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Omni/Veg* Dating Guidelines: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Textured Vegetable Protein

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.

By Caitlinface

Caitlinface is a Caitlin, with a face. She reads things, sometimes writes things, and obsessively forces friends to watch her favorite things. She self-identifies as a Gemini Slytherin Targaryen, but don't worry, she's not really all that bad.

27 replies on “Omni/Veg* Dating Guidelines: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Textured Vegetable Protein”

On reading the labels: it’s not just gelatin.  Carmine dyes are made from beetles and, as Slay pointed out above, many delicious things like Doritos contain the decidedly non-vegetarian flavorings Diosodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate (one derived from fish, the other from pork).  I mention them only because if you’re new to deciphering labels this kind of info is key.  I was probably a couple of years before we knew we were accidentally feeding Mini animal-derived flavorings.

And for those missing the jello love from a few days ago, kosher jellos like Ko-jel uses seaweed and NOT actual gelatin, so eat on my Midwestern sistren and brethren.  Eat on!

Oh yes. Our differences aren’t so huge but they are there. My guy is Jewish and though he doesn’t really follow Kosher laws, he does abstain from pork (it’s more of a taste/upbringing thing than a religion/values thing). We respect each other’s choices; I don’t pressure him to eat my mom’s pork chops if he’s not interested and he doesn’t say anything if I want to buy bacon for breakfast and keep in in the fridge. (The upside for me in all of this is when I get the bacon off his burger if there is no bacon-less option–score!!) Funny though, there are sometimes exceptions to the rule. He maintains that as long as he doesn’t admit it, then pepperoni isn’t pork (riiiiiiight…). I tease him about this often and we laugh together, but really, I’ve pretty much stopped eating pork too. I guess it’s easy to give up and I never think about missing it. That being said, we’re flexible and respectful of each other. I think that’s key. And so is having a good sense of humor. :)

I lived with a muslim roommate for a year!  This could have been difficult because I love bacon.  A lot.  So we just decided that I would have a “special pan” that I could cook pork products in and she would never touch.  It worked out really well.  Although I did (and still do) tease her about how awesome bacon is and how turkey bacon is NOT the same thing.  At all.  She takes it in stride and sends me every link she can find about cool bacon things.  Because it’s delicious.

We have a similar divide in our household, except that Mini is the vegetarian and we are meat eaters. We generally eat veg in the house because its just easier for there to be one meal, but on the occasions that we do have some sort of meat dish, Mini doesn’t object.

I’d add another rule that dovetails neatly into yours — Be Honest. We’ve found out over the years that things we’ve thought were vegetarian (Dorritos!) are not, in fact, vegetarian. We’ve told Mini when we’ve discovered this, so that she could make the choice if she wanted to keep eating them. She knows that we’re on board with her decision and wouldn’t let her consume meat products by accident, so she takes it in stride.

We also have a firm No Teasing rule, but you’ve covered that as well.

Definite yes on the No Teasing rule. Veg*ns get the bad rap for being “preachy” but I’ve met far more meat eaters who rag on us than the opposite. And it’s not cute.

It’s good that you let Mini know, because there are always things to learn. For example, I didn’t know Guinness had stomach in it and now I’m going to go cry in a corner.

Not really stomach, more like… fish bladder? To clarify during aging? It’s honestly used in such an infinitesimal amount that some people don’t count it.

Interestingly, it’s more commonly found in beers of the British Isles and some other European breweries. Lots of American beers use filtration, it seems. It’s also a cask vs. bottle-conditioned thing.

I don’t know. It’s on a scale where Mr. Caitlinface doesn’t count it, and the only person I’ve met who knew or cared is an omnivorous friend of mine who enjoys making veg*ns cry when he tells them about isinglass.

I think these rules are good for anyone who has to eat a slightly different diet from you. A good friend of mine has Cealiac disease, and is still learning about how to deal with it. I had her over for nibbles the other night so I checked with her first what worked for her, left the packaging of food out so she could check it for sneaky wheat additions that I might have missed, and tried not to make a big deal about it. I think she appreciated it.

Precisely. I really enjoy having my friend around for dinner, it’s not too much of a hassle to make a few more things gluten free (I eat fairly a fairly low refined carb diet, white flour does not agree with me, but it doesn’t make me nearly blind like my friend!) and I want her to feel like she’s not causing any one any hassle by having to make a few minor requests. In the grand scheme of things, it ain’t no big deal.  In fact, it’s made us look at bit harder at what we’re eating, and see if we can “clean it up” in some way.

I don’t think I could convince Mr Cesy to go vegetarian though. He’s come along way but even vegetarian meals are looked upon with a bit of scorn. I save them for the days when I’m just feeding myself.

Mr Brum, my lovely sidekick, has been vegetarian for eleven years now, or something. We get by, mostly because we laugh about it. He makes faces at my bacon buttie and says “Poor pig,” and I always order lamb when we get curry because “it’s not just murder… it’s BABY murder.”

My relationship: DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME

Haha. For some reason I just think of a time we went out for Mexican and I ordered carnitas and the mister said “So, carnitas… that means meat, yeah.” And I was just all, “WHATEVA WHATEVA I DO WHAT I WANT I CAN’T BE TAMED.”

The $2 margaritas might have played into that one though. Booze is always the best solution to smoothing over such differences.

Creativity is key. Try new things. I haven’t found a single recipe (outside of, like, steak and pork chops) that can’t be (1) split in half for meat and non-meat versions or (2) made meatless or with meat substitute (either soy protein or some other option, like burgers made from bulgur or pumpkin). It also helps when the vegetarian in the relationship likes to cook and the non-vegetarian is lazy and usually chooses to partake of the delicious home-cooked food rather than ordering Chinese for the fourth time that week.

Funny enough, I’m the cooking-inclined one in this case. Not that he doesn’t like cooking, but I usually just commandeer the kitchen. I’m also the one with the fancy Wusthof so I get to play Iron Chef.

That said, what we most often eat is Vietnamese take-out. It’s easier than, you know, cooking things or washing the dishes or going to the grocery store. :) ADULTHOOD!

 Ok, I don’t want to sound like an ass, but I’m genuinely curious: what is the asterisk for in “veg*”? I’ve googled this and didn’t really get an answer. I keep scrolling down looking for something at the bottom of articles that refer to vegetarians this way.

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