Real Life

Flic Everett ex­plains how to go ve­gan when your man’s a meat-eater (with­out killing each other!)

Woman (UK) - - This Issue -

Can a com­mit­ted ve­gan share a kitchen with a car­ni­vore?

Ihave been a veg­e­tar­ian for 15 years (af­ter see­ing an un­happy lob­ster at a Cor­nish seafood restau­rant) and turned ve­gan about two years ago, when I read more about the dairy in­dus­try.

The num­ber of ve­g­ans in the UK has more than quadru­pled in the past 10 years to 3.5 mil­lion. Marks & Spencer and Pret have ve­gan ranges; Pizza Ex­press has a full ve­gan menu; and this sum­mer, Waitrose & Partners be­came the first Bri­tish su­per­mar­ket to add a ded­i­cated ve­gan sec­tion to its stores. Even The Great Bri­tish Bake Off had a ve­gan week. Ve­g­an­ism, it seems, is on an unstoppable rise.

Ad­mit­tedly, most ve­g­ans are twen­tysome­things, while I’m a 48-yearold mother of a grown-up son. I cre­ate new ve­gan recipes and cook from scratch ev­ery night. Which would all have been fine, had I stayed in my na­tive Manch­ester and shacked up with a fel­low eco-shop­ping, arty type. In­stead, I fell in love with a car­ni­vore who lives in the High­lands, home to 125,000 cat­tle, most of which seem to end up on his din­ner plate.

The first time I met Andy, 47, a hol­i­daylet land­lord, I had come to stay at his ru­ral cot­tage with a mu­tual friend. The sec­ond day of our stay, as we were driv­ing past fields of shaggy High­land cat­tle, I

ex­pressed sad­ness that any­one could eat such adorable an­i­mals. This led to a heated de­bate – well, heated on my part, calm and fac­tual on Andy’s.

I ex­plained why I could never do it. If you wouldn’t eat a dog, why would you eat a cow or a pig? I hoped he would ab­sorb my pas­sion­ate views and see the light. But he coun­tered my ev­ery ar­gu­ment with eco­nomic statis­tics about farm­ing, and con­cluded that he would never give up meat.

I’m used to be­ing a ve­gan in a world of meat-eaters, which in­cludes my son, my par­ents and many friends. I’m con­stantly aware that not ev­ery­one views an­i­mals and the ethics of eat­ing them as I do.

The irony is that Andy used to be ve­gan in his youth, when he was liv­ing in South Lon­don and mak­ing huge lentil cur­ries for his mu­si­cian mates. Then he moved back to the West High­lands and dis­cov­ered he had a chronic con­di­tion, ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis, for which doc­tors ac­tively ad­vised him to eat meat.

Now, his din­ners are a pa­rade of farm an­i­mals, with a car­bo­hy­drate and a green veg­etable thrown in for good mea­sure. He eats like a 1950s pa­tri­arch, and seems to do very well on it.

For our first dates, we went to restau­rants in Bath, where I was liv­ing at the time, or we would at­tempt to cook for each other – he makes an ex­cel­lent tomato, olive and red pep­per tagli­atelle. At restau­rants, I’d have the veg­e­tar­ian or ve­gan choice and try not to look at his plate as he worked his way through a large steak.

‘he Eats like a 1950s Pa­tri­arch’

Per­fect op­po­sites

It was only when we moved in to­gether in ru­ral Scot­land (lo­cal pop­u­la­tion, none, sheep and cows, many) that the chasm be­tween our habits be­came a prob­lem. It’s not only our op­pos­ing moral codes; it’s the prac­ti­cal re­al­ity of two keen cooks mak­ing two en­tirely sep­a­rate din­ners ev­ery night.

The day-to-day dif­fi­cul­ties of be­ing a ve­gan and a meat-lover in a kitchen not much big­ger than a mi­crowave are the most chal­leng­ing as­pects of our re­la­tion­ship.

We have a cup­board filled with what Andy calls ‘weird non­sense’, and I call ‘healthy essen­tials’, such as ca­cao nibs, tofu, chia seeds and liq­uid smoke sea­son­ing. In the fridge, my sec­tion is a col­lec­tion of odd-look­ing veg­etable left­overs in Tup­per­ware, home­made nut cheeses and beet­root juice. His bit of the fridge mostly con­tains cheese, duck legs or fish that smells like a Nor­we­gian trawler. While I can weep tears of sor­row over a tin of John West sal­mon, Andy loves to catch his own fish.

On sev­eral oc­ca­sions I’ve opened the fridge to be greeted by a whole trout, its yel­low eye gaz­ing mourn­fully at me as I shriek in hor­ror.

But food prep and tim­ing is when things re­ally go awry. We have about 2ft of work­top, so I’ll be chop­ping onions shout­ing, ‘Don’t get your chicken fat on my veg!’ Or he’ll be tut­ting as I whizz beans in the food pro­ces­sor when he needs the space to fil­let his hake.

I am re­volted by the bloody meat trays he leaves ly­ing around, while he com­plains about the tiny bits of dried-up chopped veg­eta­bles that find their way onto the floor.

Both of us in­tend to do some­thing about it, but the Mas­terchef-like pres­sure of try­ing to make our din­ners syn­chro­nise is too dis­tract­ing. Most cou­ples, I imag­ine, take turns cook­ing din­ner, then en­joy it with a shared bot­tle of wine. Our aim is to cook two sep­a­rate din­ners with the same oven and three­r­ing hob (one is bro­ken) and sit down to eat at the same time. We prob­a­bly man­age it about four times out of 10.

I truly love food and be­lieve one of the best things about be­ing in a re­la­tion­ship is sit­ting down to eat and chat to­gether. It’s when we off­load what’s on our minds, talk about life, pol­i­tics and ev­ery­thing. Be­ing un­able to eat our din­ners si­mul­ta­ne­ously means the evening drifts away… and sud­denly we haven’t had a proper con­ver­sa­tion for days. We could eat the same food apart from the pro­tein and make it sim­pler, but we just don’t like the same things. I’m a fan of brown rice and whole­grain pasta, which Andy can’t eat. I could live with­out broc­coli for­ever, and he thinks it’s the best veg­etable ever in­vented. I also like to eat what­ever I fancy at the end of a long day, so plan­ning ahead is rare. But Andy prefers to plan his week’s food and cook an ox­tail stew for 24 hours, while I make child­ish gag­ging noises ev­ery time I pass the pan.

Ex­tra costs

Then there’s the ex­tra cost of hav­ing sep­a­rate meals. A few weeks ago, reel­ing at our lat­est food shop­ping bill of £150 for a week, I tried to work out who had spent more, cer­tain it would be him once I’d fac­tored in his posh cheese and the or­ganic, free-range meat, com­pared with my church-mouse diet of veg­eta­bles and chick­peas. It was a hor­ri­ble shock to dis­cover I had forked out at least £35 more on smoked tofu, ve­gan cho­co­late and cashews, and pricey veg­eta­bles, such as oys­ter mush­rooms and baby cour­gettes.

Though I’d love to wake up and dis­cover Andy had be­come a ve­gan overnight, it isn’t go­ing to hap­pen. Af­ter al­most three years, we have just about man­aged to make it work, thanks to the ba­sis of all good re­la­tion­ships – re­spect­ing each other’s choices.

I love him the way he is, and what he chooses to eat is his re­spon­si­bil­ity – as long as I don’t have to cook it. Plus, he’s very pa­tient about the bits of chopped veg­etable all over the floor.

Flic and Andy have very dif­fer­ent ideas about food but make it work

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