Three years ago, as I was stuffing my face with a juicy, medium-rare Stout burger dripping with brie and gruyere, I declared to my friend, “I could NEVER date a VEGAN.”
And today, here I am, married to a vegan.
The universe is funny like that.
Say “I’m a vegan” in Los Angeles, and people will give you an appreciative nod. Say “I’m a vegan” in New York, and people will respond with a slightly judgmental horrified “but WHY?” Say “I’m a vegan” in a southern state, and people will ask you what the heck that even is (it means that he doesn’t eat any animals whatsoever or animal products like milk and cheese).
Say “I’m married to a vegan, but I’m not one,” to anyone anywhere, and they’ll look slightly worried. “But… how does that work?” people ask me tentatively, afraid they’re about to break the news that there is a fundamental difference between my spouse and me.
It works like anything else: Compromise. Understanding. Acceptance.
First off, we live in a little vegan bubble in Los Angeles. There are a ton of vegan restaurants in our ‘hood, vegan sections in the grocery store and vegan options on most menus anyway. It’s easy to only eat plants here. Even the aforementioned-Stout has a veggie burger option.
Second, although Steve is 15+ years into veganism, he’s not insanely judgmental towards meat eaters, and doesn’t make a big deal about having dead animals in our fridge. He will actually (unbelievably) cook meat for me. Yes, you read that correctly.
“But how do you know how to cook meat?” I asked skeptically the first time he marinated and roasted chicken for me. His answer: he grew up eating meat, and he can judge whether it tastes good by my reaction. Also, these things called recipes tend to work pretty well. Heh. He’s actually a really great chef: creative, experimental, detailed. You have to be able to cook for yourself when you’re a vegan. Lucky, lucky me: his cooking skills translate to meat, too. You should try his fried egg, prosciutto, cheese and avocado breakfast sandwich. He made it for me this morning.
Third, sometimes we have different versions of the same meal. We’ll make fried dough with tomato sauce, and top his with vegan Daiya cheese and mine with real mozzarella. He’ll make salads for dinner topped with “chicken,” only mine will be real meat and his will be a soy-based “chik’n” substitute. Some nights, we’ll have entirely different meals because we’re each craving something unique, but we’ll still eat dinner at the same time.
Fourth, I’m learning to bake with an egg-replacer (appropriately called “Vegg”) and Earth Balance’s “Buttery Spread,” which is soy-based but does really taste like and have the consistency of butter. I used them both to make vegan banana bread this week. It came out pretty spectacularly. I couldn’t taste the difference between it and the real-eggs-and-butter version I made last week. Vegan products are evolving.
And now, some questions I hear over and over:
Don’t you feel weird eating meat around him?
No. On one of our first dates I asked if he’d be weirded out/grossed out if I ate red meat in front of him. He assured me he would not, then took me out for a burger. He has his reasons for living this lifestyle, but they’re his reasons and he doesn’t force them on me or anyone else. He’s not going to sit across from me or anyone we’re eating with and go into detail about how violently the cow was slaughtered or how pigs are smarter than dogs.
Do you have to eat vegan food all the time?
I don’t have to eat anything all the time. Like I mentioned before, if I want chicken or sausage or eggs, I’ll buy them and eat them. But, I enjoyed vegetarian and vegan food before I met Steve, and I enjoy it now. The vegan food in LA is freaking good. Pad See Ew with Tofu from Toi was my favorite Thai dish before I met him, and it’s still my favorite now.
Do you ever feel like you can’t eat somewhere because of him?
There are places I won’t drag him to because I know he’ll have to order something really bland. Sushi restaurants generally aren’t the best places for us, but if I’m craving it or we have a friend in town who really wants to go to Sugarfish, he’ll come along anyway and order avocado or cucumber or vegetable rolls. Again, there is a lot of compromise.
Are you going to become a vegan or vegetarian now?
Never say never, but at this point I’m going with probably not. However, being with Steve has made me more aware of how that wing or filet or egg got to my plate, and if I think about the origin of my sausage for too long, I get queasy. I do go long stretches without eating red meat, but I’ve always been more of a white meat and fish kind of person anyway. Even though I’ve never been a vegetarian or vegan myself, I did regularly eat vegetarian meals just because before I met him. I’ve gone days without eating a living thing, but that doesn’t mean I’m veg.
Why doesn’t he eat meat? It tastes so good!
He does it for ethical reasons. He just doesn’t want to eat anything that was living or came from a living thing, and in his words, “I don’t want to create suffering.” The fact that he feels this way is one of the things I love about him the most.