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.