National Vegetarian Week runs from 21st - 27th May 2012, a week when we're being encouraged to look at inspirational vegetarian food and to consider the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle. Chris Osburn one of our bloggers at Great British Chefs is in a "mixed" relationship. He's a meat eater, but his girlfriend is mainly vegetarian. How is Vegetarian Week going to be in their household? What's it like living as a mixed couple? Find out here
Blog post & photography by Chris Osburn
I eat meat, but my partner doesn't. She's mainly vegetarian (sometimes eats fish as well if it's on my plate and within polite spearing distance of her fork).
She's got her ethical and health conscious reasons for going veg. I can't fault her too much on them either. I certainly take the provenance and preparation of what I eat more and more seriously as I continue learning about the journey food products make to reach consumers. I want free range eggs, fresh produce grown and transported with minimal carbon footprint, less processed rubbish, more vibrant flavour and – if I'm going to eat meat – I want the animals to have been reared with their welfare taken into account.
Meat Meze at Comptoir Libanais
As for my choice to consume animal products, well, I just love gnashing into chunks of animal flesh. Charred, braised, sausaged, deep fried, bloody (I often order my steaks “blue”) or even raw (steak tartare's probably one of my favourite dishes) – the right meat dish hits an elusive “oh yeah” spot of my palate almost every time. Still, as someone who's just hit the big 4-O, what I stuff down my pie hole seems to matter to a much greater extent than when I was a young'un. Yes, I foresee a lot of dietary fibre in my future … something I not going to get much of chewing on a chicken wing.
Vegetarian Meze at Comptoir Libanais
Unlike me with my carno cravings, my veggie loving lady simply doesn't care a great deal about whether meat's part of her meal or not. She really just can't stand the taste of beef. And if she's had fish or seafood more than once in a week, she sincerely wishes not to eat anymore flesh for awhile. I know a few folks like that. They just don't like meat all that much. Interestingly enough, they're all women too. Why's that? I have no idea but reckon it's got more to do with socio-cultural gender roles than anything hardwired into the brains of the different sexes. But if anybody out there has some facts or figures, I'd love to see them.
My girlfriend along with the other female folk I know with a distaste for meat and me with my need to watch what I eat, we're not alone. Google around a bit and you'll see plenty of online content along the lines of 'should we eat less meat?', 'eat less meat to prevent climate disaster' and 'Americans are eating less and less meat'. People are thinking about the meat/no meat issue, and the discussions and points put out there are mostly thoughtful and well conceived.
Me personally, I'm coming to the conclusion that less is more: more healthy, more sustainable, more economic … and more of a treat. I don't want to go without ever eating a steak again or enjoying a BBQ or sinking my teeth into some ribs or … you get the point. But, I can honestly go days without even realising that I'd not eaten any meat at all and be okay with that. I mean, if you are going to take the life of some creature just to eat it, shouldn't it be kinda special? For the longest time, I've 'flown vegetarian' considering most airplane food to be so heinous that no animal should have given its life for it.
There are all sorts of other ideas gurgling round my head, but I digress.
Pizza at Union Jacks
I guess what I'm trying to say is that being in a mixed couple isn't such a big deal. There's room for a happy life for a veg/non-veg couple. Sure, I've received my share of rolled eyes glances in the past when getting excited about a meat dish on the menu at a restaurant. Of course, I've wished I could just add some chicken stock to a recipe before. Some of my favourite foods don't need meat anyway: a pizza margherita, eggs, ice cream, gazpacho, buttered toast … I guess I should be glad I'm not dating a vegan!?
The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant
Anyway, a non-preachy acceptance from my partner with respect to what I like to eat goes a long way I suppose. So does my not stinking up the flat with the smell of bacon every morning. She respects that I'm going to want to order that celebratory grilled slab of whatever from time to time when we're dining out. And I understand that I should save making the hamburger of my dreams for a time when she's not around. Like most things, it's about compromise and trying to see the other side of any argument.
Yalla Yalla in Soho
Getting your 'five a day', having a mostly plant based diet, realising that throwing meat into a meal is often just a cheap shortcut when a more delicious and fulfilling option might have been to add a particular spice or show a deeper appreciation for the flavour of some vegetable: worthwhile endeavours. Acknowledging the succulence and tradition of a meal centred around meat: yummy. Not letting food preferences get in the way of having a nice time with someone you care about: fundamental.
Blog post & photography by Chris Osburn for Great British Chefs
Are there any vegetarians in your household, when the others are meat eaters? How do cope at mealtimes? Will you be having a meat-free week for National Vegetarian Week? We're discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.