According to the Vegetarian Times (a magazine we read every day), 7.3 million Americans are vegetarians. That’s a lot of people ordering kidney beans and celery sticks. Some do it out of religious conviction. Others are more eco-conscious. Some cite the health benefits and others are just annoying militants about it, and this is another annoying thing they do.
Chances are you’ll come across at least one vegetarian in your dating cycle (4.3 million of them are women), and when that happens you’ll want to know how to deal. That’s why we’ve put together this handy list of tips so that meat-eaters and beet-eaters can live in harmony.
Keep an open mind
Sure it’s irritating when you take a date to a steakhouse and she orders the Portabello mushrooms, asking the waiter repeatedly if it was cooked on the same grill as meat.
But just like you wouldn’t question a Kosher person for not eating pork, so you shouldn’t question a veggie for not eating, well, pork. So little jokes and off-handed comments about vegetarianism (“how many vegetables had to die for you salad?”) are not constructive and should be avoided.
But this open-mindedness also has to work both ways. Some vegetarians can be fanatical about their lifestyle choices and try to convert you. If she tries to make you feel guilty for ordering a burger on your first date, tell her you respect her views but just don’t share them. If she continues to harass you, it may be an indication to bail from that relationship. It’s only going to get worse.
A tolerant veggie will respect your carnivorous lifestyle, so long as you don’t force it down her throat, as it were. Says one woman from a mixed-diet couple: “For me, the most important factor is respect. I eat a vegan diet and my husband does not, but he is supportive of my choice. I have never proselytized or lectured him because I respect his right to choose his own diet.” We love her.
Have what she’s having
One advantage of being an omnivore like yourself is that you’ll be able to sample what she eats, even though she cannot reciprocate (her loss!). So why not be a little bit adventurous and take a walk on the wild brown rice side? It makes you look like a cool, sensitive dude for showing interest in what interests her, “If my boyfriend wasn’t so open to trying new things and enthusiastic about eating,” says one vegetarian, “I’m not sure we would have made it together because food is so important to me.” Another bonus: Eating more grains, vegetables, and fruits is better for your health overall than packing in the beef burritos.
Don’t take her to a Burger Heaven
If you don’t want her eating habits to get in the way of having fun, then take her to a place she can actually eat.
You might love burger joints, but if they don’t serve a veggie burger than that’s just cruel, dude. And we’re not just talking about restaurants that serve a side salad, either.
Many restaurants—particularly those serving Asian cuisine—have whole sections of the menu dedicated to vegetarian food. Those are the places you should explore together.
For the really adventurous, try a gourmet vegan restaurant. The food has definitely evolved in recent years to include versions of popular meat dishes—only sans the meat. A really good vegan ruben or BLT, for example, tastes like pastrami and bacon but doesn’t clog the arteries like those two offenders.
Compromise in the kitchen
The issue of carnivore-vegetarian dating gets more complicated if things progress to the point of cohabitation. There are some veggies who absolutely, positively and in no uncertain terms refuse to even entertain the thought of meat being in their fridge. Others are more tolerant.
If you get to this point, chances are that, as with anything else in a relationship, you will need to arrive at some kind of compromise. Maybe designate sections of the fridge and cabinets for each other’s food. And use only certain cookware to cook meat.
If she’s militant about not having meat at all in the home, then you might have to consider only eating it outside your home. If that’s not the kind of compromise you’re willing to entertain, you need to find some middle ground or reassess the entire relationship—if she’s not willing to be flexible why should you be?