Can’t we all just get along: how vegans and omnivores can live together

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I am vegan, and my girlfriend is not. We are looking to move in together, and I had always had this (now unrealistic) idea that my home would be a vegan one.

How have other veggies and meat-eaters gotten along, and what are some tips for making everyone happy food-wise?

-Aurora

Great question! For the first 12 years of our relationship, my partner was vegan and I was not. Our wedding cake was actually TWO cakes (one vegan, one not) woven together.

Honestly, the vegan/non-vegan cohabitation thing was pretty easy for us, primarily because my vegan partner was the one who liked to cook, so when we were home, I ate vegan. We did have two different cartons of milk, and I had my stash of cheese — neither of which bothered Andreas. (Well, ok: it sorta bothered him when I would grate cheese on top of my serving of vegan food.)

For the most part, however, the dynamic worked for us because the vegan (Andreas) was also the one who liked cooking, and the non-vegan (me!) was happy to eat whatever food he put in front of me. As I see it, the non-cook/omnivore doesn’t get to be demanding. I can eat anything, including delicious vegan food!

I’d be curious to hear from Homies who’ve been in this situation, though — what about when the primary cook is the omnivore? What about when it’s not just a stash of cheese, but a stash of bacon? How can the vegan and the omnivore peacefully share both a kitchen and a meal?

Comments on Can’t we all just get along: how vegans and omnivores can live together

  1. I was vegan for two and half years and I successfully kept house with my omnivore husband because he’s supportive and has the patience of a saint. We ate vegan at home, and when eating out we ate whatever. Successful relationships require you don’t try to control the other, and I think we were alright in that regard.

    I’m an omnivore now.

  2. We are an omivorous household, but we often sit down and eat a delicous homecooked dinner to realise afterwards “Huh, that was actually vegan!” One aspect that has previously scared me about veganism is that there seemed to be no recipes, I had this vision of vegan being a boring and lonely salad on a plate. I now love eating food that happens to be vegan since we started cooking Morrocan and Indian foods with an emphasis on chickpeas, lentils, beans and vegetables. Yummy, ingredients that are available, and a huge variety of recipes! I think my point is about education, so people know that vegan meals can be delicous and easy to make and therefore accessible and not so scarey and can easily be a part of normal home life.

  3. I think you’ve got to treat different dietary choices like people’s religions: Don’t try to shove yours down people’s throats, and don’t take offense when somebody’s is different than yours.

    Having meat in my fridge doesn’t mean I have to eat it. I’m not going to be offended because someone eats meat in my presence.

  4. I know i am coming in on this so late but this is why i love this site, wouldnt get this anywhere else and it be so fairly discussed!
    I was brought up by a vegan mum, vegetarian dad, and i have been vege all my life. This means if i eat meat (tried a few times out of curiousity) i get sick.
    My husband is a meat eater, but like most others who have commented we do the I cook, but wont touch raw meat but can cook it, have it in the house. 90% of meals are soya mince spag bol/vege chilli etc but when we have burgers etc he has meat ones. Everyones happy.
    I guess the trouble happens when we have kids, its going to be a bit of a debate (just like home education or school, i was home ed) but i think vege til they choose is best?!
    Also holding out for him ‘seeing the light’ one day, but i wouldnt bully him into it, like said before i knew this when we got together!
    <3 This site and the comments, allways makes me feel less weird 🙂

  5. I am vegetarian, and my husband is an omnivore. We share several vegetarian dishes, like Indian-inspired curries and daal, homemade mushroom pizza, tofu and bean burritos, and breakfast for dinner. He’s more likely to be satisfied by a warm spicy meal, so I try to avoid salads and lighter fare because then he craves a burger later…

    However, about once a week he cooks and eats meat for himself as an addition to a vegetarian meal. I feel okay with it as long as he keeps it frozen until the night before he cooks it, he makes sure it defrosts on a plate not the bare shelf in the fridge, and it isn’t above or too close to any raw veggies in the fridge or prep area. He doesn’t waste anything, and he also does the associated dishes. These things decrease the meat ickiness factor and exaggerated food safety fears I have, so maybe they will help someone else.
    As for veggie products that meat eaters like, I’ve found the Morningstar sausage patties (NOT links) and the chickn’ patties are acceptable.

  6. I didn’t know where to turn for support and I found this post. I was under the impression that vegan/vegetarians ettiquette wise should either bring their own to someone’s home or eat side dishes and not preach to omnivors…but that it was perfectly okay to NOT serve meat in my home or allow others to bring it when I invite people over for a meal I’m cooking. Meat or not, if a host invites you over, asking if you can bring your own stuff, unless it’s for a special diet (meatless, milk allergy, gluten free, etc.) I feel that’s out of line anyway…but my mother made it clear that she disagrees.

    I had my family over last night. My mother, who has said that she supports me though she has no interest in going vegan, my stepdad, my 2 brothers, and one of my brother’s girlfriends, came over. My brother asked if he could bring meat. I politely told him I preferred not, and he asked for some form of protein other than the veggies in the pasta. I asked if he would be willing to try a tofurkey sausage, he was happy to try it. From the minute my mom walked in it was a struggle. She asked me to hide the packages from the sausage and seitan that I used. When I told her I had discussed it already with my brothers and that they were fine with it, I can’t describe her response as anything other than disappointed.

    Apparently my brother’s girlfriend is taking a nutrition class and naturally her book says that you need meat based proteins because they claim they have things vegetable proteins do not. I had this conversation about a week ago my brother and I explained to him that it was not the case. When he asked why the book said that- I told him that because the government has a hand in the meat and dairy industry as well as pharmaceuticals, it was pretty much a big vicious cycle. Fast forward to last night. My husband heard my mom whispering to my brother’s girlfriend asking her if she told me about the meat proteins. Seriously? At my house you want someone to come lecture me??! Anyway, his girlfriend told my mom that Michael already did and that I pretty much told him it was the government covering their asses. My husband said my mom acted very surprised and said “She said what?!” At some point I was outside sitting next to her as she smoked a cigarette. She pretty much told me that I was a bad host because I wouldn’t allow meat in my home. When I explained to her that it was against my beliefs to serve or prepare or allow it in my house, but it wasn’t against her beliefs to have one meatless meal, she got even more defensive. She told me that if she has to support my family note eating meat that I have to support her eating meat. When I told her that I won’t ever try to “convert” her (this is what SHE has been calling it) but that I cannot and will not SUPPORT her eating meat, she just went silent.

    At dinner, everyone tried everything I put out. My mom picked around the seitan in her pasta with broccoli and commented about how she didn’t want “that” on her plate. She told me the pizza rolls tasted like nothing. She told me my ziti was too creamy. Too creamy? Cheesy pasta (vegan cheese of course) too creamy?!!? My brothers ate and liked everything (except the sausage, but he didn’t complain. He just said that he wasn’t a big fan of the texture, but that was it. No complaint, no dwelling on it. One word and done. My mom had complaints all dinner. When Leah told me she wanted more sausage but didn’t like the seitan (she likes some but not all seitan and that’s a typical kid) my mom was thrilled. “She doesn’t like that stuff.” She happily reported like a friggin 6 year old. Then at dessert, the vegan chocolate cake that I served from Whole Foods left a film on her teeth and didn’t taste good. She made a big show of mashing it on her plate and saying how bad it was, that you “can’t mess with her chocolate” because she “knew better.” She wouldn’t even try the vegan coconut coffee cake that I made. All she did was ask what happened to the crumbs that were supposed to be on top. Both of my brothers tried and loved both cakes, by the way.

    She explained to me as we were standing in the kitchen that she knew that animals were tortured and beaten, but that it was FOR US TO EAT THEM and that if we didn’t eat them someone else would. When I tried to explain supply and demand she wouldn’t listen and then told me that she didn’t care because she didn’t want to think about what happened to the animals because she liked the taste and doesn’t want to stop eating them, and went so far as to suggest that maybe I should just stop reading and watching videos about what happens to these beautiful animals and that would make it easier for me to just let people bring meat into my home.

    Before she left, she made a big thing about telling me again how it was bad of me as a host to not allow meat into my house and that was why they haven’t been eating meals with us or hanging out with us. Then she made plans with Leah (my daughter) to take her today to buy a pair of Tom’s (shoes) and made a big thing of how she “couldn’t feed her anything” because she “isn’t allowed to eat anything.”

    As she walked out my front door she told me that she was “going home to eat a skirt steak.”

    I just don’t know what to do. Someone please help me. I’m so discouraged and disappointed that my mom is being that person. Tim is a vegan too (my husband) and he stands by me but he thinks I’m wrong for not allowing meat into our home. He isn’t an “ethical vegan” and hasn’t seen any of the animal rights materials I have. My mother managed to cause a mini fight between Tim and me after she left over this.

    The fact that she walked into my house and attacked me and the food I lovingly prepared for my family and made a family gathering all about attacking the belief system I have and food I feed my family rather than just enjoying each others’ company..The fact that she made me feel like a freak in my own home, made me feel alone in my belief system …I really don’t want to be around her anymore. This is my own mother. What do I do?

    • Wow that’s terrible! This was probably posted ages ago so I don’t know whether you’ll see this reply or whether it’ll be helpful, but it sounds like you really need a significant talk with your mum.

      Since she raised you and eats meat, I would guess she raised you to eat meat. Now you don’t, and you say eating meat is unethical. To her, that may translate into “the values you raised me with are wrong and I reject them and you!”. Of course this isn’t the case, but if she’s feeling defensive and rejected she’s probably not thinking too clearly. A big family dinner with a focus on food isn’t the setting for a meaningful discussion about it, but if you can arrange a neutral time and place and explain to her how you feel and how her actions made you feel, and then ask for her side of it and why she feels how she does, perhaps things can get better.

      I can only imagine that her behaviour stems from misunderstanding, bewilderment, a feeling of rejection etc – because what you described was unbelievably rude and hurtful. It might be worth talking to your siblings about it too, to get their perspective. But be careful: you don’t want your mum to feel that you’re all “ganging up” on her or that you’re somehow trying to get them to side with you. However it might be useful to have their advice as they seem to be more supportive. Good luck.

  7. I feel I should add that I am what people call an “ethical” vegan (not vegan just for healh reasons but also because I have very strong feelings against animal abuse, eating animals, and toward the huge detriment producing animals has on the environment. Therefore, serving or purchasing or allowing meat in my house would go against my belief system. I never bring it up yet anyone who disagrees feels the need to tell me I’m an extremist and try to convince me I’m wrong. I never preach or try to get my family to “turn” or “convert’ as they call it. I only defend myself when they insult me (which is EVERy time we get together).

  8. In my relationship, I’m the cook, omnivore and more adventurous eater. While I do sometimes cook meat at home, my vegetarian partner doesn’t mind. But, honestly, I only cook non-veg food when we have other omnivores over for dinner. Too much work for just one eater in my opinion!

  9. Hi everyone, I’m coming at this topic from a slightly different angle. I’m an omnivore and my boyfriend is vegetarian, we’ve lived together for two years and I do 99% of the cooking and food shopping. I buy and cook vegetarian and only eat meat when were out or eating with my family. My boyfriend has recently decided to become vegan and I’m struggling on what to cook. I don’t enjoy a lot of the vegan things i’ve tried and everything seems like so much effort I hardly enjoy cooking at all. I feel so restricted not just by what I make for us but where we go out to eat too, my favourite restaurants are off limits because they offer no or very little vegan options. We have tried cooking separate dishes but this makes me feel so unconnected! I know it’s selfish to want him to not be vegan but I feel like it’s driving a wedge between us. Any advice?

    • Hey Hayley!
      When I went vegetarian, and later vegan, my roommates and family were in a similar situation to yours. To quote my mom: “I don’t know what to feed you!” I think one of the things that has helped them (and me) is for them to understand that I haven’t made this decision lightly; a lot of thought goes into this sort of lifestyle change. Have you had a serious conversation with your boyfriend about why he’s going vegan? It might help if you know where he’s coming from. (Also tell him about your concerns! Find out where his boundaries are and where he’s willing to compromise. Maybe he wants a meat-free kitchen, but doesn’t mind if you keep cheese in the fridge. He might not realize what kind of stress this is putting you under.)
      As for cooking, I choose to see vegan cooking as a fun challenge rather than a chore. I’ve gotten so much better at substituting and throwing a meal together out of nothing since learning to live without meat and dairy. First, try finding those dishes that are “accidentally vegan” or that you can easily veganize (by trading milk for soy or butter for margarine, for example). You might not like something the first time you try it, but don’t give up, and try new things often. My roommate used to hate tofu, but over the last year she’s learned to love it the way I cook it.
      I hope that helps : )

  10. Hi everyone, I am omnivores and my husband has starterd being vegan since four years. He tried very hard to raise our son(3 years old) to be vegan but actually my son really loves eggs and fish, also some chicken wings.(Yes because I let him try everything, I think that’s his right.) But all of these things bothered my husband and he always looked really annoyed and unhappy,even very angry when our son eats fish or even gummicandies. It hurts me when our little son was trying to tell Papa how much he likes the Salmon or the eggs, the father showed always a disgusted face and told him it’s really bad that he’s eating those things. Many times this behavior of him made my son cry and very confused! He all the time tried to give me and our son alot of pressure during the eating time, he forces us alot to eat vegan like him. He even dares me that if I don’t become vegan or raise our son to be vegan, he will leave us. In fact his whole family(Parents, and two brothers, one sister in law, they all eat alot of meat and milk products.) I tried to compromise alot not to annoy him and create a nice and peaceful atmosphere at home, coz I want no stress in front of my little child. But he’s always overreacting, his parents and I think he doesn’t know what’s respect and tolerance. Please share some opinions with me, what should I do? Should I get a therapist for him or should I keep communicating with him after a million times? I would be really thankful if any of you could give me some tipps or how you think of this. Thanks for reading. Qian

    • Qian. This sounds much like my ex-husband. He is a vegetarian, and I am an omnivore. We have four daughters, twins who are 10, 8, and 5 years of age.

      My ex transitioned to being a vegetarian in his early 20’s. I was raised omni- but then, at 12, chose to become vegetarian. Our daughters had been raised on a mainly yogic diet, no eggs, meat, fish, poultry, garlic or onions, up until we separated (I left the USA when our youngest child was 6 months-old, wanting to move back to my home country, and also to leave the marriage).

      I started eating fish again in 2010, and eggs the same year. In December 2011, I became pregnant with my partner’s child, and he requested that I start eating meat. I didn’t have to, and it did gross me out a fair bit, but since then I’ve been completely omnivore.

      About 10 months ago, I started to offer meat to my daughters. My eldest didn’t want to try it, and is still vegetarian, which is fine. My younger three daughters were more experimental, and now I have two children who love meat.

      We try to only eat pasture-raised, free range meat and eggs (which isn’t hard to source as the demand is so much greater), and if we can buy organic we do.

      My ex-husband has threatened many times to the girls that he will leave them and never come back. He yells at them about eating meat (including at the vegetarian child), and scares them. He constantly emails me about how I should not be eating meat, that I am being disrespectful to him by offering the girls meat in the first place, and tells me that he’ll leave permanently and not have anything to do with his daughters.

      Now, I wouldn’t mind if he buggered off completely (he spends 5-months of the year in total travelling out of the country), and my twin daughters would much rather he wasn’t around. But my younger two girls love their dad, and ultimately he is their father. I’ve told him that I would never force the children to eat meat, but I will offer both a vegetarian and an omnivore option in my home for them.

      It’s all rather insane. The girls resent being threatened, and it is damaging to their well being.

  11. I love this post, and it’s something I deal with too! I go through phases of vegetarianism for health and taste reasons but my poor husband is a through and through meat and potatoes man. He’s nice enough to deal with a few vegetarian meals a night or a vegan smoothie for breakfast, but really we both compromise. I do ALL the cooking in my house (down to making his sandwhiches to take to work) so trying to run a vegetarian house would be out of the question, he would hate it!! I cook meaty meals a few nights a week and either just soup/salad/side dishes myself or eat a substitute (veggie burgers/ soy “chicken” nuggets). Because I eat vegetarian just out of taste prefrence I don’t think it’s fair if he’s the only one that has to give in, often the omnivore didn’t seek out a vegan/vegetarian specifically so I think people have to keep that in mind when cohabitating with someone with a different diet

  12. Due to some life circumstances (seven months ago) I found myself living in a vegetarian household even though I’m not (I’d go out for burgers or chicken every now and then).

    Last week I was diagnosed with severe Anemia, and if it gets much worse I could need a transfusion. My doctor told me I now had to eat meat, fish, eggs and fowl every day, effective immediately. It was clear I had to move out but in the meantime, I needed a change at home. My room mate turned me down flat, saying I violated “the rules” and even though my life was at stake he wouldn’t bend, forcing me to eat out and incur more expenses, which really angered me.

    He then came after me for another month’s rent, claiming improper notice and breaking “the rules.” I was furious. We’ve had two major fights since then. I’ve had to go to the police for emergency counselling and I still cannot eat what I want. Two days ago he told me I could eat cold cuts and boiled eggs but I cannot cook anything. While I’m mad, I’m not going to antagonize him by cooking burgers in the kitchen. Suffice to say I no longer feel safe here and pray that some funding will come through soon so I can get out of here.

    • That’s a tricky situation. But if the anaemia’s that severe it’s not going to improve quickly – it can take a month or two to raise iron levels, depending on the individual and how deficient you are, and that’s not even considering your body’s efficiency at absorbing iron from the diet.

      Has the doctor prescribed you an iron supplement? I would have thought that would be the first thing they’d do, if it’s that serious, in which case you wouldn’t be relying on food so much. It’s true you don’t want to have to take tablets forever but they would tide you over until your living situation is more settled, plus there are plenty of vegan sources of iron (eg dried apricots, black strap molasses, even baked beans – there are lists online that give iron amounts per 100g) that the doctor probably wouldn’t think to mention as they aren’t usually trained nutritionists. I hope this helps anyone else who finds themselves iron deficient too (it’s very common even among those who eat meat, especially women).

  13. In my twenties I lived in co-housing on an organic farm. My roommates hated the smell of meat and I hated the smell of pot, so we made a deal– I wouldn’t cook meat in the kitchen and they wouldn’t smoke pot in the house. We lived together relatively peacefully for five years.

  14. Dump her. The production of meat, dairy and eggs requires the enslavement and murder of animals. To condone and contribute to this is gross moral turpitude. Never compromise in the face of evil.

    • I see where you are coming from, Samuel. But also, the production of pretty much everything that we use (including the computers or phones and the internet connections and the electricity that we are all using to discuss this very topic, right this minute) requires the intense exploitation of humans, animals, and the planet. I completely understand making choices that align with one’s ethics, and I also understand if someone wants to partner with someone who shares that worldview, but it actually is simply impossible to “never compromise in the face of evil.” Under capitalism, we must make such choices and compromise every day. You have drawn your line in the sand, and that’s cool, bro. I have mine, too. But I know there are all sorts of things that are evil that I participate in, whether out of exhaustion or out of being a flawed human being who succumbs to desire or out of genuine necessity.

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