Can a meat lover and a vegan ever be together?
December 16, 2005 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Can a meat lover and a vegan ever be good for each other?

I'm currently in a relationship with a guy who's been a vegan for almost 15 years. I love meat. I don't want to change his dietary habits and he's very tolerant of my love of meat, but because of our dietary differences, our dining options are a bit limited. Luckily, I'm pretty lactose intolerant, so we both have soy ice-cream and cheeseless pizza. While I love tofu and soy in all its forms, I'm afraid I'll never be able to go with him to some of my favorite restaurants because of their lack of vegan-friendly choices.

Lately, when we go out, we usually go to a vegan/vegetarian place where sometimes I don't feel satisfied after my meal, or we go to an omnivore place where the only thing he can have is a baked potato or fries. There are only so many safe places where he can eat, and I'm afraid of getting tired of going to the same place over and over again.

Any advice?
posted by nakedsushi to Human Relations (48 answers total)
Cook at home!
posted by jclovebrew at 11:51 AM on December 16, 2005

nakedsushi, have you thought about sushi? there are lots of vegan options at your friendly neighborhood sushi place.

You could also pick up a cookbook by Madhur Jaffree, she has terrific recipes for vegetarians - many of the recipes are vegan as well.

I am dating a vegan who occasionally will eat fish. Thanks to him, I discovered a whole new world of vegan delights - it's not just tofu and hummus, there's a plethora of Asian cooking that will delight you both.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:51 AM on December 16, 2005

Do you love meat as in, it tates really good when you eat it? Or do you think about it constantly?

I think a meat lover and a vegan can be fine together as long as the omnivore is a "eat to live" type who just happens to like meat. If the omnivore considers good food (of all sorts) to be one of the primary reasons that life is supercool... then I dunno. Don't get too attached.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:57 AM on December 16, 2005

I'm a vegan, and while I've never been in a serious relationship with a meat lover, I know vegans who have. Asian restaurants often have meat and vegan dishes. But primarily, people in that situation end up cooking a lot at home, since they can identify certain points in the preparation of a dish where non-vegan things can be added, so everyone's happy.

Can a meat lover and a vegan ever be good for each other?

Absolutely, just don't view your diets as a terribly important part of the relationship. It's really not a huge deal.

Also, prepare for the anti-vegan oafs to come and shit in this thread, like they usually do
posted by cmonkey at 11:59 AM on December 16, 2005

Asian places are excellent to go to. Try a good thai or indian place; many of those cultures will have a variety of dishes that are vegan and dishes that are for meat eaters.

I'm a male omnivore that's dating a "two leg limit" girl ... I grew up with sausage and steaks and the worst of american heartland cuisine, she grew up that way but found she couldn't eat the four legged stuff as she got older; it's poultry, fish, or veggie for her. I've helped start a veggie/vegan restaurant before, so I've got a *lot* of very good lentil and vegetarian dishes. Squash, by the way, is quite filling, and seems to satisfy (or at least quiet) some of the cravings I have.

... but occasionally, I will sneak out to have a nice greasy bacon and bleu cheese 1/3 lbs burger. With extra greasy fries. And a big beer. Mmm.
posted by SpecialK at 12:02 PM on December 16, 2005

My wife is an omnivore and I am a vegetarian.

Lessons learned:

1. We got out to a few "favorite" places pretty exclusively.
2. My wife very kindly agreed not to cook meat in the house, have you thought about how you'll handle this if you get married?
3. Asian and Indian cuisine are good choices...

P.S. Being a vegan isn't good for you... it shortens life span. Also, soy is bad for the testicles, really it is, and whey and egg are the only really good protein sources, although wheat gluten isn't too bad.

P.S.S. Since red meat is one of the top three risk factors for pancreatic cancer, maybe you should think about giving it up...

P.S.S.S. If this is going to be a long term relationship, for your mutual well being, I suggest a compromise: You eat red meat only once a month, he consumes eggs or whey protein every day, and cuts back on the soy...
posted by ewkpates at 12:04 PM on December 16, 2005

I think rxrfrx really nails it. This can be a compromise point, or it can be a big deal, and it depends a lot on how much you care. The fact that you have favourite restaurants and will miss them suggests you care more than a little, so the answer isn't obvious.

For me, food is a huge part of my life. I write about food, I work on a food website in my spare time, trying new restaurants is one of my major hobbies, I love to cook and read cookbooks, many of my social relationships are based around dining clubs. Could I compromise that for a relationship with a vegan? Probably not very easily - it would require changing a huge part of who I am and what I do.

But not everyone considers food a hobby, a lot of people consider food to be stuff you eat so you don't die. They might appreciate that some things taste better than others, but as long as it's not gross and is filling they don't tend to care. Those people would probably learn to eat with a vegan relatively well (as long as they don't rank vegetables or tofu as 'gross').

Most people are likely somewhere between those two extremes. You need to think about how much you value food/eating/restaurants as part of who you are. If your relationship with food is an integral part of your character and personality, then compromising to be with a vegan is probably not a good idea. If your relationship with food is more about getting through the day, and things are better if the food is better, well, then decide if things are even better yet if the company is better.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2005

I'm vegetarian & dated a meat-lover for 4 years, and even agreed to go to a steak-house for her birthday once, but living in downtown NY meant that most places have a pretty wide range of options, so it wasn't a huge thing. Still, it was hard to find places we both loved, not just due to the meat/veggie thing - I naturally love salads & fresh plant food, light & spicy cuisine (a lot of asian stuff) and don't much care for potatoes, eggplant, cauliflower, bell peppers, "grilled vegetables", heavy cheese/dairy stuff, and generally "american cuisine". So even outside of the meat-no meat split, we just had very different tastes.

But it was really a minor issue as these things go - we just compromised, traded off; generally we didn't cook meat in the house, though it wasn't a hard&fast rule; the only real hard & fast rule was that I never was expected to cook / buy / handle meat. My sis was vegetarian & dated a meat lover, and ended up cooking meat for him, though, and another veggie friend of mine will pick up egg & bacon sandwiches for her SO, so it all depends on the individuals and their personal boundaries.
posted by mdn at 12:33 PM on December 16, 2005

another veggie friend of mine will pick up egg & bacon sandwiches for her SO, so it all depends on the individuals and their personal boundaries.

This is why carnivores hate you.

As for the question: if you have to ask if it is going to be an issue, then it already is.
posted by hummus at 12:38 PM on December 16, 2005

ewkpates, doesn't your link suggest that soy decreases the risk of prostate cancer?
posted by AwkwardPause at 12:41 PM on December 16, 2005

I second the recommendation for Asian/Indian restaurants. Italian is also usually not a problem (pasta with pesto/garlic oil and a salad is vegan).

There is actually a book about relationship problems because of different diets: Your Diet is Driving Me Crazy.

ewkpates: P.S. Being a vegan isn't good for you... it shortens life span.
That's true if you eat the standard American vegan diet, that consists of lots of grains and soy. If you eat a healthy vegan diet, that consists of lots of greens and fruits and enough beans and nuts, a vegan diet is very healthy, and lengthens life span if supplemented with B12.

whey and egg are the only really good protein sources, although wheat gluten isn't too bad.

Spinach is a much better protein souce than whey. If you eat enough healthy foods (lentils are excellent too) protein amount and quality is never a problem.

Some links: Less grains more greens, Vegan Health
posted by davar at 12:59 PM on December 16, 2005

ewkpates, doesn't your link suggest that soy decreases the risk of prostate cancer?

ewkpates said testicles, not prostate. soy is "bad for your testicles" in that it could decrease the amount of testosterone in the body and also dampen its effects.
posted by rxrfrx at 1:09 PM on December 16, 2005

I don't know how you do it. Vegans are really annoying people to go out with. It seems like this might not work out unless you're okay with going to the same like two or three places over and over and over and over. I'd recommend looking into cooking.
posted by xmutex at 1:27 PM on December 16, 2005

Ethiopian might be another alternative, or Vietnamese.
posted by lorrer at 1:37 PM on December 16, 2005

I adhere to a strict "I only eat plants and robots" diet (too difficult to explain the logic behind; it includes much of what lives in the sea, and none of what lives on land). However, I've dated folks on both ends of the scale: damn-near pure carnivores, as well as raw vegans (this was hell).

The first thing that I learned is that you're better of cooking at home if you need precise control over diet.

Secondly, if you're willing to look beyond Wesetern cuisine, you'll find a far greater selection of mutually agreeable restaurants. Thai (not Pad Thai, whose signature sauce has fish), Cantonese, and Indian all offer plenty of options for both the carnivore and vegan. Also look at middle eastern and Mediterrainian (sp) restaurants

I've also found that a certain subset of bars comme restaurants have an excellent vegan selection. For instance, the local brewpub here in Philly (Nodding Head) actually has a vegan burger offering on its menu. What's more, it's fucking fabulous.

You don't mention where you're from, but if you're in a decent metropolitan area, you should find something that works for you.
posted by Netzapper at 1:40 PM on December 16, 2005

That soy is bad for the testicles link doesn't mention anything about testicles, BTW. Though it does say that the resultant descrease in testosterone due to a soy diet may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
posted by ijoshua at 1:54 PM on December 16, 2005

I was in an almost-identical situation to yours for four years. We lived together, and he, too, was cool with me eating meat, though I rarely cooked it. It *is* possible to do this somewhat happily.

Going out to eat was not totally satisfying for both of us for the same reasons you listed. I love vegetarian food of all kinds, but mostly I felt that there weren't a lot of options for "fancy" vegan meals; he was always relegated to the french fries or "grilled vegetable platter." Eating out's not as fun when both people don't enjoy the meal on the same level.

It's unfortunate that you don't feel satisfied after vegan meals. Why do you think that is? If you can pinpoint the reasons, maybe you can move closer to enjoying it--do you feel like you need to have meat at every dinner?

Cooking at home was wonderful, though, because we both loved Indian food, and stew-type Moroccan and Middle Eastern type flavors (without the meat, of course). And also, I often went out to eat with friends who also ate meat, which satisfied my desire somewhat. (Would you feel bad if you didn't eat all your dinners together?)

I never went into the relationship assuming one of us would change our diet, and I don't think that's a good idea in general, but after a couple years, we had a long discussion about what his motivation for veganism was after 14 years. He realized he wasn't quite sure anymore. A few weeks later, I committed a minor atrocity by conviincing him to taste a bite of what might have been the most fantastic piece of seared tuna I'd ever eaten in my life. (He did try it, and he started eating fish after that. We broke up less than a year later, though. Perhaps it was karmic retribution.)
posted by veronica sawyer at 2:06 PM on December 16, 2005

I'm vegegarian (I try to be vegan, but cheese is so tasty!), and my boyfriend is on a near-total junk food diet (veggies are gross).

As long as neither of you are trying to convert the other, it can work. There are few things I love better than sharing a great meal, but I've learned to deal with it. I have other friends to cook with/try veggie restaurants with. Together, we tend to frequent restaurants with extensive veg and meat entrees (asian, hipster-y diner-ish places, etc.). But each of us will put up with the occasional foray into foreign territory. I can be content with a crappy salad one night, he can live with tofu another.

One great thing we agree on is popcorn: We've quit with the nasty microwave stuff and eat airpopped with olive oil and sea salt. And nutritional yeast when I can convince him to be adventurous.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 2:11 PM on December 16, 2005

I only eat plants and robots

ouch, all that metal must really tear your tongue and gums up.

nakedsushi, i think it can work, but it's going to take a lot of work. i second all the pointers toward asian cuisine. don't know where you live, but i'd be willing to bet that your city has more places with options for the both of you than you'd think, but it's going to take a lot of research to find them all so that you have some variety.

also, cooking meals at home will bring you closer together and if you want to avoid feeling like you're always eating at home, i suggest preparing food and taking it to eat at various places: parks, restaurants with out door seating (might want to limit this to places where you're regulars and consider at least ordering a beverage or desert), city squares, etc.

good luck!
posted by lord_wolf at 2:12 PM on December 16, 2005

Uh, make that vegeTarian, obviously.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 2:13 PM on December 16, 2005

xmutex writes "Vegans are really annoying people to go out with."

Another fucking generalization. Why do all discussions about alternative diets end up with people coming in and shitting all over them with useless tripe like this. While, yes, it can be true with some people and some situations it does not always have to be that way. I'm a strict vegetarian and I have no qualms about going along with my co-workers to steakhouses or watching them eat pounds and pounds of wings. Yes, I'll be a little put out if the restaurant does not have a salad option, or even fries, but if the majority of them want to visit a specific restaurant, then who am I to hold them back.

I also know quite a few vegan/vegetarians who also feel the exact same way. It's my choice and I'll be damned if I'll foist it on other people unnecessarily.

As to the actual question, no, I don't think it can be done. Sorry for being blunt, but I believe that diet and eating habits are very important part of a relationship and if they're incompatible then so is the couple. No matter what happens, someone will always be sacrificing something for the other person. While this might work with material type items, or movie choices, food/sustenance is generally not an area that can be negotiated for extended periods of time. As others have mentioned, at some point, a levee will break and I guarantee that this will be one of the contributing factors even if it's not mentioned specifically.
posted by purephase at 2:16 PM on December 16, 2005

Thanks for all of the advice. Fortunately, we live in LA which I think is pretty veggie friendly. He (the vegan) loves vegetarian Chinese food, which is great because I love Chinese food and that's something we can compromise on, but I was wondering about other choices.

Thai food's usually a bit sketchy because of the fish sauce that's usually on everything, so we can't really go anywhere unless he's sure there's no fish sauce.

To answer rxrfrx's question I love meat as in, it tastes really good when I eat it. I don't constantly crave meat, but when I'm hungry, that's usually what I want to eat.

In reply to xmutex's comment, not all vegans are annoying. I think as with anyone else, only the intolerant ones are annoying. Luckily for me, he's very tolerant of my meat habits (and even paid for some of our dates where I ordered a dish with meat), other than making me brush my teeth after any meal with meat in it.
posted by nakedsushi at 2:33 PM on December 16, 2005

Ethiopian, Indian and Lebanese restaurants are good options, too. A google search for "vegan friendly restaurants [your city]" should turn up a zillion and a half places that aren't strictly no-meat.

"Vegans are really annoying people to go out with."

And I'm sure you're just a delight to spend an evening with.
posted by cmonkey at 2:37 PM on December 16, 2005

You're going to have a lot of trouble with restaurants unless they are intentionally vegan. Most of the cuisines that are great for vegetarians (Ethopian, Indian, Thai, Chinese) are not vegan.
posted by desuetude at 2:41 PM on December 16, 2005

Most of the cuisines that are great for vegetarians (Ethopian, Indian, Thai, Chinese) are not vegan.

Yeah, this is very true, and reason why most "vegans" aren't really vegan. As long as it mostly seems like totally vegan, go for it.
posted by xmutex at 2:48 PM on December 16, 2005

we usually go to a vegan/vegetarian place where sometimes I don't feel satisfied after my meal

This might be because you aren't eating any meat, but it might also be because you are eating a meal with a tiny amount of protein compared to what you would eat if you had a steak or whatever (it is hard to tell from what you say). It is a common belief that vegetarian food consists of piles of vegetables and the occasional salad, but you are certainly not obligated to stick to this while eating vegetarian food. The person who said that whey and egg are the only good protein sources is talking nonsense. Nuts, seeds, beans/legumes of all sorts, and some grains are also excellent sources. As to soy, it fashionable to bash, but most critics seem to miss the fact that there are a number of oriental cultures with soy-heavy diets, and any claim that soy causes X predicts significant increases of X in all these cultures, a prediction that as far as I know is not at all borne out. So it might be that some simple nutritional information would increase your enjoyment of vegetarian food - try to get the protein/carb/etc. balance approximately the same as in your typical carnivorous meal, and see whether it leaves you empty then.

As to the question, I expect that the answer is only "no" if the vegan is vegan for ethical reasons (i.e. prefers that animals not be killed/harmed/etc.) Well, the answer may be "no" in this case - this situation seems tantamount to an atheist/agnostic unwilling to be converted dating a very religious person, and some people can apparently do this. Unfortunately it seems likely that he is, since most people who remove some kinds of meat from their diet for other reasons (e.g. health) don't end up going as far as veganism.

A (long-term) option is to move some place with a wider selection of restaurants, since part of the problem you are describing sounds like a problem about a lack of compromise restaurants - believe it or not there are restaurants that have both good veggie _and_ meat options. NYC or San Francisco would fit the bill here. As people have said also, Indian food fits the bill for this too. On preview, if you know a bit about the food involved it should be entirely possible to avoid the vegetarian Indian/etc. food that involves dairy.
posted by advil at 3:05 PM on December 16, 2005

My partner and I have pretty opposing diets - she's a vegan, I like meat and, well, I'm not really a big vegetable fan. We've been together for ten years and this has really been a very minor issue with us. Like most aspects in a relationship, I suspect it comes down to respect and tolerance with the occasional sacrifice and compromise thrown in.
posted by Staggering Jack at 3:18 PM on December 16, 2005

I have been a vegetarian for all but 6 of my 31 years and my wife has always eaten meat. We eat vegetarian at home, and I get the limited selection when we go out to eat. Which works out fine.

But it occurs to me that adhering to a vegan diet would be infuriating. And the folks who are suggesting indian restaurants as vegan friendly are smoking crack1.

You know what? I say "no, it can't work." It can for a while, but eating is eventually going to become SO stressful after you tire of the 6 things he can eat that it will foster a passive-aggressive argument every weekend when you consider going out to eat or composing a shopping list. My diet is nowhere near as restrictive as your boyfriend's and it takes a lot of work to keep us both interested.

1 - Yes, yes, you know of some special vegan indian place. Most of us aren't that cool and have to go to the regular ones that have butterfat in everything.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:23 PM on December 16, 2005

It's not the vegan/carnivore thing that puts the red flag up, it's the inherent dynamic that already seems to be at work.

As in: "Luckily for me, he's very tolerant of my meat habits (and even paid for some of our dates where I ordered a dish with meat)". Of course he should pay for some of the dates where you had meat. You're you, you eat meat. You pay for some of his meals *without* meat, right? You pay for his tofu/legumes/whatever, right? If he doesn't make a big deal of it, then this "oh my god, will he think I'm gross if I eat meat and will he make us split the bill in some way where I pay for the meat portion of my dinner" seems already out of the comfort zone. Even if being a vegan is an ethical choice for him, if he chooses to be with you, he chooses to understand that it's not your choice, thus if you're to have any kind of reciprocal relationship, that needs to be addressed.

Which leads me to the next quote, "making me brush my teeth after any meal with meat in it." What, he won't kiss you if you've consumed meat? Seriously? That seems like he is making a bigger deal out of it than you'd like (the restaurant decisions/paying and the fact that it is too gross to him to be with you afterwards), otherwise you wouldn't have mentioned these two aspects of your relationship.

Can a vegan and a meat-eater co-exist? Sure. Smokers and non-smokers do. Drinkers and non-drinkers, too. Quiet and loud, Mac and PC, techy and arty, sciencey and humanities, non-profiters and business-types, yoga and football. They are all just choices and differences, but some of them mean something to one or both of you; that is, that compromising on the relationship feels like compromising on who you are. That's when it usually doesn't work.
posted by fionab at 3:33 PM on December 16, 2005

pesto contains parmesan cheese, therefore not vegan. I found that out to my regret when my daughter became vegan a few months ago (from a state of vegetraianism); since its only the two of us at home it has been a challenge to eat healthily. In fact, I am going to post an askme about this.

Remember that strict vegans won't sit on a leather chair and need to be very sure of what they eat -- gelatin is a common food ingredient that contains animal products. This arose in England when I lived there during the first admission by gov't of mad cow connection to vCJD and a lot of vegetarians and vegans suddenly were made aware of the fact they had been consuming trace amounts of beef in the capsules surrounding their various nutritional supplements.
posted by Rumple at 3:35 PM on December 16, 2005

As a long-time vegetarian (and shorter-time vegan) who has ended up pretty much never dating other vegetarians, I'd say it can work. But it worked because my girlfriends accepted the complications my diet imposed on our social eating as a consequence of being involved with me. If it had become a basis for resentment (to my knowledge it never did), things would have ceased working.

Rumple: vegan pesto recipe.

ewkpates, did you actually read your linked article, which does nothing but sing the praises of a high-soy diet over the standard American diet, and says not one word about soy being bad for the testicles?

posted by Zed_Lopez at 4:02 PM on December 16, 2005

Rumple: vegan pesto recipe.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh oh my god PLEASE STOP NOW AND FOREVER. lysed yeast is no replacement for Parmigiano-Reggiano, the King of Cheeses.

and says not one word about soy being bad for the testicles?

again: that page points out that soy can diminish the effects of testosterone in the body, attenuating the effect of the testicles.


Ultimately, folks, I believe what fionab and I said is important: if you honestly care about eating anything that is delicious (and you honestly find everything potentially delicious), you are never going to have a fulfilling relationship with someone who refuses to feel this way. Having dietary restrictions, whether for religious or health reasons, or some other reason, is like a smack in the face of the hedonistic enjoyment of eating. Read one of Jeffrey Steingarten's, Tony Bourdain's, or Calvin Trillin's books if you don't get what I'm saying. If you would ever consider replacing a fine cheese in a classic recipe with lysed yeast scraped from the bottom of a beer tank... then you won't be a good match for a person who understands why this is a travesty.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:13 PM on December 16, 2005

I think ultimately no, but not in all cases . . . but the thing about the "even paying for the meals where I ate meat" (to paraphrase) and the tooth-brushing thing send up a flag for me. I mean, to some extent, when you say, "I don't care if you smoke, so long as your clothes don't stink and you take a shower after you've been out smoking all night and as long as you brush your teeth and drink a gallon of listerine before coming near me," you are saying, "Quit smoking already, asshole." This is not dissimilar.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:56 PM on December 16, 2005

that soy crap is also bad for people that come without testicles. messes with the thyroid. be careful.

and i would have to agree with those who feel that your relationship is somewhat doomed.
posted by macinchik at 5:00 PM on December 16, 2005

I think the only way this could work is if you don't really care about food. I started reading the thread thinking that it might not be much of a problem, but a couple of things have convinced me otherwise. As a committed omnivore and food nut, I'm going to try to be as delicate as possible. I don't want to be a jerk. I have vegetarian friends who are a lot of fun and never object to my eating whatever animal I care to eat, so I'd like to return the favor.

1) The whole "brush my teeth after any meal with meat in it" really sorta sticks in my craw. It indicates to me that either a) he thinks your breath is just disgusting because it includes the smell of meat or b) he has convinced himself of a because of his morality-based approach to his diet. Either way, I'd be really annoyed with my girlfriend if she reproached me for my breath, short of me having eaten a mountain of garlic or something. Anyway, you seem to be deferring to him more than you should--you're letting him get away with making you feel bad about your own choices.

2) This thread shows you two very different approaches to food. People who eat what they like because it tastes good, and those who are primarily concerned with morals or nutritional content or whatever. I think the latter approach is perfectly respectable, but it's not something I'd ever consider for myself. I can't imagine restricting my diet for any reason other than imminent death (or something tasting bad).

Please excuse me for saying so, but it seems that this guy feels superior to you. That seems unhealthy to me. There are tons of culinary ways for you to get along, but if your guy obviously thinks he's better than you in this area, he might have self-righteous tendencies in other ones.
posted by lackutrol at 5:03 PM on December 16, 2005

And whatever your food restrictions, the vegan pesto recipe is a travesty. I've been impressed with some great vegan food, but I have never been impressed with something that tries to imitate non-vegan food. Proper pesto cannot be made without two kinds of milkfat: butter and Parmigiano. And where do the almonds come from? Pine nuts or maybe walnot would be more appropriate.
posted by lackutrol at 5:14 PM on December 16, 2005

posted by lackutrol at 5:16 PM on December 16, 2005

Are you going to be together for every meal? Probably not (and if you are, I would suggest that more than anything will destroy the relationship). So try to get your "meat fix" in when you're not eating with your partner. If you're lunching alone, go ahead and go to your favorite meat-serving restaurant then, and eat a vegan meal with your partner at supper. Also, cooking at home will probably be best. I strongly suggest getting a vegan cookbook and learning to do the thing properly. This will ensure that neither of you are starving.
posted by katyggls at 7:12 PM on December 16, 2005

macinchik writes "that soy crap is also bad for people that come without testicles. messes with the thyroid."

They're not saying anything that could not be re-iterated about every type of food on the planet. You over-consume or supplement a bad diet you should expect negative side-effects. Moral reasons aside, any diet (if not properly administered) is bad for you. Consuming meat culled from animals injected with growth hormones, or animals that eat GM foods specifically tailored to gain mass or remove impurities has side effects when consumed by humans. Similarly, a lot of agricultural products (in North America at least) are spliced with DNA from species (be it plant/animal/mineral) that induce characteristics that, although profitable in crop yield, the cumulative and/or long term effect on human consumption is still undetermined.

Back to the question:
Veganism is an ideology largely derived from a particular moral or ethical reasoning. If he were only vegetarian, then the moral justification for the diet is either non-existent (eg. he's doing it for health reasons) or not strong enough that consuming dairy or wearing leather are justifiable. Your ideologies are different. This is (IMHO) similar to different religious beliefs, stances on abortion (religious or not), marriage etc. In other words (and obviously not all cases) the likelihood of the relationship succeeding is not high.

Sorry for the long post. This is something I've had to deal with on more than one occasion.
posted by purephase at 8:44 PM on December 16, 2005

Um, Indian food (and by that, I take it you are referring to the Punjabi-Mughal combo found most often in restaurants abroad) is a great choice for vegetarians because of the plethora of choices we have, but it's definitely not the ideal choice for vegans. If you want to stay away from dairy-based products, you may find that hard. Some examples:

Butter and ghee may be used to fry the masala, which itself rules those dishes out.

Cream may be used to enrich the gravy, which won't work either.

Tandoori dishes (even veggo ones) will probably use yoghurt in the marinades. Yoghurt may also be used in the gravy of less rich dishes.

Paneer, which is made from milk, may be used in vegetarian dishes or in stuffing. 90% of Indian sweets are milk-based.

Naan may also use milk in the dough.

Veganism is not big in our culture. ;)
posted by madman at 10:41 PM on December 16, 2005

Pesto contains parmesan cheese, therefore not vegan. You're right, i'm sorry. The pesto I use does not have any cheese in it, but I am sure the one in restaurants does.
I think there are still vegan choices in most Italian restaurants, though.

On further reading this thread, I agree with the sentiment that this does not sound good. The book I mentioned before might be a good idea, if you are serious about the relationship. The teethbrushing thing depends. I did like my husband to brush his teeth after eating some types of fish and salami, since his breath would really be unpalatable for me. (He did not need to brush his teeth, but kissing him with that breath made me nauseaus). Other meats - no problem. If he had a problem with my garlicy meals, I would also gladly brush my teeth.

Of course he should pay for your meals with meat. Duh. It would never occur to me that that would be special in any way.

If he is as militant as it sounds, have him read this.
posted by davar at 2:03 AM on December 17, 2005

You mentioned that you're lactose intolerant, which is a dietary limitation. Veganism is also a dietary limitation, albeit a more restrictive + optional one.

Medical restrictions lead to many couples with incompatible diets. . It's an imperfect analogy, but it's worth observing how couples succeed when a partner has diabetes, peanut allergies, etc.

If the vegan has a good attitude, this approach could work. If they are more abrasive, giving nice vegetarians like me a bad reputation, there may be emotional matters to address moreso than dietary ones.

(on preview, spellcheck suggested egoism for veganism, I smell conspiracy)
posted by yorick at 4:49 AM on December 17, 2005

It depends on the couple, obviously. And I agree with those who said that the toothbrushing thing raises big flags. BIG flags.

My husband is a vegetarian who recently started eating fish and I am the type of carnivore who eats as many types of meat on one sandwich as possible. Before living together, I didn't eat fish at all, but I've expanded my diet to include fish to accomodate my husband and I've found that I really enjoy it.

His attitude on vegetarianism is that it's HIS choice and he doesn't want to foist it on anyone. He has not only paid for meals of mine where I eat meat, he has taken me out for big greasy bacon cheeseburgers because he knows I enjoy it and has been content to munch on some of my fries. At the same time, I've gone out and bought him sushi and just had a few bites of rice or something because it's not something that I enjoy. We compromise a lot, but we also allow the other their indulgences and it works out very well for us.

My metabolism is such that I have a very very hard time when I'm not eating meat - and I have tried vegetarianism at many points in my life and I've found that soy makes me sick. I get the most awful stomachaches from too much soy. And without including soy products, I simply don't get enough varieties of protein to function optimally. At the same time, I know that my husband does well on a diet where nuts and legumes provide most of his protein, with the occasional meal of fish.

And really, the brushing your teeth? Can he honestly TASTE the meat on your breath? That's a bit much. My husband will gladly give me a big sloppy kiss after I've had a gigantic steak, but he draws the line at blue cheese because honestly, it stinks.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:45 AM on December 17, 2005


well, that doesn't mean I never eat them or anything, just that they're lower on my list, and a meal centered around those components would be kinda meh. But a good cook can often make anything exciting, so that's not a blanket statement, just a tendency. To me, they're the blandest & generally heaviest (well, except peppers which just seem bitter) of the veggies. Good cheese is a pleasure, but generally in small amounts & with nice wine or breads or something; american cheese/cheese "flavored" stuff is just nasty, and very ordinary supermarket cheddar/jack(etc) isn't that interesting (a grilled cheese on good bread with fresh tomato & spinach can be nice on occasion). I adore pretty much anything green & leafy, olives, garbanzo, soy, most nuts, most fruits, sesame, coconut, miso, most whole grains, avocado, sea greens, etc. I love food - but not over processed, over cooked, overly fatty with no bite, or bland.

This is why carnivores hate you.

meat-eaters don't hate me - notice I said "I was not expected..." to deal with meat. It was understood between the two of us. It's not that I militantly, self-righteously refused on all occasions or something - it's just that it was generally respected that it would be kind of unfair to ask me - like asking someone who's boycotting something to pick it up for you. Again, some vegetarians don't feel that way, and I'm an easy going person in general so that if it were likely to be a major issue I might compromise (I mean, I did the steak-house, and she cooked turkey at home on holidays, etc), but I did appreciate that my partner didn't press that on me. But I'm not anti-carnivore - I understand arguments on the other side and respect the choice (I do respect it more when it really is a choice, though, rather than a general, oh who gives a shit attitude). I enjoyed Temple Grandin's book on working for the meat industry. But I feel about eating all animals the way a lot of people tend to feel about eating dogs & cats, or even babies... it's not just rational, it also kind of makes me feel icky. I don't like eating muscles and blood. And I just don't naturally have the sense that the divide between people & animals (esp other mammals & birds) is as wide as some people do. Of course, we can't know these things with certainty, and some people really crave meat, so I'm pro-choice about it.

This thread shows you two very different approaches to food. People who eat what they like because it tastes good, and those who are primarily concerned with morals or nutritional content or whatever.

they don't have to be two separate areas. If you're fairly in tune with your body, they shouldn't be separate areas, even. And anyway I think the majority of folks live in some kind of weird 'impulse' land where they eat stuff that is both bad for you and simultaneously is hardly a true sensory pleasure, like mcdonald's, etc.

And really, the brushing your teeth? Can he honestly TASTE the meat on your breath?

posted by mdn at 11:20 AM on December 17, 2005

Veganism, at least in non-Indics, comes from conscious and extensive deliberation and is not to be trifled with. We know all about what we’re “missing” (in fact, some of us read Anthony Bourdain, enjoy him, and quote him on our Weblogs) and are totally all right with that.

The typical omnivore never ever made a conscious decision one way or another. At best he or she will respond to his or her partner’s mentioning veganism, which will probably be the first time he or she ever thought about it and took a stand. Vegans are to omnivores what gays are to straights – a group whose existence calls into conscious understanding a fact about yourself you always took for granted.

Your relationship is not necessarily doomed, but this shit is never gonna go away, so you’d be better off getting used to a certain degree of friction. And I wouldn’t kiss you with a mouth coated with beef gristle, either.
posted by joeclark at 2:40 PM on December 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

That Bourdain quote always gives me a chuckle. Of course, any vegetarian going to Les Halles either has a screw loose or is just accomodating someone else's preferences.

I stand by my "two approaches" thesis. Sure, there are people whose natural preferences might approach the diet dictated by kashrut or vegetarianism or whatever. But we're not really talking about that, or about people who just don't think about diet. We're talking about a major life choice by which you preclude yourself from eating certain things, for moral or religious reasons.

I can respect these choices without sharing them, or even thinking they're even remotely a good idea. I think "kosher steakhouse" is an affront to beef, and can't imagine life without the wonderful variety of cured meats available to me. But that doesn't mean I don't respect Jews who keep kosher or vegetarians, or that I can't ever eat with them. But it would be difficult to eat with them all the time, especially the vegetarian who likely thinks my menu morally flawed.

And to joeclark and mdn, your feeling that the taste of meat is always and everywhere icky is not shared by us omnivores. That's why the tooth-brushing thing seems insulting to the meat-eaters in this thread. It's as if you think we've just eaten roadkill or something.
posted by lackutrol at 3:43 PM on December 18, 2005

[Y]our feeling that the taste of meat is always and everywhere icky is not shared by us omnivores.
Of course not. That’s why we’re vegans and you aren’t. Saying it should be fine for vegans to kiss a loved one who just consumed meat is like saying gays can get married all they want, as long as it’s to the opposite sex. It does not merely miss the point, it contradicts the point.
posted by joeclark at 9:00 PM on December 18, 2005

Joeclark, this is probably way too late for anyone to see it, but my point is not necessarily that "it should be fine," but rather that since it's pretty much always going to be perceived as insulting to insinuate that your loved one tastes gross, one should be a little sensitive about mentioning it. Doesn't seem like Ms. nakedsushi's boyfriend is making any effort in that direction, quite the opposite.

The onus should not be on her to accomodate his feeling of moral superiority. There should be mutual accomodation.
posted by lackutrol at 4:27 PM on December 21, 2005

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