Friday, 30 December 2016

How to live with a meat-eater (or how to live with a veggie!)

One vegan pizza, one not-so-vegan pizza

Phil and I have been living together for nearly two years now (and I wrote recently about how we've managed to not drive each other too crazy!) and if there's one question I get asked the most, it's "does Phil not eat meat either?"

And of course, I laugh. And anyone who knows Phil will undoubtedly laugh. Phil definitely, definitely, definitely eats meat.

Then the next question is -
"Do you do all the cooking at home?"

Yep - food is one of my biggest passions and cooking is my biggest love, and even if Phil wans to cook - which, in fairness, he does do occasionally - I'm way too much of a control freak to let him do it too regularly.

"So do you cook meat?"

Ah, there's the kicker. Remember two years ago when one of my resolutions was to learn to cook meat? Yeah, that didn't happen. The reality is I not only don't like touching meat, I also have no idea how to cook it. And if I did start cooking meat it would mean having to make two things for dinner every night.

So what do we do?

Well, I cook and Phil eats.

Phil is very, very good. He never complains, aside from the once-in-a-blue-moon "this would be better with some chicken in it", and whenever he's around when this question comes up, he is the first to jump in and tell people that he think I'm a brilliant cook.

(Full disclosure, I'm pescatarian so I do eat fish, but we very rarely eat it at home, maybe once a month.)

When we first started dating he told me all the vegetables he didn't like - courgettes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower - but these days, if cooked well, he'll happily eat all of those (although I'm still trying to get him around to liking veggie's best friend, aubergine).

But the reality is I cook every night, and Phil loves me and respects me, so of course he isn't going to turn his nose up at something I've been slaving over.

Does he wish I cooked meat? Well, I'm sure he does. But I always really try to make tasty and exciting and interesting food every night (although I'm not sure he always loves that I make something different almost every single time I cook, and even when we love something I say "I'll add that onto my list of meals to make again", and then never make it again), and I always try to choose things I know we both would enjoy.

Phil cooks meat if I'm not home, has meat on his sandwiches and when we're out, and I'll occasionally make something and tell him he might want to cook some meat to go alongside it. If I make a roast on  Sunday he'll usually do a piece of meat and I'll make a veggie sausage casserole or a stew for myself. Sometimes we just have completely different things for dinner, or, like in the pizza example above, different versions of the same thing.

Because I do all the cooking and planning, I always make sure I run the week's food past Phil to see what he thinks and adjust if there's something he really doesn't fancy, but I tend to have a good idea of what he likes and what he doesn't. I always ask for feedback during dinner - sometimes I'll love something and Phil might think it's okay, and sometimes it's vice versa.

There are certain things I enjoy that I know Phil won't love too much. He doesn't like seitan, and I only treat myself to a block of tofu if he's out. We also very rarely eat meat substitutes, except the occasionally veggie sausage, but that's mostly because I prefer to cook with vegetables and pulses. I make a lot of one-pot meals - chillies and curries and stews, and often serve Phil extra carbs, as I often forget other people don't always love a dinner of vegetables with vegetables!

To be honest I think Phil finds it harder that I don't really like pasta than that I don't eat meat! 

I don't want Phil to ever think he's getting a bad deal out of me not eating meat, and I'd hate anyone to think "oh poor Phil living with a vegetarian", because I work really hard to make sure we both eat meals that we both enjoy and are good for us. 

It's not always the easiest thing in the world, and I often feel guilty that I can't make Phil a meat pie just like his Mum does, or when he reminds me lentils "aren't his favourite", and I'm sure life would be much easier if we both had the same dietary interests, but we definitely make it work. Phil told me recently that someone said "they don't know how couples can live together if one of them is a vegetarian/gluten-free/vegan" and he quickly jumped in and explained that it's really not that bad! 

Phil definitely eats way less meat now than he used to, but he definitely gets a lot more variety in his diet now! He eats things he'd probably never heard of three years ago, and for me, I'm constantly pushing myself to make new things and try new dishes and new ingredients, and always trying to find new things that we'll enjoy. I'm very lucky that he is an adventurous eater and is always happy to try new things. We've surprised each other a few times! Who knew cheese-free houmous pizza or falafel tacos or miso sweet potatoes would be such a success?

It's definitely a compromise sometimes, but aren't all relationships about making things work? 

And of course, sometimes it's terrible. I've made some disasters. We've had things we couldn't eat. I've made mistakes. I've finished off Phil's dinners way more times than I like to admit. There have been times he's pushed his plate up and had toast for tea.

If you're considering living with someone with different dietary needs to you, my biggest advice is talk, compromise, always be open and honest with each other and respect each other's choices! I've never, ever pushed my lifestyle onto Phil and he has never once tried to encourage me to go back to eating meat. Sometimes you eat the same thing, sometimes you have to have different things. Sometimes it sucks that you can't share tapas, other times it's great that you don't have to share!

I admit for us it's easy as I'm the one who cooks, and I'm the one that doesn't eat meat, but there are millions of blogs, thousands of recipe books and so much inspiration out there that really contradicts this old, dated idea that vegetarian food is all broccoli and tofu and lentils! And the same goes for gluten-free/vegan/paleo etc. 

And finally, it's not a deal breaker, promise! Cook together, learn what you like and don't like and be honest with each other!

Charlotte x

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