By mixed marriages, of course I refer to the one joining two wildly diverse sides: the vegetarian and the carnivore.
The other day, I had a chat with my butcher–my butcher!–about this. He was depressed because he said his girlfriend was a vegetarian, and she never let him hear the end of it.
That is sad, I consoled him. But not inevitable. Really, if there’s going to be a fight about what you eat as a couple, there’s probably something else going on, other than self-righteous belief in the rights of the cow, or aggressive condemnation of airy fairy highfalutin’ food fads. These things tend to mask something much more creepy: a desire to dominate. I mean, if you can’t let your loved ones go their own way, when it’s not hurting you or themselves, you’ve got to ask yourself why. Why exactly is it so important to you that your loved one eat the same way you do?
Well, of course there’s one practical reason. It’s a bore to constantly cook two different sets of meals. And not only is it a bore, but it’s actively disunifying. Having a meal together is not really about the food, if you know what I mean. It’s about Having a Meal Together. This is why we teach children (or we should, anyway) that when they’re invited to other people’s tables, it is rude to make a point of their own likes and dislikes: just get on with liking what’s on offer, and avoid anything that brings on allergic reactions. But you don’t dictate to others what they’re going to feed you.
Conversely, it is an act of kindness not to dictate to those you feed. A certain flexibility, and partnership, here, is what’s called for. In this, of course, as in all else in life, come to think of it. And if you really love those you’re feeding, you’ll tend to be quite anxious that they get fed what they like, as well as what’s good for them.
What’s good for one person is not necessarily good for another, of course. So every once in awhile, I just have to make, not two separate meals, but two separate courses, followed by one unified set of foodstuffs. It’s the only way to deal with diversity.
Take myself and my Dear Husband. He thrives, and I mean absolutely supernaturally thrives, on a diet of not too much fat, many potatoes, and lots and lots of vegetables. Accompanied by pints of artisanal beer and lashings of ice cream to follow.
Beer makes me feel like I’m drinking liquid bread. I can take ice cream in moderation, but not in the boatloads he happily downs (and never shows, by the way, something that would be very annoying if I wasn’t so fond of him). I like potatoes, but they’re not the Ur Food of my people. I love fat, particularly full fat cheeses. I adore vegetables. But if I had to live on them, I would turn, in a short period of time, into an anemic wreck.
This is just the truth. When I’m stressed, I need to eat some meat. I find I don’t like to eat meat every night, but when I want it, I really have to have it.
Hence the conversation with the butcher. I had spotted a nice piece of hangar steak, which looked like, as I said to him, “A piece of meat just calling out to be eaten by the sole carnivore in the family while the vegetarian has a nice mashed potato/garlic/cream/cheddar cheese baked casserole.” (And on the side, a big romaine/walnut/blue cheese salad, and a bit of beet and dill salad, too.)
That was when my butcher got all sad on me and said the bit about his girlfriend. As I say, I consoled him as best I could, but as I walked away from that market, I couldn’t help think that relationship wasn’t going to go the distance. I could see some nice tolerant girl who appreciated that he has an actually useful job snapping him up, and that other girl going on to run off with her yoga instructor.
Something like that.
And maybe the nice tolerant girl is a vegetarian, too. And maybe they have a really good time together (I started fantasizing about this, about how they’d hang out together on his days off from butchering, maybe having a drink of something in the backyard while the barbeque heats up). And maybe she would make for supper one night, when neither of them felt much like cooking, something that we have here, once in awhile.
A barbequed sausage sandwich and a barbequed portabello mushroom sandwich. Both wrapped in pita bread that’s been slathered with dijon mustard and covered with fried onions. And on the side, some potato salad with dill, and a big green salad that includes chopped bits of whatever vegetables have been left in the refrigerator.
Heat the barbeque.
Slice thinly as many onions as you like. At least three for the two of you. Put them in olive oil on low heat in a heavy pan and let them cook for as long as it takes to get them smelling great and turning a nice mahogany color. You can always turn off the heat when they get there, and then turn it back on and give them a quick stir to reheat before the actual sausage/mushroom event. (By the way, I like to add a little soy sauce before the final heat up.)
Now, to proceed to said event:
Take the sausage of your choice. Better take two just in case.
Put them on one side of the barbeque.
Take the Portabello mushrooms of your choice (definitely take two, at least, but more will never be harmful; they’re great cold later) and roll them in some olive oil.
Put them on the other side of the barbeque.
While they’re cooking, heat up as many pita breads as you think you’re going to need. I generally just do two. I wrap them in foil and stick in the toaster oven at 325 degrees for about fifteen minutes. Twenty five minutes if they were frozen to start with.
When the sausages and the mushrooms are just about done, add some sliced cheese to the tops of the mushrooms you’re going to eat that dinner. I like to crumble some blue cheese on top, since that’s what the Beloved Husband likes best. Well, that and/or pepper jack. Your choice.
Shut the barbeque lid to let the cheese melt. Spoon out the potato salad onto the plates. Toss the salad with chopped vegetables that have been marinating in the dressing (in this case, leftover asparagus, sliced). Put that on the plates. Put the pita breads out, slather with dijon mustard, heap with onions.
Then on the carnivore’s plate, plunk down the two sausages. Right on the onions on the pita bread. On the vegetarian’s, do the same with the mushrooms.
Meanwhile, have your other half pour out the drinks preferred. (Beer for the vegetarian, in our house, and a glass of red wine for the carnivore.)
Sit down and have at it.
Congratulate yourself silently on your tolerance, and try not to be too envious of the other person’s sandwich. Remember, you don’t need to be doctrinaire about this. If one of you wants a bite of the sandwich across the way, we trust that Love and Generosity will prevail. On both sides.
As, we hope, it will in other areas of life as well.