The Vegetarian and the Meat-Eater

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The Vegetarian and the Meat-Eater

By Almost Vegetarian

Let me introduce you to my husband. No. Wait. Let me introduce you to his mother (you want to know the man, know the mother).

The first time my mother-in-law invited me to dinner, my husband told her I, good vegetarian that I am, did not eat meat.

She thought. She hemmed. She hawed. Then, in her broken English, she solved the puzzle as only she knew how. “That’s okay,” she said. “I’ll make veal.”

Can you see why my husband was a meat ‘n’ potatoes guy? And can you also see why his meat ‘n’ potatoes diet and my vegetarian diet did not make a match made for dietary bliss?

Fast forward five years to today. His breakfast is, more often than not, cereal and espresso. Or toast and cheese and an avocado or two. Or leftovers from dinner. Lunch is still almost always deli meat. But never a hamburger. And sometimes a nice piece of fruit or a salad to go with his sandwich.

And dinner at home is always vegetarian. A French kale and Gruyère casserole. Tacos with TVP and tomatoes and lettuce and beans. Curried vegetables and tofu with chutney and rice. Heirloom tomatoes with basil and olive bread.

(Sure, outside the house, there is the occasional Chinese or Indian or even, heaven help us, hamburger meal. But, every time, he is ordering more and more vegetable dishes and less and less meat dishes.)

Here are the steps I have taken so far to help my meat ‘n’ potatoes husband become more vegetarian. We still have a long way to go. But, oh baby, we have already come a long, long way.

1. First, I cut down a bit on the meat, using it more as a condiment in, say, a stir-fry, than as the main item on the plate. At first, one night a week. Then two. Then three or more.

2. Next, I started to make the occasional meal without meat. Something hearty, like a spinach lasagna, for example, so the meat would not be missed. And, as in the first step, this was very gradual. Maybe once a week. Then twice. Then, well, you get the picture.

3. I emphasized foods he loved. For example, he adores mushrooms and olives so when I made pizza, I put on lots of mushrooms and olives instead of pepperoni. He also adores spicy foods. Hence why I concocted the curried tofu dish that is now a favorite in our home.

4. I educate. Picture us, sprawled on the couch, late at night. He is playing on his computer. I am reading a book or a newspaper. Occasionally, I share some interesting tidbit. Such as what an insidious nightmare high fructose corn syrup is. Or the definition for certified organic. Or a new study on the horrors of meat. Nothing much, just interesting little facts that, over the years, add up to a wealth of information for him (and me).

5. I don’t give him grief. I want to be the carrot, not the stick, so when he has a salami sandwich, I don’t tell him what is in it. But when he invents a TVP sandwich, I tell him how wonderful it (and he) is.

And is it working?

We sold our barbecue at a garage sale this summer. Last week, we talked about Thanksgiving and decided we would pass on the turkey. And, today, my husband, the man who used to be a two-hamburger-a-day guy, told me he didn’t feel so good after eating hamburgers any more.

And it just dawned on me that I haven’t cooked any meat since the holidays. The 2006 holidays.

I figure, another five years and I’ll have him off those deli meat sandwiches. Then, hey, maybe we can try for vegan. And, after we achieve that milestone, assuming I have the strength, I’ll start on his mother. I’m thinking anything is possible!

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