Sometimes, we think we know our likes and dislikes. You tell yourself that you’d never be able to date someone who smokes, or doesn’t eat meat, or listens to black metal. Surely, such divergent core interests will not make for a proper relationship! Common ground, you say! At the very least let them eat bacon!
Well, sometimes people show up in our lives who turn out to be quite fantastic, despite the fact that they do not meet our ridiculous criteria. And then, we find ourselves in a quandary: How on earth does an omnivore date a vegetarian/vegan?
Don’t worry. Everything will be okay. This is why I’m here, through trial and error, with this list of helpful tips and tricks.
1. Keep Your Mouth Shut
Well, all right, maybe this isn’t something that applies to every situation. Communicating about dietary specifications (ovo-lacto, vegan, gluten-free, etc.) is a pretty big deal. But when you think you’re being clever by asking how your significant other can live a life without bacon, or asking how they get complete proteins, or the practicalities of abandoning the current factory-farming system? Shut it. No. Stop there. I know what you’re thinking. I know you’re pulling Anthony Bourdain quotes on me, thinking yourself wry and witty. You are not.
I did this. I thought I was quite hilarious, personally, but then my partner called me out on it. After all, you can’t accuse a vegetarian of proselytizing when it’s more often that you’re talking shit about the dietary choice.
2. Do Your Research
Making assumptions can be a pretty terrible thing to do. Assuming you can throw a dash of fish sauce in your pad Thai sauce and no one will notice is the wrong thing to do. Not that I did that”¦the first time I made pad Thai.
But on the flip side? Don’t suddenly freak out when someone informs you that isinglass (that would be fish bladder) is used in the manufacture of certain delicious beers. This is on a scale that comes down to personal preference/moral compass/finicky definition. So yeah, maybe ask if your partner is aware of isinglass and if they care that it’s in Guinness, but don’t flip out.
2a. Read the Labels
I mean, really read them. You’d be surprised what foods contain gelatin. Certain brands of ramen – yes, even the non-meat flavors – have gelatin. Pop-Tart frosting? Gelatin all up in there. This is where checking for a kosher label can come in handy, as gelatin usually comes from swine. But just as every rectangle is not a square, every kosher thing is not vegetarian.
3. Get Creative
Flexing your culinary muscles is never more important than when preparing animal-free meals. (Well, all right, I’ll give a pass to all of you college students who are dorm-ridden and only equipped with microwaves and illicit hot plates, but that’s because you’re working magic I could never dream of in that situation.) Chances are, you’re going to end up expanding your spice cabinet. Brace yourself for the initial sticker shock, but always remember: those spices are an investment. Months down the line when you reach out for the cumin to make that vegetarian chili really pack a punch, you’ll be thanking your past self for buying the cumin in the first place.
Don’t limit yourself. Cooking without meat doesn’t mean you’re stuck seeking out the nearest Whole Foods. Granted, were I in my small hometown, I’d be up shit creek because there are two grocery stores and that they carry tofu is a marvel unto itself. But if you’re in what could conceivably be considered a metro area, or at least a very large town/small city, go looking for the Asian supermarket. Just walk around. Yes, you may go look at the fish in the tanks in the back. Yes, that’s a bull penis in shrink wrap. This is not what you’re after. More often than not, Asian markets have a zillion varieties of (super-cheap!) tofu, produce you might not have seen, spices like there’s no tomorrow, and other various goodies. It’s totally okay to come to terms with the fact that resisting Pocky by the checkout lane is futile.
4. Don’t Be That Asshole
You know who I’m talking about. The one who thinks throwing together a half-assed crudite platter or making some plain old buttered noodles or some other crap is enough to sate any vegetarians in the crowd. What I’m saying is, don’t segregate yourself from your vegetarian darling. When preparing meals for the two of you, if you’re doing the preparing, make it a completely meat-free affair. If you’re going to eat it, then it’s more likely you’ll put care into the finished product.
Am I saying to give up meat? Certainly not! But do it on your own time. Something I’m learning to do is to treat meat as a sort of special occasion thing, where I’ll only spend the money on it if I’m going out to eat. Even then, I’ll sometimes opt for a veg* dish. There are tofu dishes out there that’ll convert even the most die-hard omnivores. Trust me.
5. Don’t Change For Your Partner
If you’ve found someone who is okay with you remaining omnivorous as long as you’re okay with their vegetarianism? Congratulations, you are dating without compromising core values! Passing judgments is for losers, anyhow.
It’s okay to admit that you like fake chicken nuggets. It is also okay for you to char a piece of animal flesh when you’re dining alone or with other friends who similarly enjoy such delicacies. The point is to eat what you like, and to never make diet a bone of contention. Don’t change for your partner; you will end up resenting them. If you decide to try a veg* diet and can’t make it because you come from a family background steeped in pork fat? Relax. Your partner, more often than not, will not judge you. Just remember that only you are to blame when you shock your system with so much animal fat and you can’t poop properly for a day or two.
Overall, these are five very generalized themes on the trial and error of navigating any relationship with a veg* friend or partner. There are no real fatal flaws here, except for maybe the fish sauce in the pad Thai, and if I were you I’d recommend not putting that in an article on the Internet for your love to read. This is why I am here: to do these things so you don’t have to.