Even without the complicating factor of kids, being part of a mixed dietary preference couple isn’t always simple. Since I have no experience in this matter, I’ll let four friends share their tips. The bottom line is that there are no perfectly neat solutions; there’s a lot of compromising and accommodation. Each couple needs to work things out so that each party can eat and enjoy in peace! Here are four different approaches to the dilemma.
Food should be a source of pleasure, bringing us together. Don’t make separate meals — that only makes dinner divisive. Make most of the meal something you can both enjoy. I never refuse to cook anything — even meat — for my husband. The main course, though, is vegan — whole grains, beans and greens, a main course salad, or a vegan curry or stir-fry. My omnivorous husband even requests vegan meals. On the other hand, when he’s out on business, he’s probably at a steak house.
I lucked out in having a guy who loves whatever I prepare, deferring meal planning to me unless he has a particular yen for something or we’re having a bunch of people over, so he can pair the meal with a fabulous wine. He likes shopping with me, especially the farmers market, but doesn’t always get to do it. I’m okay with buying and preparing meat on occasion. His mother (may she rest in peace) accused me of trying to kill him by withholding meat.
Since I do 98% of the cooking we keep the house meat-free, with very few exceptions (for certain parties and potlucks). My wife eats meat when we go out or go to someone else’s house. The one exception is if we do a barbecue — then meat is allowed, and is cooked on a different part of the grill. Those who want it will bring their own meat.
I find it helps Cheryl if we have Gardein, Beyond Meat, or another meat substitute once or twice a week. She would live on chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, but it doesn’t matter to her if it’s vegan or not. I think it’s important to make sure that if the vegan is the planner to include a few things that the meat eater really likes.
In the past, when I’ve lived with other meat-eaters, I’ve had one drawer in the fridge that only meat goes in and a few pans and utensils that are meat only. Since I can sterilize dishes in the dishwasher I don’t worry as much about that any longer.
I’m not 100% vegan. Call me a veganist, a nutritarian, someone that occasionally uses animal products as condiments, or just a person trying to follow a plant-based diet while navigating other food sensitivities. (Not fun, I just found out I’m reacting to soy and broccoli).
When I discovered that I was sensitive to gluten, I continued to cook “regular” foods for the family; I just ate around it. They had red sauce on pasta, and I ate it on my zucchini noodles. Often my meals were pathetic. As soon as my daughter was diagnosed it all changed. We ate primarily gluten-free at home, though there were always gluten-filled bread and bagels. My family didn’t complain because the recipes I cooked were delicious.
Fast forward to early 2012, and all the kids were out of the house. I decided, for health reasons, to try and follow a plant-based diet. My husband continued to eat flesh and I ate sides. It wasn’t until I discovered that there were wonderful gluten-free and vegan recipes that I stopped serving meat. We now eat only vegan food at home, although there are still some dairy products in the fridge — he’s not too fond of vegan cheeses. When we go out, Bruce probably orders a vegetarian entree about fifty percent of the time. Other times he goes for the lamb chops or fish. He often takes a veggie burger for lunch, and has whole grain cereal with almond milk for breakfast. It’s a huge improvement over his old diet.
Basically, my husband and I just both go about our business unless it directly interferes with the other. So, he cooks all his own meat at home, usually grilled, then uses my meal as his side dish. This doesn’t happen too often, though — maybe two to three times a month.
The rest of the time, he just eats what I eat at home, and endeavors to eat his “meat meal” for lunch at the office. That way, he’s not overly hungry for dinner so he feels he can “get by” with the vegan meal (which he says wouldn’t be enough to fill him otherwise). That said, he’s happy to eat whatever I cook and rarely turns it away. He won’t consume my ultra hard core green smoothies or anything with too much tofu, but otherwise seems to love whatever I make.
I have noticed a distinct change in me, though. In the past year or so, I haven’t been able to tolerate too much of the smell of cooked meat. The other change I’ve noticed is around washing up. We alternate who does the dishes (one week he does, next week I do, etc) and if he happens to grill his meat on my week, I have now told him I won’t wash the grill, either, even though I wash the rest of the dishes. The smell is just too off-putting to me.
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Mixed dietary preferences —vegan, veg, non-vegan — in families