Last Saturday, Gabbie Jarvis, a British style blogger, tweeted about her vacation in Málaga. The post, which soon went viral, wasn’t a photo of a beach landscape or a sunset over the mountains, but instead a plate of food. It also wasn’t of the classic Spanish paella that tourists in Spain so often lust after, but simply a tomato-and-onion salad. Nothing more.
The text that accompanied the photo that she sent out to her 10,000 followers on Twitter was: “Out for tea and the restaurant claimed they catered for vegans, this was my sister’s amazing vegan meal.” The tweet got a great deal of traction. At the time the Spanish version of this article was published,it had 1,100 replies, 16,000 retweets and just surpassed 61,000 likes.
We are not a vegetarian restaurant, never mind vegan Rubén Gómez, restaurant owner
The next day, Jarvis tweeted a picture of a vegetable pizza and wrote: “Vegans can eat more than raw vegetables.”
On the edges of the plate, under the tomatoes and onions, you can make out the name of the restaurant that served the offending dish: Bahía. Rubén Gómez, one of the owners of the restaurant in Fuengirola, a city on the southern Spanish coast, was somewhat surprised by all the attention the tweet received.
“We are not a vegetarian restaurant, never mind vegan,” Gómez explained to Verne in a phone conversation. “At the entrance to our restaurant we have a counter full of different cuts of steak, but we make every effort to ensure our vegetarian and vegan clients are well served.”
According to Gómez, the photo doesn’t reflect what actually happened that night at his restaurant, which has been open for 26 years. “We told them that we did not have dishes that were strictly vegan,” says Gómez. “But that we could prepare any dish using a mix of ingredients that are on the menu.”
Jarvis’s sister wanted to order a vegetable pizza, but Gómez explained that there were eggs used in the pizza dough, which made it not suitable for vegans.
Is this the worst vegan meal ever served or just a shameless publicity stunt? British daily newspaper ‘The Independent’
The restaurant suggested she choose various ingredients to create a salad to her liking, but instead she chose one of the options on the menu, the tomato and onion salad.
“It is our simplest salad,” says Gómez. “It also usually has garlic but we’ve found that a lot of foreigners don’t like it very much, so we didn’t put it in. Customers usually order this salad as an side, not as a main dish. But it was the dish she chose – she could have ordered another salad.”
According to the restaurant’s version of events, Jarvis’s sister could have added a variety of ingredients that were on the menu, which was available in English. These included: lettuce, cucumber, corn, carrots, asparagus, basil, avocado, nuts, dates, apples, strawberries, pineapple, peach, kiwi and melon.
Jarvis later spoke to UK newspaper the Daily Mail, who also covered the story, and said: “The food was disappointing compared to the options in England, but I was very happy that they accommodated me. Veganism, in my opinion, is the most sensible option for the well-being of animals, for the environment and for your health,” Jarvis continued. “The tweet posted may make veganism look inaccessible, but in reality I normally have no issues eating out in restaurants, and normally have many options.”
The Telegraph, another British newspaper, also covered the story, asking: “Is this the worst vegan meal ever served or just a shameless publicity stunt?”
Eventually, the blogger chose to delete her tweets from the social network, and then appears to have shut down her account altogether. She responded to Verne’s email inquires stating that she was not at Bahía that night, despite the evidence suggesting otherwise.
The vegan diet
The ingredients mentioned above are perfectly suitable for vegan and vegetarian diets, which are based on avoiding animal products and byproducts. In an article titled “Can you eat carnivorous plants? And other questions vegans face” some of the most common doubts about veganism are answered.
In this article, Mar García, a nutrition expert for the Spanish Vegetarian Union, addresses questions about the differences between veganism and vegetarianism. “Without going into too much detail, you could say that strict vegetarians (who do not consume any products that originate from animals, including eggs, milk or honey) and vegans are synonyms in regards to diet,” says García. “These are terms that have somehow overlapped, but there are nuances. Today, we understand vegans as the person, who in addition to diet, extends this choice to the rest of their lifestyle by avoiding any product that harms animals in some way.”
Although over the years, the number of people who follow vegan or vegetarian diets has increased, there are still many doubts about them. PETA, the international animal advocacy group with over a million followers on twitter, responded to Jarvis’ tweet with a joke of their own.
The tweet shows two graphs. The first one represents the simplified diet that people think vegans eat, which PETA reduced to granola, tofu and grass. The second shows what vegans actually eat, featuring a long list of dishes.
English version by Debora Almeida.