I have been a vegetarian for my entire life – well, almost. When I was two years old, my mom (also a vegetarian) claims she let me try turkey and I spit it out. From that day on, she decided that I must also, conveniently, be a vegetarian.
Of course there were times I was curious about the taste of meat throughout my childhood. There was that time at camp my friend dared me to eat prime rib. Or when I tried a tiny piece of bacon at a Fourth of July camping trip (yes, I admit, it smelled pretty amazing). But whether I’ve tried chicken or fish or red meat over the years, the taste and texture just haven’t appealed to me.
Now 28 years later, I still don’t eat meat. And to answer the questions I get way too often: No, I don’t only eat salad. Yes, I get enough nutrients. No, I’m not offended by people who do eat meat. And yes, it’s possible for a vegetarian and meat eater to be in a relationship.
This one goes out to anyone who loves a vegetarian: here are nine things every vegetarian wants their partner to know.
1. The moment we reveal we’re vegetarians is more stressful than you might think.
I’ve seen a variety of reactions. Some look sad that I’ve never experienced a Happy Meal. Others try to coax me to eat “just one tiny bite.” And then there are those who look absolutely horrified and just can’t fathom how someone could survive without meat. When I told my boyfriend, he nonchalantly said, “Oh ya, my mom is a vegetarian.” And that was it ― no questions asked.
2. You may not understand the trauma we feel when we accidentally eat meat.
A couple weeks ago, I ordered vegetarian chili. When I tried the first spoonful, I noticed the texture was odd. I looked down and noticed some unidentified meat floating in the chili. I immediately called my boyfriend at work to tell him I found something like “crushed chicken bones” hiding in my chili. And that I was never going back to that restaurant EVER AGAIN. He may have thought I was overreacting. Just a tad.
3. It may take awhile for us to truly get that “fake meat” just isn’t the same for you as the real thing.
When we first started dating, I wanted to impress my boyfriend by making him breakfast. I cooked him eggs, toast and veggie bacon. When he tried to eat the “bacon,” he looked like he was chewing a piece of paper. I asked if he liked it, and he said it was like eating cardboard. And that was the last time I ever cooked him fake bacon.
4. Even though we have different diets, we can still cook together.
My boyfriend and I are experts at making vegetarian meals that can be transformed into the meat version by simply adding one ingredient. Pasta primavera? Just add grilled chicken. Bean and cheese tacos? Mix in some ground beef. Veggie pizza? Sprinkle pepperoni on half.
5. We’ve accepted that we may have a ridiculous amount of leftovers when we go out to eat together.
So what do we do when we want different appetizers? Or when we’re at a family-style restaurant and can’t agree on an entrée? We compromise, of course. And by compromise, I mean we each order our own dishes and have leftovers for days.
6. Steak houses aren’t actually so bad for us.
I am a vegetarian and I like steakhouses. Why? Because they actually have some of the best vegetarian sides, from the cooked veggies and salad bar to mashed potatoes and mac and cheese.
7. We’re cheap dates (and proud of it).
Well, it’s true. I’ve noticed even the most expensive vegetarian entrée is often cheaper than the least expensive meat option.
8. We understand you might be confused about what we can and can’t eat (it’s not always so straightforward).
For example, I don’t eat “vegetarian” dishes that contain fish oil or chicken broth. And I just recently learned that even foods like gummy bears, marshmallows and non-dairy creamer may have gelatin, which is made from animal skin and bones.
9. We don’t judge you because you eat meat.
And I know it doesn’t really matter to my boyfriend what I choose to eat – we understand each other’s differences. Plus, he gets to keep all the meat leftovers for himself. And I don’t mind eating all the veggie sides off his plate. The good news is, he doesn’t mind either!