Vegetarians and Carnivores Living Together: How to Keep Peace in the Kitchen

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"You're a vegetarian? ... Oh."

It's a disappointed mutter heard on first dates all around the country. And it makes me want to pull my hair out.

As a vegetarian that was single for quite awhile before I met my wonderful meat-eater of a guy, I found myself at the receiving end of this weird sort of prejudice a handful of times.

I know there are reasons behind why omnivores might not want to take up with vegetarians and vice versa. But the fact is, more and more people are going meatless, and that trend is likely to continue. And you know what? I'm here to tell you that, as a vegetarian living with a meat-eater, it's not that bad. At all. In fact, it can be fun. I promise! My guy would say the same thing.

Matt and Amy
Image: Kusine via Flickr

Yes, of course, it is absolutely your prerogative to make diet a deal-breaker. You know what's most important to you when it comes to how you spend your time and the people you spend your time with, especially if you're particularly passionate about your view.

But who knows--you may already be married to your loved one when he opts to go vegan or she decides it's time to to throw red meat to the curb. Regardless of how you find yourself in this situation, living the multi-vore life really is easier than you may think.

In my experience, it boils down to three things: having an open mind, being willing to compromise a bit, and doing a little creative thinking.

Open your mind

It comes down to this: you don't have to understand one another's choices to respect them. Honestly, I pretty much think meat and seafood are disgusting. My guy feels the exact same way about tofu. We silently acknowledge our differences, we move past it, and we move on, together. No preaching, no trying to convert. I don't give him grief over eating meat, and he doesn't lasciviously wave bacon in front of my face.

Okay, okay, I admit that during a weak moment, I did recently text "poor little lamby" when my guy requested a gyro from our favorite Greek restaurant. And, a couple of months ago, when I asked my guy what he did to make a batch of oatmeal so delicious, he jokingly replied, "bacon grease." But we're several years into this and we've established that base of mutual respect. If we do decide to go there occasionally with one another, it's generally pretty safe.

Compromise

As a vegetarian, you might have a tough time knowing meat has been cooked in the same skillet as your beloved salt and pepper tofu. But that doesn't necessarily mean you must banish meat from your kitchen. Consider compromising, if you can. Buy pans that you can sanitize in the dishwasher, or have two sets--one for meat and one meat will never, ever touch.

And if you're a dedicated meat-eater, you may have never considered that a meatless dinner can be plenty satisfying. But why not give it a go once in awhile? My carnivorous guy's advice: try that meatless dish your beloved vegetarian just prepared--even if you're feeling a little dubious. Unless it's "eggplant tofu bean sprout foo foo" (his exact words), it's probably going to be worth the compromise. And who knows--you might just discover your new favorite dish didn't even need the meat. Another point my guy makes: you may already eat more delicious vegetarian meals than you realized, without a second thought about the fact that they're meatless. Mac and cheese, anyone?

It's funny. These days, when I offer to add some sort of meat to an otherwise vegetarian dish for my guy, more often than not, he'll decline. "Doesn't need it," he says. Conversely, sometimes all my guy wants for dinner is a big ol' steak. I make up a side dish or two to go along with it, and make the sides my dinner. (And actually, loaded baked potatoes are all that.)

Get creative

Most of us grew up with chicken or beef the cornerstone of every meal--it's deeply ingrained that dinner must be built around the cut of meat you've chosen. Not so! There are so many ways to make a balanced meal that isn't centered around meat.

Yes, vegetarian meals are often seen as restrictive because you can't include meat. Consider, though, the world of possibilities that actually opens up when you don't have to include that one single category of food--meat--in every single meal.

In our house, of course, meat still factors in. But it's no longer the star of the show. Many of the recipes I make start out vegetarian, then I divide the dish and add meat to a portion toward the end of the process. Creating and sharing those recipes is one of the reasons Kitchen Treaty exists, but I think it's easy to come up with these types of meals on your own. Try reading your next recipe a little differently--imagine substituting vegetarian ingredients, then adding meat at the end of the process. It's doable with a gazillion different dishes--gazillion being an exact number, of course.

And you know what? Just go have some fun in the kitchen. Try a new meatless food or two. Hit the farmer's market together, ask a few questions, bring that exotic vegetable home, break out the wine, cook it up together. Sounds like a wonderful second date to me.

In fact, you might just find that dating a vegetarian didn't close off your options--it did quite the opposite. It opened up a whole new world.

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