As someone who hasn’t had so much as a bite of meat in 3 1/2 years (aside from that half a slice of pepperoni that wandered onto my otherwise-just-cheese pizza last fall), my worst nightmare is being given real meat instead of the plant-based substitute I ordered.
This nightmare became real last month after I ordered a veggie burger for supper. When I opened up the bun to add some ketchup, I knew right away that there was nothing plant-based about the burger sitting in front of me.
Trying not to panic or burst into tears, I did the only rational thing I could think of in the moment: I asked my roommate to sniff the patty I had anxiously ripped apart moments prior.
She was less than enthused to do so, but she, too, was convinced of the restaurant’s error.
Horrified and famished, I contacted the food delivery app through which I placed my order. They were quick to apologize and asked the restaurant to correct the error on my behalf.
I was grateful for this, because for me probably the only thing scarier than accidentally eating real meat is confrontation.
While waiting for my new, hopefully plant-based meal to arrive, I couldn’t help but wonder what I did to deserve this.
I thought back to when I was about 17 years old and worked at a popular fast food burger joint. It was a mindless job: Press the buttons, take the money, give back the change.
That doesn’t mean customers weren’t afraid to throw me a curve ball every so often.
One time a customer ordered a veggie burger, but I was on autopilot and typed in a regular burger accidentally.
That poor customer experienced the same horror I recently did, except her vegetarian streak had lasted upwards of a decade. Upon hearing that, I felt like a terrible person.
Seeing the look of dread on that customer’s face and the few bites taken out of the burger, I knew someday I would pay for the mishap. I didn’t know how or when, but I knew karma would come for me.
Lo and behold, a solid half-decade later, the day came.
Staring at the remnants of a cow carcass sitting before me while waiting for my mashed-up soybeans to be delivered, I couldn’t help but think about how life comes full circle.
Maybe the cook who wronged me will become a vegetarian later in life and have a similar experience. Maybe that won’t happen. I hope it won’t.
What I do know is what used to be my favorite local restaurant is now tarnished by the memory of almost being poisoned. From now on, I’m cooking from home, where I know there won’t be any meat mistaken for plants.