Recently, I read an article that really resonated with me. It posed the question “can a vegan ever truly love a carnivore?” As someone who has been a vegetarian for over 30 years and spent the last (almost!) 20 very happily married to a dedicated carnivore this is a question that has come up in my life quite often from others. The question never even occurred to us.
I often get lighthearted jokes from people who assume I am in the midst of slowly trying to convert my husband and I imagine that he gets similar jabs suggesting that it must be tough to live with “one of those people”.
I was very fortunate to be able to choose this path for myself and did so when I was 19. My reasons for making this choice were complex and included a family history of disease related to diet and lifestyle choices. Environmental, philosophical and economic reasons entered into my thinking as well. My rationale has become a bit more nuanced over the years, but has not changed significantly.
I have since become a nutrition professional and have had my early self education validated: a plant based diet can provide optimal nutrition. It is one of many healthy dietary patterns, certainly not the only one. I can honestly answer the frequent question: “Don’t you ever just crave a [ insert meat item here ]? Honestly, NO I don’t. I never feel as if I am missing anything. That might be because I know that I can eat anything I want, anytime I want. I just don’t want animal products.
As a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) I recognize how important this statement is. It is important because so many people adopt eating patterns that feel restrictive and unsustainable and this is a sure fire recipe for failure. At times of stress I don’t want to eat differently. At times of celebration I don’t want to eat differently. On any given Tuesday I don’t want to eat differently. Being a vegetarian serves me well. It might serve you well too, but only you can decide that.
You can lead someone to the tofu scramble, but you can’t make him eat it.
My husband is and always has been very supportive of me in general but specifically of my being a vegetarian because he understands it is a vital part of who I am. He has never tried to change me. He has never once questioned or complained about it and in fact has been without a doubt my staunchest supporter. Who am I to give him any less? He has the right (as I have done) to make choices that work for him. Although I joke about one day “bringing him over to the light side” (veiled Star Wars reference…), all I really want is for him to be healthy and happy. He may be healthy if he ate like me but knowing him as I do, I am certain he would not be happy.
And so, I support him in his choice as he has supported me in mine. Like the article says “You can lead someone to the tofu scramble, but you can’t make him eat it.” Alas, I sometimes cook foods that I don’t really like to cook because I know that if I cook them they are healthier than if he bought them pre-made. So yes, I am a vegetarian and I make meatloaf.
However, these gloves make it a bit easier:
Throughout the last 3 decades I have met many people who, upon hearing of my dietary pattern, assumed that I would be a zealot for my cause. I know you know what I am talking about….. They are surprised to find I am no such zealot. Much like discussing religion & politics at cocktail parties, which is awkward and generally discouraged– I have chosen to keep my thoughts and opinions to myself. While I am always eager and willing to share my experience, knowledge and opinions on the subject, I prefer to wait until I am asked. I accept that there are a world of choices out there and respect everyone’s right to make the choice that best suits them. It never has been and never will be an us against them argument for me. I am married to one of them! I have chosen to be a carnivore friendly vegetarian.
A picture of my husband and I at Wrigley Field enjoying a Cubs baseball in 1997. It looks like a selfie but as it was pre-selfie era we had to rely on the kindness of the folks in front of us to snap our picture. Good times!! With that, I would like say wholeheartedly that a vegetarian can truly love a carnivore! 🧡