Search for Vegan Fast Food
by Mary Finch
We were out for a drive and my children, Rebecca who is seven and Jarod who is six, looked with longing at the colorful play center that seemed to beckon out to them from the McDonalds we were passing. “Can we go there? Please mommy!” I gave my standard reply that I didn’t think they carried any foods that we could eat. “Can’t we just try?” Figuring it would be a learning adventure I agreed and pulled into the parking lot.
As we waited in line I scanned the menu overhead which did not look promising at all. I knew that their fries contain beef flavoring so that was not an option, our only hope was their garden salad. But upon asking I was informed that the salads contain egg and the only dressing they had available that day was the buttermilk ranch. I asked if I could get a sandwich with just vegetables on it; lettuce, tomatoes, onion and pickles and I was told that while they could do that, they would still have to charge me the full price as a normal burger. I politely thanked the person at the counter but told them we would not be ordering that day and suggested that they look into having more options for vegans. The children were very disappointed, but cheered up when I suggested that we try the Burger King across the road, which also had a play center. Even if we couldn’t get a sandwich I knew that their fries were free of meat seasonings.
As we were driving away I noticed that Rebecca looked smug and was giggling. “What did you do?” I asked. She feigned innocence but finally admitted that she had stuck a sticker on the back of the cash register that showed a picture of a cute barnyard chicken and read “I am not a nugget!!” She had received a whole sheet of the stickers from PETA in the mail and had been carrying them in her purse. While I admired that she wanted to educate others about her love of animals I did have a talk with her about being respectful of other people’s property. (But inside I was giggling too and wondering what the next person who ordered chicken nuggets would think when he looked down and saw the sticker.)
There was not a wait at Burger King so we walked right up and after being greeted with a large smile and a “How may I help you?” I asked if I could get two kids meals without the meat patty. The cashier asked the manager, who came over and told us that he would be glad to do that for us and we would also receive a discount and also mentioned that they had a vegetable patty if we would like those instead. Remembering an article in 2002 that I had read about the Burger King veggie patty being vegan*, I agreed. The burgers were made with the toppings that the children wanted, and we were able to get juice instead of soda pop with their meal. When our order was rang up the machine wasn’t working right and instead of having to wait while they fixed the problem we were told that our meal would be given to us at no cost. While we waited for our meal to be prepared the manger mentioned that he was considering going vegetarian and asked a few questions. He was very polite and I enjoyed his enthusiasm.
We were given our food and the children gleefully grabbed their bags and ran for the door leading to the play center. The next half hour consisted of them running back and forth from the play center to the table for a bite of food. “Let’s come here everyday!” they shouted. Rebecca liked the fries best though she did mention that they made her want to drink a lot of water and Jarod was impressed with the pickles on the burger. The kid’s meal consisted of a burger, fries, juice and a toy all stored in a cute paper bag.
I was very impressed with the staff and their respect of our diet. They were very helpful and not bothered that we had to special order almost every part of our meal. I don’t normally take my children to fast food restaurants, preferring to provide them with healthy meals I can make at home. When we do eat out I prefer Taco Bell or Subway because they have been offering tasty vegan foods for years and are more nutritious. However, it is important for my children to know what foods are available for them at all restaurants in the event that they ever eat out without me, plus Taco Bell and Subway don’t offer those tempting play centers that the children love.
(*Note from the writer: I later discovered that when Burger King introduced its BK Veggie Burger in 2002, the patty was vegan. Since that time, the fast food company has reformulated the patty and now contains both egg whites and calcium caseinate.)