On Living With an Omnivore


I live with an omnivore. He’s my best friend and also happens to be the person I’ve chosen to live with forever. Yes, he is my husband.

What some people would view as somewhat of a phenomenon (a vegan and and an omnivore coexisting peacefully) we don’t really know any different.

Let me explain. We had food differences way before I ever had even the slightest inclinations towards a plant-based diet.

Example:

On our first date, I spent all day (no joke, ask my sister-in-law Kathy) preparing a very elaborate, gourmet dinner. Sure to impress, the majority of the work was spent on whipping up a rich, decadent chocolate cake (of which I can no longer remember what exactly was in it, only to say it had a lot of cream, expensive chocolate, and maybe some strawberries). When we got to the meal, neither of us ate much, as we were googling over each other (who needs food when you’ve just tasted the fruits of the beginning of eternal love??).
I was later to find out that Joseph wasn’t a huge fan of cake, or chocolate cake for that matter. In our first year of marriage, through much trial and error I was to discover that my husband (perhaps very different from most men, or so I’d like to think), that he didn’t appreciate the long hours in the kitchen, the sun dried tomatoes on the pizza to give it extra flair, or my amazing concoction of squash soup served with a dollop of sour cream and garnished with parsley.
I had an “aha” moment, about a year after we were married, where I realized that my husband was a man of simple tastes, with a rather fixed and specific palate. He could eat rice, beans, tortillas, and cheese and taco meat for nearly every meal. That moment marked the beginning of my realization that I needed to embrace his specific likes. In a sense, I’ve tried to embrace what is and not “kick against the pricks” and make something I know he doesn’t like and then get mad when he’s not doing cartwheels about it. This has made our lives so much easier.
Top: Me holding a pizza I made for Joseph. Above: Me and my dear husband.

I’m still discovering his likes and dislikes. Those that I am sure of:

Likes:
Beans. Rice. Cheese. Ground beef with A LOT of taco seasoning in it. Strawberries. Oranges. Ice-berg lettuce, or the equivalent crunchy lettuce to go on his tacos. Home-made white flour tortillas. Sunflower seeds in the shell. Cheeze-Its. Candy pumpkins. Plain ol’ Lay’s potato chips. A & W Rootbeer. On occasion, my “green” smoothies, if “they aren’t too green.” Ben & Jerry’s strawberry cheesecake ice cream. Bacon. Sausage. Baby carrots. Tomatoes.

Dislikes:
Chicken. Cabbage. Seafood (with the exception of salmon). Eating breakfast. Cauliflower. Squash. Sweet potatoes/Yams. Beets. Sour cream.

And then there are those things that are in a special category of their own:

Things he doesn’t dislike but doesn’t prefer or see a need for:
Maple syrup (why put syrup on his pancakes when he likes strawberry jam better?). Sauces, dips, and embellishments to food of any sort.

And then there’s the

I-will-never-touch-even-with-a-ten-foot-pole foods category
(In order of importance):
1. Mushrooms
2. Eggplant
3. Cooked greens (kale, spinach, ect.)

So, you may be asking yourself, how is it that we exist? I know that many spouses feel discouragement over wanting to make some real changes in terms of diet and healthful living. It can become a real sore spot in many marriages, especially if one spouse becomes insistent that other spouse change “or else.” I met a girl once who had made the change to a vegan diet, but her husband was not interested at all. In fact, he was openly hostile (a result of her insistence, I’m sure). Instead of accepting that, she insisted that there was NEVER anything in the house that she didn’t approve of (like meat). She wouldn’t even allow it to to be in the house, let alone cooked in the house. Now talk about a real way to build some wedges in a marriage!

I like lists, so here’s a little list of things we do and have proven helpful in allowing both of us to feel loved, accepted, and respected:

1. Allow your spouse to be an adult. To make their own decisions. If they need a mom in their life to tell them what to do, they can go home to get a dose of that. I try to never tell Joseph what to eat or not eat. One of the best ways to “change” someone, if you can call it that, is to just live your life, worry about yourself, and your example will speak for itself. A good example speaks much more strongly than a nag. No one wants to live in a police state.

2. Avoid being preachy. This just comes off as self-righteous, which is definitely NOT attractive. I like to share what I’m learning with Joseph, and he is genuinely interested in what I care about. He knows a ton of stuff about the benefits of eat whole foods, not eating meat, some of the negative effects of dairy, and so on.

3. Decide how you will do meals. For breakfast and lunch, Joseph is on his own (at school), so he pretty much eats what he wants although many times he’ll take leftovers from the night before. For dinner, it’s not a democracy, although I try to be as considerate of his specific tastes as possible (I usually don’ use squash, or eggplant, or cabbage as a part of our dinner meals). Some of our favorite dishes that we both enjoy are spaghetti (he makes his own meat and occasionally I make or buy vegan meatballs), baked potatoes with toppings of our choice (broccoli, chili, non-dairy cheese are some of our favorites), and some variation on burritos/tacos/tostadas. Soups are also a really easy favorite, as there are many variations and Joseph can easily add some ground beef to his if he wants.

4. Do seperate grocery shopping if needed. I go shopping for the family, and Joseph has some of our grocery money budgeted to do his own shopping. This is a great way for both of us to feel like we are getting what we want.

5. Avoid cooking two meals. Too much work, too much time. Avoid it. Instead, make a list of things that you both like that are vegan and could be easily made non-vegan with the addition of a side of meat or cheese.

6. Remember that you are in this together. Avoid judgement, competition, or any sort of negative comments about your spouse. Joseph is my biggest supporter, fan, and ally. He supports all of my decisions and encourages me to do the things that I like and want to do. Likewise, I allow him to eat what he wants, and I praise and encourage any positive choices/changes. I will even make him some of his favorite treats from time-to-time, or I will find tasty vegan versions of some of his favorites (like these mint-chocolate chip cookies that are to die for, and they’re vegan!).

7. Gratitude goes a long way! Show your spouse gratitude for all of the work they go into preparing meals, and show patience when things don’t turn out the way you planned, especially when a recipe doesn’t turn out as planned.

7. It’s all about the love. At the end of the day, it’s you and your spouse. Whatever you need to do to make your spouse happy and loved, do it!

So while I don’t eat animal products and my husband does, we are still happy. Through trial and error, much communication, and compromise, we have been able to both eat the way that we want to without sacrificing either one of our agencies/ablitity to choose.

One last thought. I really am so grateful for a husband who is so supportive of me. I realize we may not eat the same foods, and while I would love it if he came full on vegan today, I’m okay with the fact that he may never be a vegan, or vegetarian even. Having our differences and having to learn to compromise and communicate really has made our marriage richer, more intimate, and even more satisfying.


Comments


  1. Vegan Mothering
    on February 5, 2009 at 11:41 pm said:

    Deja, Joseph's a grouch when he doesn't eat. And don't we all feel awful after eating something we know we shouldn't have? No one is immune from the negative effects of overprocessed, acidic, and/or carcogenic food forever. I hope you're enjoying your newlyweddness, btw.

  2. Vegan Mothering
    on February 5, 2009 at 11:34 pm said:

    Isn't my husband wonderful?? Janae

  3. Vegan Mothering
    on February 5, 2009 at 8:39 pm said:

    So, two times in a row now, here I am. By the way, this is Joseph, Janae's husband. I don't know how to sign in not under Janae's account. Honestly, I've only just managed to figure that much out. I want to post something that I hope will encourage those making the transition toward a healthier diet in the face of a reluctant husband. To do this, I draw your attention to Janae's list of my likes and dislikes. The fact is, it is dated. What she wrote would have been accurate two years ago. Tomatoes, beans, rice, tortillas, ground beef, cheese… these are still among my favorites. However, for some times now I've made my tortillas using wheat and not white flour,and though the change was a little reluctant, I'm now very fond of wheat flour tortillas and would choose to make them that way even if they were only for myself. The same is true of pancakes, waffles, bread, and a number of other things for which I used to demand white flour. A few days ago Janae made breakfast and she was so happy at having made me my own batch from pure white flour that was Oh so tasty that I didn't have the heart to tell her that I'd be equally happy with wheat flour. Janae used to get these big things of ground beef that I would work through over a period of a couple of weeks. Now, the ground beef that we have in our freezer goes back a number of months. I just don't eat it much. And Janae bought me this big thing of taco seasoning months ago, and I don't think I've even opened it. I use more natural flavoring now. I used to run through bags of those candy pumpkins that I love so much, so this Halloween Janae bought me two bags. They are still in the cupboard. I can't bring myself to eat them. I haven't had iceberg lettuce in forever, preferring romaine or even better, spinach leaves on my sandwiches. While I'm not drawn to a spoonful of solitary soggy cooked spinach, Janae cooks it up in soups and I think it tastes great.Anyway, I don't write this to contradict Janae. Everything she wrote was once right and much of it still is. Only, I want her and others to be made aware that husbands, when they know their wives just love them and want to live longer with them, can and are thrilled to change, so long as our wives are willing to be patient with us. It just takes a little longer.

  4. Vegan Mothering
    on February 5, 2009 at 8:35 pm said:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Deja
    on February 5, 2009 at 7:33 pm said:

    Excellent advice here. I need to do better at not judging Sam's food choices, but sometimes it's so hard when I KNOW he feels terrible because he ate terribly or didn't eat at all. (Not that I'm a naggy meanie brat. I already try…)Last week we made a big organized list of meals we both like, and it was lovely. The activity ended up reminding us of so many wonderful meals we had shared, food we had made for each other, etc. It's a joy to share my life with someone, even if I'm still figuring out how to do it. Sounds like you and Joseph have made some beautiful, wise progress. (I didn't make a joke about your last name–I didn't, I didn't. 😉

  6. The Richins
    on February 5, 2009 at 6:11 pm said:

    Your first year of marriage is always so trying. Learning what your husbands habits, likes and dislikes are can be frustrating. And then added a different lifestyle, I can't imagine how hard that was at first.When Steve and I first got married, the food thing was kind of hard. Steve doesn't like canned veggies, or anything green. And I'm not a huge fan of carrots and meat at every dinner. Finding a good balance took some work, but in the end, it all worked out. Communication is key in everything! Especially while pregnant and food is just gross sometimes but you know you want to eat something, but you don't know what that something is. (My current state LOL)