Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Help! My (ex-)boyfriend is a vegetarian!

I think it's now safe for me to reveal that I've been dating Rich for the past six months. Like most couples, we share many similar interests but there is one particular difference between us that comes up almost every day. Rich is a vegetarian while I am an omnivore. When people spend a lot of time together, food becomes a really important thing, whether you're cooking a meal or eating at a restaurant. Rich hasn't eaten meat for 20 years - he isn't going to change. I completely respect that. Personally. I'm not motivated enough by ethical reasons to go veggie and I think animal protein is an important part of the human diet and has been since the origin of our species. (Also, I doubt that eating lots of over-processed soy and gluten products is all that much healthier than occasionally eating small amounts of lean meat.) Fortunately, Rich is not the kind of militant vegetarian who guilt-trips or berates meat-eaters. We agree to disagree.

Shortly after we met, I decided to investigate how difficult it is to eat like a vegetarian (not because I would change myself for Rich, but for the sake of experimenting). I tried it for a week - it was so easy that I went veg for a whole month, right up until Thanksgiving. My perspective was that it's not hard to stick to a vegetarian diet except for two scenarios: family holiday meals and traveling. I would really miss the major treat that is turkey and gravy at Christmas. And it would be so disappointing to skip out on local foods during a trip. I can't imagine visiting Japan without eating ramen, sushi, yakitori or pretty much any kind of izakaya food. Vietnam without phở? Avoiding every drop of fish sauce in Thailand? Australia without a lamb roast, a meat pie or fish and chips in a paper bundle at the beach? It's such a part of the experience of visiting another country! As I said before, I am definitely not motivated enough by anything to say no to local cuisine when I'm travelling. It seems like vegetarian restaurants in many countries are geared towards backpackers, meaning that the food is overpriced and bland. When we went to Cuba, Rich and I trekked across half of Havana to find a vegetarian place that was mentioned in our guidebook. Truly, it was one of the vilest meals I've ever had and it wasn't cheap, either.

When Rich and I go out to eat, I'm always overly worried that there won't be enough for him to choose from on the menu. Maybe he's used to having limited selections, but I'm not. I hate when we go somewhere and his only option is pasta. I get really, really excited when we go to vegetarian places (like Fresh, King's Cafe, Graceful Vegetarian, Jean's, Camros etc.) because I like to see Rich spoilt for choice, with free reign to choose anything. That said, I have never suggested going to many of my own very favourite restaurants because I know that there would be nothing much for him to eat. I guess we both have to compromise.

I like cooking - recently, I've been going heavy on the veg friendly fare. We cook vegetable lasagna, stir-fries, veggie hot pot, meatless bibimbap, veggie pizza and soup with a vegetable broth base. We do quite well, I think, but maybe it's time to branch out beyond the one pot, soft textured food (with the exception of the home-made pizza). What's the veggie equivalent to a nice bit of grilled chicken or salmon? What can I have as the centre of the meal, to replace the roast lamb or beef I used to cook?

I know several of my friends are veggies in relationships with non-veggies or non-veggies paired with veggies. I could certainly use any advice or resources you can share about cooking, recipes and restaurants to satisfy both tastes.

(Rich was actually a vegan up until last spring so I'm very grateful the food issues aren't that much more complicated!)

Update: Since this post has turned out to be one of my most popular and most Google-attracting, I feel like I should update it to say that Rich and I are no longer a couple. Although I haven't actually been told, I don't think the veggie/omnivore difference was a factor in the break-up.

12 comments :

Joseph said...

vegetarians are only vegetarians because they have never had delicious medium/rare steak before. with ketchup (unless it is juicy enough that it does not even need ketchup)

Andrea said...

Uhhh, yeah, I sure do love a perfectly cooked steak but if someone can't help feeling sad for the cow and they're concerned about the effects of cattle farming on the environment, I can see how it would make the meat less luscious...

Eva said...

There isn't really an equivalent to a piece of meat. There are meat replacements, but the ones sold in Canada are not very good (I've had decent ones in Holland, though) so forget about that.

Elaborate veggie meals usually involve many kinds of vegetables. Or something like a quiche or fancy omelet, with vegetables on the side. Or mushroom pastry things or something - those are pretty fancy and vegetarian.

Anonymous said...

Heya,
My omnivore friend recently made this epicurious "beef with broccoli" dish with seitan and it was soooo good. I made it myself with seitan, then decided to try it with beef and actually preferred the veg version. If you can get "the bridge" brand seitan in Canada, get that but i'm sure any kind is fine. Cut into small chunks, flour and flash fry in canola oil to make the outside crispy before treating as you would the beef in the recipe.
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/BEEF-AND-BROCCOLI-STIR-FRY-861

Anonymous said...

oh. that was me, slutto..

Netts said...

here's a good vegetarian food blog with lots of good recipes: http://www.101cookbooks.com/

i have a vegetarian friend coming over for dinner tonight and i was just thinking about how much i love her for being one of the VERY rare type of accommodating vegetarians who eats seafood (which opens up hundreds of delicious options), and when we go out will easily have a vegetable risotto made with chicken broth or pick the sausage off a pizza and eat the rest without making a stink about her dietary choices (though of course when i'm cooking for her i do my best to exclude all meat products). i'd be a lot more supportive of vegetarians if they were all that easy going.

J-Dawg said...

You can't eat fish and call yourself a vegetarian. You can say you rarley eat meat or fish but you can't be a vegetarian. The english language won't allow it. Now that I have that out of my system...Eggplant & zucchini parmasean is one of my faves. Quinoa was huge protein numbers. Mushroom risotto with a nice salad. Falafel, hummous & tabouleh is another classic. Chicken wings...oh wait that won't work.

Netts said...

j-dawg: that comment kinda bothers me. she refers to herself as a vegetarian (prob. for the sake of simplicity). she eats seafood but doesn't eat meat. does that distinction really matter? so she should use some more accurate but obnoxious term like vegomaritimotarian or whatever? i presume in order to differentiate herself from "real" hardcore vegetarians (the ones who love to make themselves the center of attention & make people uncomfortable at every meal with inflexible, nitpicky, controlling, holier than thou attitudes?). personally, i don't care if she calls herself a dodo as long as she continues to be the kind of vegetarian who doesn't shove her food issues down my throat.

Netts said...

crap. sorry andrea. i got riled up by the "not a real vegetarian" thing and forgot that i logged in to give you this link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/dining/18mini.html?em

it's an article about grains for breakfast that has some good ideas for hot pot alternatives that are either vegetarian or can be easily adapted to be so.

Anonymous said...

I didn't intend to get involved, but that is so ridiculously immature and simpleminded I can't stop myself. There's plenty of "real" vegetarians who don't force anything down anyone else's throat. I know when I was vegetarian I never tried to convince anyone else to eat the same way as me, didn't discuss my beliefs about it with others at the dinner table or anywhere unless they asked, and certainly didn't try to draw attention to myself (wtf?). Being vegetarian does not mean you love making other people uncomfortable, or that you're in any way controlling or holier than thou. It does mean that you usually have an interest in environmental sustainability, preventing the horrific labor abuses tied up with the meat industry, or don't care for the ways animals are factory farmed. Avoiding chicken broth or not wanting to down flecks of meat off a salad is, uhh, what would define you as a vegetarian. So your friend doesn't care, that's fine, but why be so irked that others happen to make a different choice than you?

Peeved Michelle said...

I wonder if all anthropologists and archeologists think the same way you do just because we know more about dietary evolution and dentition in prehistoric species. My major professor in college was a forensic anthropologist specializing in teeth. Once you know exactly why you have each tooth that you have, it is practically your responsibility as a member of homo sapiens to enjoy a nice juicy steak.

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