The setting: a 50th birthday party for my sister-in-law, hosted by my father-in-law, held in a private room of a busy suburban restauarant (billed as a "bistro") on a Saturday night. About 40 guests, printed set menu sitting at each place setting, 2 appetizers, 5 or 6 entrees. During the cocktail hour as we are mingling about the crudite table and talking with my sister-in-law's guests, my daugher (vegetarian, not vegan, but *not* pescatarian) notes to me that none of the entrees are vegetarain. Both my father-in-law and sister-in-law know she's vegetarian, but I don't expect that to always be at the forefront of their thoughts, so I thought, no big deal, at ordering time we'll just ask for something simple to be put together for an entree. At ordering time (and this gets awkward as we are at long tables *very* close together, and our little nuclear family is as far away from open space and the waitress, who stands at the far end, as we can be, so no quiet conferences) my daughter asks "do you have anything vegetarian I could have?" The waitress looks down at the set menu (as my daughter is almost 17, I think she can be assumed to be able to read the menu herself) and says "you don't eat fish?" My daughter politely shakes her head no. "I'm sure we can put something nice together for you". Just what I would have expected, so all is good.
An hour or so later, after our appetizers (which were salad or soup), the entrees start arriving. Everyone but my daughter gets their salmon, or steak, or veal..... The waitress notes her empty spot and says brightly "yours will be right out". Ok, sure, something special, a little extra time, whatever. We made a little joke at our table that maybe they had to order in a pizza from the shop across the street.
Finally with great flourish a bowl is presented to my daughter. Of buttered spaghetti. Seriously, buttered spaghetti. No sauce, no garnish of slivered vegetables, nothing. My FIL and SIL were a different tables, but I'm sure they would have been apalled, but we just stared along with the "new friends" we'd made in our immediate vicinity. But as guests at the party (who were also as I mentioned, wedged in such that going up to do anything would have been a production disturbing at least 10 people) we said nothing. My daughter finished half her bowl and got tired of plain noodles. She even remarked that just some tomato or pesto sauce from a jar would have been ok.
Is this in any way acceptable? Vegetarians aren't that unususal; I almost felt like my daughter was getting the "picky child" treatment of plain noodles (even though she's 16 and vegetarianism can be distinguished from "pickiness"). No we didn't bother my FIL and SIL with this beforehand (we knew they knew, and besides, my daughter's not picky), I did check the menu online but we knew it was going to be a set menu, so who know's what will be on it--they had some appetizers that looked like they could be built into a veggie entree). It just seems in a group of 40 people (or for that matter for a busy suburban restaurant) not having the wherewithal to deal with something as relatively common as vegetarianism with *something* better than a bowl of noodles is somewhat astonishing. Hey they could have taken the crudites from the appetizer table and stirfried them for the top of the pasta...