Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Vegetarian wife, carnivore husband – how does it work?

Andrea asks: "what sorts of meals do you prepare for your husband and yourself (I'm assuming he is not vegetarian)? What are some tips you could give for healthy meals that husbands will like?"

Thanks for asking, Andrea! It's true that my husband isn't vegetarian, but he isn't a heavy carnivore either. By saying this I mean that he is perfectly happy to get along without meat for a few days, and only insists on having some chicken for Shabbat dinner and on Shabbat itself. As for beef and other sorts of red meat, he eats that very rarely.

You can imagine I'm pretty happy about it, as someone who has been vegetarian since the age of ten. Just looking at raw meat makes me queasy. I'll confess I haven't made any meat for my husband yet, but I suppose sooner or later I will have to. When that moment comes, I hope to find something that doesn't take too much messing around to prepare.

I must add, too, that I kept cooking very simple for the past month, due to the challenges of setting a new household. There were days when I woke up to an almost empty refrigerator. Fortunately, now our freezer, refrigerator and kitchen shelves are stocked with food – and I was looking forward to some cooking undisturbed by "what do you mean, there are no eggs?!" – until the electric stove we have been using broke down. It was brand new and will be replaced, but until then, I won't be able to cook much. Luckily we still have our oven and microwave.

So far, I have made simple, nutritious meals – soups, rice with a rich sauce from a variety of vegetables on the side, different sorts of pasta with veggies. I serve fresh salad with almost every meal. Not exactly elaborate gourmet cooking, but it keeps us well-fed. I think variety is the key word here – shapes, colors, smells, tastes.

I think each vegetarian-carnivore couple should discuss their preferences and reach some sort of compromise. If the husband claims he can't live without meat even for a day, try to compromise on eating meat three or four times a week, and in the remaining days surprise him with creative and delicious vegetarian dishes. If he is used to eating meat and potatoes every day, and you take out the meat and leave only the potatoes, of course he will be bored. But if you serve nicely seasoned rice and beans, a soup and a fresh salad, maybe he will discover he is actually pretty happy with it.

Fortunately, these days it's very easy to obtain information about just anything. Simply type the words "vegetarian cooking" or "vegetarian meals" in Google, and you will see links to a variety of websites such as www.vegcooking.com. Don't be afraid to try and improve new recipes – some of them might fail, but some will almost certainly become favorites in your home.


Anonymous said...

I'm certain you will get lots of discussion & ideas about this subject, Anna. There are so many delicious & attractive ways to prepare vegetables & grain products, that sometimes omnivores (like my family) don't even miss the meat as the "main event" in a meal. My husband does prefer a meat meal, but in 23 years of marriage, he has never once complained when supper is meatless. A rich soup, good bread & a salad, maybe some special condiments to round out the meal...my husband is gracious & appreciative for whatever I put on the table. I might also add that this is a terrific example to set for children, as I think it fosters in them an attitude of openness to trying new foods, which increases the enjoyment of family time at the table.

I'm eager to read what your other visitors have to say about this. Good vegetarian recipes are always welcome in my recipe file!


Anonymous said...

I'm also the veggie half of a veggie-carnivore couple. However, I'm a biologist who has done quite a few dissections and had to look at more than a few grisly pictures, so the sight of meat doesn't faze me :). A couple of solutions I thought of would be to get ready chopped packages of chicken that you could just pop in the pan without too much thought; also, a simple roast chicken doesn't need too much fiddling with.

A veggie compromise I and everybody I cook for enjoys is tempeh, which is a cultured food made with spores you can order online, and soy beans. I make mine with okara, which is the pulp left over after making soy milk, but it also works fine on soaked, parboiled and roughly chopped beans. If you freeze and thaw it, it has little taste, and a positively addictive texture: I find it very easy to get through a batch of the stuff with just a little dipping sauce made from soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger :)

Terry said...

While my husband is not a strict vegetarian (he does eat fish, but just fish, no shell fish), there was an adjustment period for us because I've never met a burger I didn't love. Factor in that fish is fairly expensive, and you can see why we eat meatless meals at least two to three times per week. We eat a meal with fish as the main dish about once a week. Beans are a major staple around here. Not only are they nutritious, they are inexpensive and versatile as well. You can do so much with them!

Pasta also provides the opportunity for me to make two variations of the same meal with little effort. For example, I like vegetable lasagna sometimes, but every once and a while I like the traditional meat laden recipe. It is extremely easy to make both with very little effort.

Like Anna, we also eat a lot of salad, and I make homemade rolls, biscuits, cornbread, etc. to accompany meals and make them heartier fare. My husband's vegetarian lifestyle has actually meant that we all eat a lot healthier, and for that I'm thankful. Using meat more sparingly has also helped me save a lot of money on groceries.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking my question into consideration! :) We have talked about bit about the meat-vegetarian issue. I'm sure we will sort out some kind of compromise!

Lara said...

If we have meat for dinner, my husband is in charge. :) He loves to bbq, which is possible almost anytime of year in California. I make the salad and rice, and dh grills the fish or meat for us. It works out well.


yoshi3329 said...

I'm glad that you and your husband can compromise on your diets. Well done!


Misty said...

Hi Anna,

My husband and I were "healthy food" vegetarians/vegans for many years. Just a couple months ago we began eating organic/free range chicken. My husband needed to eat more protein and less carbs. As you probably know from experience, it is hard to eat more protein as a vegetarian without also increasing carb intake substantially. (I never liked feeding him the fake meat products that are high in soy protein) Anyway, it isn't pleasant to cook the chicken. However, we both have started feeling better eating less beans. Be assured I am not suggesting you or anyone else eat poultry. All of this is to suggest buying boneless skinless chicken breast or thigh meat. Your contact with the meat is minimal. It is still a bit freaky to have raw meat in my kitchen. I would recommend getting a wooden cutting board for meat preparation alone.

One of my husbands favorite meals is to have a salad with baked chicken. Just throw some spices and olive oil on the chicken and throw it in the oven for 30 minutes. I also oven fry chicken. My daughter gives it 1000 stars.(with 5 stars being the best ever...she's a sweetie)

Enough of my ramblings. I am thankful for you that your husband isn't requesting beef. I don't think I could manage that one.

Happy journeys.

Dawn said...

You can also try a mexican dish one night, like refried beans and rice (with or without tortillas). It's meatless and is really filling and cheap. :-)

Is your hubby into fish or shrimp or any seafood? You can always chop that up and make a salad out of it as well. Or serve with brown rice and steamed veggies...

Yum...I am making myself hungry now... :-)

God bless you Anna! I love your photo at the top of your blog by the way!


Mrs. Anna T said...

Dawn - my husband isn't really that much into fish, and it doesn't really make a difference for me if it's fish or chicken... I became vegetarian after seeing a fish skeleton, actually. :P

Shrimps and such aren't kosher, so for obvious reasons they're out of the question for us. :-)

Ewokgirl said...

My husband would love to have meat with all 3 meals. He has kidney disease, though, and animal protein is the hardest for the kidneys to process. I try to do a few vegetarian meals. He's been a pretty good sport about it, as he knows that I'm doing it to keep him alive longer.

I've found that cumin seems to be the magic spice that makes him feel like he's eating meat when he isn't.

Anonymous said...

I'm vegetarian and live with a carnivore. We reached a compromise too: if he wants meat, he cooks it himself. It's a simple solution that works very well for us.

Coffee Catholic said...

Hi Anna! I'm becoming vegitarian by default because meat is making me ill. I can't eat beef or lamb any more and today I had ham and it made me feel nasty too!! The problem is, I have no idea how to make vegetarian meals. I'm a total carnivore! I'm losing weight too much and this has me nervous but with the fat-prejudice in the national health service I can't get any help really. I know you are so busy but... Is there any way you can *email* me and direct me to some good resources that help people to cook simple nutritious vegitarian meals on a tight budget and with very limited selection?? I have to stop losing weight!!!


Michelle who can't eat!!

Anonymous said...

Just a tip- one of the *easiest* ways to prep chicken without having to look at/touch it much is to take a whole chicken, sprinkle herbs/spices over it, throw in a bunch of veggies etc. all into a crockpot. Or- to purchase boneless skinless chicken breasts and grill them on a regular grill, George Foreman grill, stove grill pan, or even just pan-fry with some nonstick spray :) Or- he could share a bit in the cooking and you can both make an evening of cooking together- where he prepares the meat dish, and you prepare the rest :) It makes for some great together time :)

Congrats! You two sound so sweet together :)

MarkyMark said...


I've wanted to comment on this for some time, but for whatever reason, I never did. Here are my $0.02...

I don't see this as being a 'make or break' issue; it is an issue, but it's not a major one. I think you all will work around it just fine.

What you might try to do is this: encourage him to try a tasty, filling vegetarian dish. When he sees that this food can be good, he'll be more receptive to trying more of it. I'll give you an example from my life...

About 10-12 years ago, I had a temporary job @ a software company. This company was run by Indian people, i.e. they were from the nation of India. As you may know, their religious teaching discourages or prohibits eating of meat. As a result, much of their diet is a vegetarian diet. The guys were always having me try stuff at lunch, and a lot of it was good. However, I'll never forget the time the guy from Sri Lanka gave me something SPICEY; man, my mouth was on fire! I mean, this stuff was so hot it made Mexican food look mild! I'm serious. Nonetheless, it was cool to sample foods I'd never had before; I really liked some of the food I tried. I had to tell these guys to stop giving me food though, because they'd have given me their entire LUNCH if I'd let them! They were so happy that I liked their food that they wanted to give me more. I had to tell them that they need to have something left to eat themselves.

Anyway, we had a company lunch one day. I can't remember the occasion, but we had food catered in; as you'd guess, the cuisine was Indian. I had one dish I just LOVED; I tried to go back for a second helping of it, but it was gone. It was aloo gobi, which has potatoes, and a couple of other veggies in it. It was good; and it was FILLING. I loved it! However, if I hadn't been in a situation (the company lunch) where I HAD to try it, I would never have done so on my own. Why? Because, like your husband, I have my preconceived notions about how vegetarian cuisine is. But, since I didn't want to upset my hosts, I had some. I asked them what was in the various dishes, then chose the one that sounded best. I didn't regret it.

You could cook his food just like you do every night. But, you might want to cook a larger portion of your own. Eat what you normally would, then give him some. Ask him in your sweet, charming way to try it; he will, since he wants to make you happy. If you give him the right food, you will have 'set the hook', as it were. Hope this helps...


MarkyMark said...


I forgot in my last comment that I told the guys on Mancoat about you. There was a discussion about a man who was reluctant to set up female friend of his who engages in male bashing. He was understandably reluctant to do so, so he sought advice from one of the Daily Mail's columnists. The reply ignited a discussion over @ Mancoat about this. The discussion took a turn when Mikhail138 said that many younger women were eschewing the feminist lifestyle. I did a blog post about it, so you can read the discussion as it transpired. Anyway, I agreed with Mikhail138, and I cited you as an example; I told how you have a big following among the younger women returning home, and how this was a growing trend. I hope you don't mind, and I hope you don't mind the new visitors who'll be coming over here to check out your blog.

I also put you on my link list. My criteria for listing a blog or webpage is simple: if I spend any time there reading what they have to say, then they go on the link list. It doesn't mean I agree with everything that they say; it's not an endorsement from me, per se. Putting someone up on my link list simply means that: 1) I spend a fair amount of time on their page; and 2) I get something useful for spending my time there. Since you meet these criteria, I thought it was time to put you on my link list. If you want me to take you off, I will; I know that our target audiences are quite different. However, I think we all want the same thing: to see feminism go where it belongs-on the ASH HEAP of history, and STAY there.

Many of the guys have been burned by feminism and the women who bought into it. I don't know if they'll leave comments; I have no control over that. However, if you visit their blogs, fasten your seatbelt first; if you though I was harsh, you're in for a shock if you read some of these guys' blogs. Though I understand the source of their anger and hurt, and though I struggle with giving into them, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth is not the answer; recompensing evil for evil isn't going to help end the war of the sexes. One, where will the tit-for-tat revenge end? When will it stop? Two, I want the guys to have hope; I want them to know what I've known and almost forgotten: that there ARE sweet women out there with hearts of gold, and you're a shining example of this truth. I hope that they'll have some hope too.

Anyhow, this is the subject of my newest, most recent post on my blog; it's the June 1st post, and it's at the top. Thank you.

Have a good day, Anna. I'm out of here for now, but I'll be back again...