my face and immediately called the chef. He hurried to my table looking nonplussed. I pointed to the ring of fat and said sadly, "No pollo, por favor."
The chef burst into an animated denial. "No no, no, no, no, pollo!"
The fat was so obvious, so I asked, "No pollo, por favor?"
Again the chef burst into a vigorous denial, "No, no, no, no pollo!"
We went through this routine a few times more before he threw up his hands and exclaimed, "Seguro, no pollo!" Then he shook his head and added sheepishly, "Gallina ... posible. Pero no, no, no, no pollo!"
Clearly, I had failed to specify no hen as well as no chicken.
Once, while on a private tour in Europe, everyone in our group eventually became concerned over my failure to get at least one decent vegetarian meal. We were on an afternoon walk when we passed a market with a display of large, freshly picked artichokes. I all but drooled over them. Our guide suggested I buy some and she would ask the chef at the hotel to cook them for my dinner that night. So I bought six beauties. I was ready for a feast.
As soon as we got back to our hotel, the guide approached the chef and asked him to prepare the artichokes for me, explaining that I was a vegetarian.
"But of course!" was his quick reply. "No problem. How would you like them cooked?"
"Any way you want," I said, "but just plain boiled would be fine."
We were an enthusiastic group when we entered the dining hall that evening. Everyone could hardly wait for the waiters to finish loading the table with food, knowing that my artichokes were on the way.
With a special fanfare, the chef himself arrived, holding aloft a lovely silver tray. On the tray was an ornate covered silver dish that he placed before me. He bowed as he lifted the cover. There were my beautiful artichokes - reduced to six of the barest, daintiest, bite-sized, cold artichoke hearts imaginable.
So much for faring well as a vegetarian.