Being a vegan and dating someone who’s not can definitely cause relationship tension, especially at first. What if they take you to a barbeque joint on your first date? Will their parents think you’re a tree-hugging freak at Thanksgiving dinner? What will you do if they want to cook steak in your pristine Le Creuset pan?
The Lusty Vegan from Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg is dedicated to addressing these culinary concerns. The cute title comes from the column of the same name by Eisenberg on Howell’s vegan lifestyle site I Eat Grass, and the book debuted in October. And it’s both a cookbook and a “relationship manifesto” for vegans and the people who love them.
“Ayinde and I were both writing about food and relationships,” Eisenberg, a Hawaii based writer and editor, says. “We met and really bonded over how being vegan affects our relationships—that’s how the column started.” And like a lot of conversations that have to do with l’amour, there was a lot to dish on. Starting with the fact that dietary differences can create dating discord.
“The conversation around vegan dating issues needs to happen,” says Howell, a Los Angeles-based chef with 16 years of vegan-culinary experience. That way the dinner table is not the thing that dominates the relationship—or turns soul mates into star-crossed lovers.
With that goal in mind, Howell and Eisenberg have kind of assumed the role of Dan Savage of the vegan world: “We’re providing talking points in the book to promote a dialogue—we really want to help people maintain their relationships and grow together,” says Howell.
Some of the most common problems faced by vegans dating non-vegans (VDNV!) have straightforward solutions, which the authors share here, and are appropriate at various key moments in a relationship.
Because the authors are confident their tips work, check out this totally delicious vegan pancake recipe from The Lusty Vegan that’s a perfect breakfast after date night. —Jamie McKillop
1. First Date: How to break the news. The authors advise you let your tofu stir-fry do the talking. “You can’t just say, ‘Hey how’s the weather? Oh, by the way, I’m vegan,'” Eisenberg says. “It’s awkward and alienating.” As a solution, let your order speak for itself. “If you order something vegan, more often than not your date will ask, and you can segue into it,” Howell explains. “That way, it won’t overtake the first date and you can move on to a new topic.”
2. Moving In: Discuss your pots, pans, and pantry in advance. Don’t spend the first three months shacking up fighting about food. “There are so many intimate moments around food when you live with someone,” Howell says. “The smell of a morning egg cooking can be very pungent.” (We suspect he’s speaking from first-hand experience.) “Sit down before moving in together and talk about what will make you comfortable,” Eisenberg suggests. “Meat in the house, separate pots and pans, separate pantry shelves—these are things you need to address beforehand.”
3. The Wedding: Plan extra search time for a caterer. At your wedding, you obviously want to share the food you love with the people you love—and so does your fiance. “If you and your partner have two different palates, you need to find a caterer who is good at cooking for both,” Howell advises. “Ask to sample their best salmon and tempeh. Your whole life is going to be a duality, this is just the beginning.” On that note, let’s not even get into what to feed the kids… —Jamie McKillop