Here’s the reoccurring scenario: my husband and I are at an engagement party, a holiday celebration, an end-of-summer BBQ…and an acquaintance leans in to me with a hushed whisper and asks with fear in her voice “So, do you always have to make two separate meals?”
It’s a burning question that seems to be on many people’s minds. Why? Must be because I’m a life-long (primarily) vegetarian who a few years ago started living a gluten-free and mostly dairy-free lifestyle, yet somehow my (gasp) meat-eating man and I manage to exist together! When my hubby Nick had announced our pending engagement to his parents, his father asked “How is this going to work?” Nick was confused, thinking he was referring to our different religions (a total non-issue) but his smartass response was “I meant because she’s a vegetarian!”
All kidding aside, I completely understand how it sounds like an impossible feat. We’ve been married almost 5 years and never had one single argument over our choice of food. We are both self-proclaimed foodies who share a passion for travel, wine country, and Italian restaurants in NYC. We actually enjoy grocery shopping together and get inspired to come up with new dishes…Nick’s Tofu Tacos are the shit! We’ve been together 9+ years and we never run out of things to talk about. He keeps me worrying less, laughing more, and always inspired. But it’s true- he eats meat and I do not…and yet we still fell in love.
I do realize that I’m luckier than most non-meat eaters. From the time that we moved in together, we found a way to happily coexist with our individual eating habits; things just fell into place naturally without any formal discussion or planning. It’s like I’m married to an “at-home-vegetarian.” Seriously, the only time that you would ever find meat at our place would be during the summer. That’s because burger nights on the BBQ are so easy-peasy…veggie burger for me, hamburger for him. The rest of the year, we happily share the same delicious, meat-free meals and then share our opinions on them afterwards…isn’t that the best part? Making two separate meals was never even a thought; what I really love about our relationship is that we both like to cook, and ironically some weeks Nick is making more dinners than I am!
We found favorite restaurants that satisfy both of our cravings…going out for Japanese is a treat for the two of us. As for vegan restaurants- in Brooklyn, Champs’ Sweet & Smokey black bean burgers pretty much rocked his world. Don’t get me wrong, when we do eat out it’s almost guaranteed that Nick will be ordering duck or pork if available, but how can I judge his individual eating habits when he clearly does not judge mine? He’s a fairly healthy omnivore- not really into fast-food, sugars, or refined carbs. Then I immersed him in a world of plant-based foods that he fell for: green smoothies, tofu cutlets, salads with hemp seed, homemade granola, quinoa with chickpeas…and all this yummy goodness has slowly crowded out the desire for meat. As a bonus, my hubby’s come to find out that there’s definitely an improvement in energy levels and digestion with a diet high in veggies!
“Mixed-food relationships” can work without either of you sacrificing your values or your choices. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way…put ’em into practice with your significant other:
– Don’t judge or lecture. It might be tempting, but you won’t get anywhere by listing the crappy side effects of a diet high in meat, milk, sugar, processed foods, etc. Be supportive of each other and the different places that you’re in. I had to understand that for him it was a process and doesn’t happen overnight. That concept was almost foreign to me, being that I was born into this lifestyle and never felt like I was deprived or missing out on something. Amazingly enough, not ever did Nick judge my diet (or the fact that I’ve never even had a hot dog!)
– I never once asked my husband to give up meat. You can ask to be open with him/her about the benefits that you find with your way of eating, but don’t ever go on the attack, especially when other people are around. For example, family members might not necessarily understand or agree with your views and values and want to chime in on what should be a private convo with you and your sweetheart.
– Add foods in rather than taking foods out. So this may mean brushing up on your cooking skills and whipping up some irresistible vegetarian or vegan fare. Knock their socks off and they will never think meatless dishes are boring again! Eventually with all those tasty veggies and filling whole grains, the cravings for meat will lessen. Who knows, you might just end up with a master “flexitarian” chef on your hands if you’re lucky! I’m slowly manifesting that… ha ha.