Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them to Jo using this easy form. She would be happy to address your individual concerns as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy, practical applications, and living compassionately. Jo cannot respond to questions about nutrition or answer questions that have already been addressed in the Archives

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She's Vegan......He's Not
Dealing With a Mixed Relationship

question.gif - 1.4 KI have been vegan for about a month, after being a lacto-ovo vegetarian for eleven years. My boyfriend of four years eats some meat, and loves cheese, cream sauces, etc. He hates brown rice and is not fond of fresh fruits and vegetables. He has eaten soy cheeses and meat substitutes but still prefers the "real" thing. This makes having meals together very difficult! I am planning to get your "Uncheese Cookbook" and possibly signing up both of us for a vegan cooking class. Do you have any suggestions on how to bring our eating habits more in synch with each other? I have tons of recipes, but I'm tired of suggesting meals that don't appeal to him, and it doesn't feel right for us to eat separately. Even though he is making some effort to be tolerant, he's still skeptical. Thanks for any insight you can give me on this situation!

answer.gif - 1.3 K Relationships between people with divergent lifestyles can be extremely frustrating. It is especially hard when one person is a vegetarian and the other one is not, because eating is such a frequent and important activity. For many people, sharing food with those we love is an act of nurturing and an expression of unity and harmony. It can be devastating when someone you love and care about rejects the food you painstakingly prepare. On the other hand, food choices are very personal. Everyone's preferences differ, and what excites one person may be unpalatable to another.

Being vegan is different from being a vegetarian, not only with regard to food options but in terms of all aspects of living. A total vegetarian is someone who eats no animal products whatsoever. A vegan, as you define yourself, is someone who has made a conscious, ethical decision to lead a fully compassionate life. This means that vegans not only avoid products of suffering in their diet, they also refrain from contributing to other forms of suffering, directly or indirectly, through their relationships, activities, and purchases. For many practitioners, veganism becomes a core value system and a beacon for guiding all aspects of their lives. As a result, relationships between vegans and non-vegans parallel the challenges of interfaith couples.

Most relationships endure because of a shared value system. When fundamental values between people drastically change, the relationship can be put in peril. Frequently love, trust, and the heartfelt desire to please the other person can help weather the distance created by differing beliefs. Sometimes, however, this is not enough. If vegans believe that eating animals is wrong and there is never a time when it is acceptable, watching a partner consume meat can be disconcerting and painful. Nevertheless, vegans in mixed relationships often feel guilty about causing their loved one grief, and may be torn between their principles and their partner.

Vegan values extend beyond the palate and plate. Vegans who do not like particular foods will seek out alternatives to meet their nutritional needs and satisfy their tastes. For vegans, eliminating the products of animal suffering from their diet and lives is a matter of conscience, not an issue of denial or inconvenience. This is what can make living with a non-vegan so exasperating.

There are many compelling reasons for becoming vegan. Nonetheless, when people are pressured to change, they tend to rebel rather than embrace new ideas. Even when people understand a subject intellectually, it doesn't necessarily follow that they will open their hearts to it. And opening one's heart to the suffering of animals, people, and the Earth is the only real motivating force there is toward lasting veganism. However, no one can open our hearts for us. This is something each of us must do in our own way and in our own time.

Your partner may not fully understand what prompted you to adopt a vegan lifestyle. You may want to set aside some time to explain what inspired you to make this change and why it is so important to you. Your boyfriend may be more willing to listen if he does not feel threatened, berated, or intimidated. Let him know that you would like to be able to share this part of your life with him because it is so significant to you, but don't bulldoze him in the process. Allow him time to speak and to share his side of things. Lend an empathetic ear and listen nonjudgmentally. He is hurting, just as you are, and may feel confused or belittled. Provide literature and videos for him to explore when he is ready -- not for the purpose of transforming him, but for him to more fully understand where you are coming from.

Because food has been such a point of contention for both of you, once you have aired your viewpoints, jointly devise some guidelines that you each can accept. For instance, you may not want to purchase or cook meat for your boyfriend, but would agree to him buying and cooking it for himself. Or, you may feel that having meat in your home is intolerable, but you would agree to him eating meat out of the house. You could decide that when you go out to eat you will select a restaurant that serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, and so on.

Attending a cooking class is a great suggestion, but don't insist that he attend with you. Let him make his own decision, and if he chooses not to go, let him decline with dignity. Using recipes from "The Uncheese Cookbook" is also a good idea. These recipes are rich-tasting and creamy, and should appeal to his fondness for cheese and dairy products. You may also want to check out my book "Vegan Vittles." It contains lots of recipes for meatless meats and satisfying traditional dishes that taste incredibly like the "real" thing. Because you can prepare these foods easily at home, you can adjust the seasonings to make them exactly the way your boyfriend prefers.

Bear in mind that transitioning to new flavors and textures in food can be emotionally taxing, and giving up foods that one has known and loved since childhood can feel like a tangible loss. Try preparing foods that are commonplace but not considered strictly vegetarian. For example, bean burritos or tostadas with all the trimmings, spaghetti with mushroom or marinara sauce, baked potatoes, baked beans, stir-fried vegetables with rice (if he doesn't like brown rice, try fragrant basmati or jasmine rice), curried vegetables or dal with chapatis, a hearty soup or stew, vegan pancakes and french toast, or vinaigrette potato salad and coleslaw. If you make dishes that are familiar and delicious in their own right, and are not "substitutes" for anything, your boyfriend may find them more appealing because he's not comparing them with their meat counterpart.

Acknowledge that you may never come to a full agreement on the issue of veganism, and realize that employing tolerance and acceptance may be the only way to preserve your relationship. We all feel that our opinions and perspectives are the "right" ones, and it is very tempting to foist them on others. Your boyfriend probably feels just as strongly about his position as you do about yours. If you extend your love and compassion to him, without coercion, reproach, or condemnation, you may one day find his heart opening in directions you never imagined.

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