He ain’t vegan, he’s my husband

9 Jun

In a response to my Rachel Berry is a vegan! OR Why I’m a vegetarian post, reader Martha asked how I feed both myself and my husband when I’m a vegetarian and he is not. I thought that was a great question that warranted its own post.

Most of us are raised to believe that a diet without meat is an incomplete diet. We are taught that there is no way a vegetarian/vegan diet can be healthy, and as a result, numerous health problems ensue. Who wants that, right? So we grow up and when we begin cooking for ourselves, our diets are replete with meat. We seek out other meat eaters (which isn’t too hard) and we happily eat our carcasses in unadulterated bliss. But what happens when one party realizes that chewing on that chicken leg is revolting?

I was faced with that exact scenario when I decided to stop eating meat that lives on land. My husband was absolutely terrified. He had no idea what we were going to eat; after all, how could a diet without animal protein even exist (this was also coming from a man who had not met a vegetable until we started dating)? His anxiety reached an 11. After I explained to him that I was choosing to eat this way, and that I was not going to force him to do the same, his anxiety dialed back to about a 7.  After I explained that most new recipes would not involve tofu, his anxiety scaled back to about a 4.  And after I showed him many of the recipes I wanted to try, his anxiety hovered around 1. But although I was not asking him to stop eating meat, I was still the one responsible for planning and cooking meals, and that made him nervous. I think he thought I was secretly plotting to poison him.

Although his anxiety had subsided, I still had to come up with a way to make him believe that a) I was not trying to poison him and b) we can happily live as a vegetarian (or pescetarian, if you prefer)/nonvegetarian couple. So I devised a four-pronged approach which, two years later, I still use on a weekly basis. It goes like this:

First, I include my husband in the menu planning. We go through my cookbooks and recipes together and he gives his input as to what he’d like to eat. This way he feels like he has some control over what he’s eating, which makes him more apt to try new recipes, including vegetarian and vegan ones. Second, I try to use some veggie protein substitutes in about 3 meals per week. Yes, they’re expensive but my husband still feels like he’s eating meat and I don’t have to sacrifice my conscience. Third, I will cook dishes with the meat cooked separately. For instance, if I make a stir-fry, I will cook a chicken breast in a different pan or if we’re barbecuing, I will make black bean burgers while my husband will make himself a hamburger. And fourth, I’ve done a good job of making vegetarian versions of his favorite dishes such as stuffed shells and pizza (there is a soy pepperoni substitute from Lightlife that is excellent). We’ve struck a balance so that we both get to eat what we want but my husband still supports my vegetarian (or pescetarian, since I still do eat some fish) diet. He’s even come to love some of the vegetarian and vegan recipes that I cook!

This approach worked out well for me because my husband abides by one simple rule when it comes to food: If it tastes good, he’ll eat it. Since I am a fairly decent cook who has an outstanding aptitude for following recipe directions, what I cook usually turns out pretty tasty. And with so many resources available for vegetarian/vegan diets, there’s never a shortage of new recipes to try. The introduction of new dishes helps to stave off food boredom which in turn makes it easier to sustain the balance between our two vastly different diets.

There are many compromises we make in a relationship: seeing an sci-fi/action movie rather than a comedy; squeezing the toothpaste from the middle instead of the bottom; putting peanut butter in the pantry rather than the fridge.  Compromising on these little details is hard, especially when we know we’re right. But in an effort to keep the peace, we do it.  The same applies to eating, or not eating, meat.  A relationship between a meat eater and a vegetarian can work without problems if both parties respect each other’s food choices. The key is working together.

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4 Responses to “He ain’t vegan, he’s my husband”

  1. martha June 9, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    I got a whole post in response?!? That’s kinda awesome!

    I think your husband is more laid back about this than mine. I have the same basic cooking rules, but his anxiety level constantly hovers at about 6.9. I’m pretty sure he’s convinced I’m secretly trying to eliminate all meat from his diet. Or maybe he feels like he’s cheating on meat with vegetables… I don’t know.

    Anyway, thanks for letting me know how you guys deal. I’ll just keep trying to get his anxiety level down and hope for the best. Thanks!

  2. Kiran June 9, 2010 at 10:42 pm #

    How is chewing on a chicken leg “revolting”, but chewing on your fish carcass isn’t? :blink:

  3. Eric July 1, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

    Excellent, it’s very encouraging to read, as my current girlfriend is vegetarian and I’m a transitional (or perhaps lazy) vegan (no meat, fish, cheese, or substantial amounts dairy or egg). My girlfriend loves everything I make for her that’s vegan, the real issue is when we’re deciding to go out to eat. Not only do I find American food terribly bland and boring, there’s at most about 1-2 options on their menus that I can eat (there’s only so many cheeseless pizzas or veggie burgers you can stand!) But we figure it out, and like you said, it’s all about compromise.

    As far as using the word ‘vegetarian’ I don’t want to feed the flames or anything, but I think eating habits are a personal choice, and everyone has their limit (It’s all about damage control anyway, nobody’s perfect). There could be just as much fuss about vegetarians who eat cheese (99% of which contains rennet) or any number of animal goods. Peeps just need to calm down 🙂

  4. Eric July 1, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    Oops arg, my girlfriend is NOT vegetarian. Should have proof-read… haha

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