Can an avid meat-eater and strict vegetarian ever cohabit in sheer harmony? That’s the question I’ve been mulling over recently.
Four and a half years ago, Tom and I embarked on our first date. The drinks were flowing. There was laughter and flirtation, when all of a sudden, Tom made a food-related suggestion.
“Let’s go for a curry. I know this place that does an amazing lamb balti!”
My smile wavered. “Well the thing is Tom… I’m actually a vegetarian.”
Silence. He put down his pint. The colour drained from his face. I swear I even saw the glimmer of a tear forming in his eye. How could we possibly progress from this moment of doom?!!
After compromising on a Domino’s takeaway, we made it through and here we are several years later. I can’t deny the fact that Tom well and truly earned his place in my veggie little world. Having spent 25 years of his life never once having to concern himself with anything remotely veggie-related, he adapted. He amended his cooking habits. He broadened his horizons. On one of our earlier dates he even rustled up a delicious homemade vegetable lasagne. I knew from that point that he was a keeper.
So how have we managed to make it through? In all honesty, the small matter of a 200 mile distance has probably played a part. You see until January of this year, Tom remained living in Liverpool, whilst I had moved to London back in September 2009. That’s over three years of veggie/meat domestic-related arguments that we’ve saved ourselves from.
Now that’s not to say it’s been all hearts and flowers. There have been times when our differing dietary requirements have caused ructions, particularly when dining out. For instance, for my birthday two years ago, Tom offered to take me out for a meal at a restaurant of my choice. I fancied something of Italian origin, preferably where I could eat a goats’ cheese-based pasta dish (fussy, I know). After hours of online research, I found a lovely looking place in Soho and Tom booked us a table.
After a few drinks in Soho first, we merrily headed to the restaurant. We ordered a bottle of wine and our starters instantly. I opted for the veggie panini which looked delicious when it arrived. As I chomped my way through it, something did not seem quite right. Upon closer inspection, I realised that there was a pink, flesh-like substance within the bread. Ham. HAM!!!! Feeling traumatised and nauseous, I immediately retreated to the bathroom. The staff apologised profusely for inadvertently serving me the ham panini, offering to bring me the correct food on the house. But by this point, the damage was done and I just wanted to leave. Tom was not impressed. Actually he was furious, blaming me for not making my order clear enough, as well as making the poor waitress feel bad. We travelled home in silence, him stopping off for a Domino’s pizza and me buying a tofu curry from the Wasabi stand outside Liverpool Street station. Happy birthday, me.
Holidays abroad can also raise tensions. France was particularly difficult, seemingly vegetarianism and the French do not mix. Tom was very supportive, even though it meant we were dining in Italian restaurants most nights which, considering we were in Paris, did not feel quite right. To thank him for being so supportive, I suggested that we dine out at a traditional French restaurant one night, even though I knew that my choices would be limited. There was a dish on the menu called ‘plates de legumes’. Feeling optimistic, I made the assumption that this would be some sort of fancy, creative vegetable concoction. Not quite. It was, rather literally, a plate of vegetables. Nothing more, nothing less.
Most recently, we went on holiday to Singapore where Chinese cuisine is highly prominent. Unfortunately for me, vegetarianism does not play a prominent role within Chinese cuisine. I knew that Tom had his heart set on eating at the traditional hawker markets so in order to be supportive, I suggested that we venture to the ones in Chinatown. After all, surely I’d be able to find plenty of vegetable rice and noodle dishes. I was in luck (or so I thought) as I saw several stands with the word ‘vegetarian’ on. However, I soon realised that ‘vegetarian’ to the Chinese simply means any meat dish with a few vegetables on the side. Soon enough, my senses had a meltdown as the sight and smells of all the meat, combined with the humidity, meant I had to leave. We ended up in a nearby cafe; still authentic in its Chinese origins but at least they served a plate of tofu.
Tom and I have now been living together for over 8 months and are starting to accept and understand eachother’s differing views, opting to cook and eat separately most of the time. Admittedly, I don’t like it when he cooks meat and stinks out the flat, nor does he particularly like it when I make him eat my bizarre tofu concoctions. Nonetheless, relationships are all about give and take and we’ve managed to make it work.
So what does this mean for the future? Whilst still a long way off, I can only imagine the inevitable arguments about the food at our reception, should we ever decide to tie the not (I just know that he would want a hog roast). But for the meantime, we’re making it work, proving that meat-eaters and vegetarians can, in fact, cohabit in harmony. Just about!