As I lay the plate overflowing with roast beast on the table, my daughter said, “Daddy, what’s a vegan?”
“In this house, it’s someone who does their own cooking,” I said.
Those vegans, all smug and superior over something they don’t do. Except, I know a lot of vegans, I’ve even interviewed a couple famous ones like the super fit guitarist for Def Leppard, and the champion ultramarathoner Scott Jurek. They don’t act superior.
The militant are the minority, their activism is often limited to posting gory photos of inside-out animals on Facebook. In my experience, it’s the low carb proselytisers selling a ketogentic diet as the cure for cancer who are the assholes, all while lying about the health aspects of going vegan. Alas, it’s time to stop being dicks about what’s on another’s plate.
About five seconds after humans evolved past “Shove everything marginally edible into face hole,” we began to create purity laws about food. Alan Levinovitz, a professor of religion at James Madison University and author of The Gluten Lie, explained, “We’ve seen food used again and again in different cultures and religions as the identification of us/them or being in or out based on what people eat.”
With all this talk of building walls and banishing immigrants who are “Takin’ are jobz!” it’s clear humans are still pretty tribal in their thinking. And we create tribes over what kind of pie goes into which pie hole.
Someone mentioned vegan speed dating to me a while back in a scoffing manner. Like, how silly to want to be with someone who shares their values and going speed dating to try and find them. And now is the part where I apologize for the bait and switch title. Some people think the existence of vegan speed dating is another reason to toss out the “stupid vegans” line, but why is it stupid? Such a thing is not limited to vegans. There are paleo dating sites too. And sites for Christians. And atheists. And fit people. And farmers …
But we like to get mad at those with different value systems. And “What? My meat-eating meat isn’t good enough for you?” can be the default reaction if someone feels preemptively rejected. How dare they deny my use of their body for sexual gratification based on my dietary choices. The nerve!
There are people who think this way, and it’s not a new thing. The temperance movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries had a saying (from a song written in 1874) “Lips that touch liquor will never touch mine.” The women who proclaimed it were derided publicly and in film, often shown as ugly, overbearing feminist harpies. Replace “liquor” with “meat” and you’re going to get a modern-day version of that backlash.
As 2017 is finally revealing to the public at large, there is no shortage of people feeling they have a right to the bodies of others.
The reality check is, we are allowed to have standards. I wouldn’t date someone who smoked, and I can see it being easier to date someone of another religion than one who had vastly different eating habits. The religion issue might only come up once a week, but how do you handle separate eating strategies between omnivore and vegan three times a day?
I spoke with the omnivorous Kristina Soderlund Maxwell of Athol, Massachusetts, about life with her vegan husband. She referred to meal time as “a pain in the ass.
“We do our individual cooking, and don’t share food much at all,” she said. But her husband wasn’t always vegan. “He was a hardcore carnivore when we met 17 years ago.” He went vegetarian five years ago and fully vegan three years ago. Previously, when their eating lives aligned, she said “It was awesome!”
He doesn’t try to outright convert her to veganism, but does sometimes proselytize the benefits of the lifestyle. Kristina said if she did become vegan, “He would be thrilled.”
Add to this one child who is vegetarian and another who is omnivorous like Mom. She described meal time thus: “We are like short order cooks … everyone is eating something different.” That’s when the “pain in the ass” descriptor was uttered.
The biggest strife is agreeing on a restaurant when they go out to dinner. “Finding a place where we can all be happy is nearly impossible.”
Conversely, it’s not hard to talk my wife into mega steak date night at The Keg.
If my wife went vegan, would I ditch her? No chance. But relationships are hard, and I’m pleased there is one less hurdle to our happy coexistence. What’s more, I get a little buzz when I make her one of my sought-after cheeseburgers and she devours it heartily, saying, “Mmmm … great burger, my love.”
There are vegans proclaiming they will not fornicate with non-vegans. At the risk of TMI-ing this piece, on the blowjob front I’ve read of those who refuse to ingest the semen of a non-vegan for fear taking in second-hand animal products.
That’s dedicated vegan.
And it is their right. Choosing what we eat, who we date, and who we decide to spend our lives with are things people are allowed to do; we shouldn’t judge people for it. I’m happy my wife and kids aren’t vegan, because I don’t want that “pain in the ass” Kristina spoke of. Others have told me they manage the dietary differences fine. For some, veganism is deeply held belief akin to a religion for which there is no compromise. They’ll only date other vegans because it’s that important to them.
Yes, the militant types who say everyone should be forced to go vegan are annoying and worthy of some scorn. But again, they’re a minority. The regular vegan just wants to live their life their way.
And if speed dating helps them find a soul mate who eschews meat rather than chews it to live that life with, more power to them.
James S. Fell, MBA, writes for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, AskMen, the Guardian, TIME Magazine and many other fine publications. His first book was published by Random House Canada in 2014. He is currently working on his next book, which is about life-changing moments.