Couple 5

Food Ruling Relationships 11/09/10

Roline Bosch explores what happens when a vegetarian and a meat-eater fall in love?

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By Roline Bosch

When looking for the perfect man, the list usually includes things like white smile, brown or blonde hair, big eyes, strong shoulders, kind, generous and chivalrous.  I didn’t see ‘Eating Preference’ on the list.

I am a vegetarian and have been dating a meat-lover for a little more than a year now.

I’ve known quite a few vegetarians that are overjoyed at their partner having the same meal preference as them and  see it as some sort of sign that must indicate that the Universe has finally given her “The One”.  Some people even go to sites such as Ethical Singles to find their one true vegetarian or vegan love.  Although a preference, I’ve never considered looking for a vegetarian Mr Right  before considering whether he is worthy of my romance.  He simply just is Mr Right, or Mr Wrong.

Agreed.  Dating someone who has a different meal preference to you can be a huge adaptation.  But, I don’t think it is any different to dating someone with different opinions, judgments, interests or religion to you.  When things get serious and you move in together, it can get a lot trickier though.

Meal times can become argument times if you can’t compromise.  Choosing a restaurant can be as bad as arguing over who’s turn it is to pay the bill.  What cutlery touches meat and how to keep your vegetarian food separate to the meat shelves in the fridge can quickly become a hot potato.  Then, when it comes to your partner’s turn to make dinner, you might not know this, but he may be feeling lost on how to cook a satisfactory meal that’s right for you.

Judith Kingsbury, a vegetarian-cum-psychologist, agrees that it’s important to not give in if you feel strongly about your belief, because often it is the vegetarian that compromises to the point of excluding her own needs.  Both people need to feel that their choices and values are equal, worthy and contribute to a healthy relationship.  The best way is to communicate and  compromise in a way that works for both of you.  When you are committed to each other, it becomes easier to compromise and you can altogether avoid the power-struggle.

For me and my partner, it’s really important to cook together a few times a week.  Over food and wine we laugh, share our selves and spend a good bit nibbling, tasting and giving flavour advice.   What I’ve found works really well is when we make two separate dishes with the same base, so if he wants meat added, he can cook and add it in afterward.   Lentil bakes, potato bakes, aubergine bakes – all work really well.

I try to make my veggie meals for him as filling as possible, so that he won’t even notice the meat not being there.  Potatoes and aubergines work really well, as well as ‘meaty’ foods like mushrooms, olives and artichokes.

Other things that are great choices are ‘wordly’ foods, such as curries, pizzas, pastas, wraps and stir fries, which can also be a determiner of your restaurant choice.  We love making meals that are interactive and we can each come up with our own creating, using similar ingredients, such as in wraps, stir frys and pizzas.

Whatever your compromise, here are a few handy sites to help you negotiate meal times and your lifestyle differences:

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5 Responses to this article

Claire November 10, 2010 Reply

Great post, Roline. It is definitely something we have to think about. I think the trouble is not with the cooking or eating, I think the trouble is with respect for the person. Some of my previous boyfriends were of the shrugging the shoulders kind, and they certainly didn’t have much of an opinion on my food choices. It was really natural to be with them, especially as they usually took my dietary needs into account and made me feel like they really knew me. Others harboured a nasty secret, they didn’t naturally agree with my choices but didn’t ever discuss it with me. I only figured it out by snide remarks that they made.
I would never expect the other person to change for me, but I would expect them to value my choices and support them. In turn I have never tried to impose my views on them although having engaged discussions on the subject should not be avoided just because it might get unpleasant.

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Roline.Bosch November 10, 2010 Reply

Yes, respect plays a part both ways and I’ve found it easiest to prioritise the most important thing that caters to my needs, and then not too make an issue about the things that are less important, especially when it comes to having different food choices.

I’m very lucky to have a partner that is sensitive to my needs in the kitchen and always makes an effort – which includes keeping all meat cutlery separate to mine when tasting and cooking. This does boil down to the respect he has for me, but also because I take the responsibility to prioritize this need.

Often its a lot more difficult to ask this of a meat-eater when going being invited for dinner. I’ve also found that some restaurants that prepare the food in front of you don’t use separate cutlery – and this really does annoy me.

The kitchen is a difficult place to negotiate for meat and veg foodies alike, what with all those knives lying around!

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jka November 17, 2010 Reply

I would not be able to be romantically involved with a meat-eater simply because I would not be able to respect that person – if they were dating me, they would know all of the reasons – moral, environmental, health, human rights etc – for being vegan and if they still chose to eat meat, I would have very little respect for their intellectual and moral character.

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Matthew November 23, 2010 Reply

Mm, it is not always so black and white. I’m vegetarian, my wife is not. I cook at home, and if she wants meat, then she cooks that herself. When we go out, she orders what she feels like and so do I.
At times the choice in restaurants is limited by my food preference, but we work to make sure a simple thing like one individual’s food choice doesn’t impact on our relationship.
Food is such an integral part of our lives and yet the choice to be vegetarian can become an all consuming issue in your life.
Rather make the choice for yourself and leave others to make their own choices. Limiting yourself to the vegetarians out there might also prevent you from meeting the “One”.

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Roline December 2, 2010 Reply

@JKA @Matthew: At the end of the day, how can we expect others, especially loved ones, to understand, accept and respect us, if we can’t understand, accept and respect the right to their own opinion/judgements?

Just because someone eats meat does not make him/her a ‘bad person’, which in my mind means that that decision bears no relevance to their moral character.

I agree with Matthew; let each person decide for him/herself, and perhaps you might even find yourself in love.

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