McDonald's finally came clean this year, confessing that, yes, beef flavorings are included in the company's French fries. The news came as a severe shock to millions of vegetarians who've guiltlessly (or so they thought) snacked on the spud sticks for years, since Mickey D's announced in 1990 that it would no longer fry in beef tallow. The announcement also vindicated thousands of outraged protesters, maligned for years as mere conspiracy theorists, who've broadcast their suspicions that there was “something funny about those fries.”
The case is a lesson for vegetarians that true vegetarianism requires constant vigilance. Vegan travelers in India, for example, should be aware that most foods are cooked with butter there. Airline passengers who request vegetarian meals should ask whether there is also a vegan option, if that's really what they want. And if a waiter says there's “no meat” in a dish, especially a soup, it's wise to ask if it was made with a meat-based stock. Some European cuisines rely on the use of gelatin in many desserts (Bavarians, charlottes, and panna cottas, for example) and may even use it in a “vegetable terrine” appetizer or dish. It always pays to ask, especially when traveling.