I have been with the same person for nearly 7 years and one question we always get asked (besides why we aren’t married) is what it’s like being a vegetarian when he isn’t. I usually tell people it isn’t a big deal, we don’t notice it and when I cook sometimes he just adds meat or is happy to eat vegetarian and all is well. In reality however it does kind of suck, there are problems that arise which annoy me at times so I thought today I would write a little about it.
When we first started dating it was no big issue, restaurants in Christchurch always have vegetarian and meat options so dating was easy. However after a couple of years we moved in together these and that was when all the questions started. To be honest I used to feel really guilty about cooking food without meat a lot, so there were nights where he would buy a big steak or piece of fish to go with his dinner. While this eased my guilt it just got transferred to him because cooking meat in our tiny apartment was a bit smelly (especially the steak!! I’m talking a smoky room with a meatastic smell). More often than not this wasn’t a problem and we were both happy to eat a vegetarian meal, but at times one of us was left feeling a little guilty.
And then the traveling began…
Being a vegetarian overseas is hard, something I have written about before and while it is do-able it can be a bit more difficult when you are in a couple. Going out for dinner in Korea is so cheap and easy, you could definitely eat out every night. However these meals are all pretty meat based, at many restaurants it is common for you to pay per person and get given a huge plate of meat which you cook on a little gas stove in the middle of the table – not very vegetarian friendly.
I know many would think I am a traitor, but I am fine to go to these places and watch other cook raw meat and eat it in front of me, while I get the smoke and smells in my face and munch on rice and side salad. I don’t mind because I know that I am a little inconveneint and I just want other people to enjoy their meals. However I remember looking for a restaurant in Korea one night when we were both hungry and I knew side-dishes wouldn’t cut it for me. As we wandered around the comment came up ‘it would just be so much easier if you ate meat!’ It wasn’t meant in a negative way, just a statement, but for me I felt really bad that I have this diet which makes things like finding dinner difficult. These restaurants are per head like I mentioned, so going means that my other ends up with what looks like half a cow for dinner and the waitresses stare at me for not eating it. Basically what should be an easy, cheap dinner out is instead an akward night where we don’t feel relaxed enough to enjoy.
Cooking at home in Asia isn’t really that easy either, while I am lucky to be able to buy things like beans and other vegetarian substitutes, they are expensive. If I ate meat here then cooking would be very easy and cheap, but instead I am difficult so while we do have some good meals at home, they are pricey and not as good as what meat-eating couples would be having for dinner.
I don’t really have a solution to this problem, I guess what I am saying is that these problems do arise when one person eats meat and the other doesn’t. Mostly they are one of us feeling guilty because the other isn’t having the meal that they really want. While it doesn’t create major issues for us, it does mean that eating a nice dinner or going out for a date can be hard. I guess all I have to say on the matter is that being with someone who doesn’t eat meat has made me a better vegetarian because I know that I have been tested many times but am sticky to my morals. It also shows me how lucky I am to have found someone who supports my lifestyle (even if they don’t want to adopt it themselves) and has never ever asked me to change.