I finished my vegan challenge. I had to, for the sake of my marriage.
When I first declared I was going vegan for the month of January, E defiantly said he would not participate. Which I expected, and respected his decision. This challenge wasn’t intended to be a permanent life change or a political stance. I wasn’t declaring we had been cruel to animals by eating and enjoying burgers and lobster and we needed to repent by going vegan. My Vegan January was just to see if I could exercise a bit of self-discipline and eat a plant-based diet for 30 days. I wanted to see if I noticed significant changes in my body, or my wallet, or my mind.
Veganism had all of a sudden become this sexy, trendy cool thing to do, and I wanted to see what all of the hype was about.
But E has considered my decision a personal affront to his cooking. “I cook 10 meals a week for you, and now you’re just not going to eat what I make?” he said. Well, if what you’re making is duck breast, chicken, scallops or anything cooked in butter, then no. But there are substitutions for all of those things. And baby, this is not about you or your cooking at all. I love you and your animal-based dinners. This is about me and my curiosity.
On the first weekend of January, E and I went shopping. We had separate shopping carts, mine filled with brussels sprouts, coconut oil, agave syrup, spinach and quinoa, his filled with duck breast, butter, yogurt, and a whole chicken. We checked out separately. Then, we cooked separately. And ate separately — I offered him some of my delicious vegan meals, but he’s declined.
This went on for weeks. It did not make for quality time together in our kitchen.
For two people so passionate about cooking for one another, having one partner be on a restrictive diet is frustrating for the other. “You being vegan is like us sleeping in separate bedrooms with separate people,” he said.
I get it. He takes pride in cooking for me, his wife. He puts his heart into every dinner, every one-eyed egg sandwich for breakfast, every cup of coffee with frothed creamer and a sprinkle of pumpkin spice in the morning. Me telling him I can’t eat his food is akin to rolling over and falling asleep when he whispers sweet nothings next to me in bed.
But I’m not rejecting him, or his cooking. I’m just playing with my intake of food from different sources. Big deal!
Besides, isn’t compromise one of the hallmarks of a good marriage? “I’ll eat vegan if it’s good,” he declared. “It’s just that most of it just isn’t … good. It’s like trying to paint with two colors: Sure you’ll get the job done and can be creative within those constraints, but don’t you wish you had a full-spectrum palette? A full bacon-and-duck-fat palette?”
As the month rolled on, we continued to eat meals separately. He cooked meat on his end of the kitchen, I stir-fried vegetables on mine. Finally after three weeks, when it was clear I was committed to this diet, E started to soften. He was willing to swap butter for coconut oil to roast vegetables. He used vegetable stock begrudgingly to make leeks for a couscous bowl. And, he stopped with the snide comments and jokes.
The last few days of the challenge, I made vegan tacos with this “meat” product called Beyond Meat, beans, veggies, guacamole and vegan cheese. E sat down to dinner with me, devouring three tacos without one sneer. “This is all right … I mean it certainly could be better, but, yeah … it’s all right” he said.
February 1st was a day of celebration. Vegan January was over. E could make dinner for me again. He brought home halibut with a bright bunch of greens for dinner, and we cheered my reentry back into a meat and fish inclusive diet. He brought me a beautifully presented meal to the dinner table, chest out, smile on face, pride beaming from his soul. We sat together at the table, savoring every bite, and cuddled afterwards. “Thank god that obnoxious vegan thing’s over,” he said.
I didn’t mind a vegan diet, and I’ll probably maintain a vegan-ish diet most of the time, with the occasional steak or piece of fish thrown in for balance. E has said that he wouldn’t mind eating that vegan chili again. Going vegan for January was a great way to cleanse the body of all those indulgent holiday meals and booze, and a way of entering 2016 with a small achievable goal that I could check off my list, motivating me to tackle larger dreams. But it does feel good to eat dinner again with my husband. Plus, it’s no fun doing the dishes alone.
Marriage is about accepting your partner for who they are, but it’s also about respecting their desires, within reason, even if you disagree. I love E, and E loves me. For better, for worse, or for vegan (ish).by