Married to Meat

 A marriage between Meat and Veg and a recipe for tolerance.

A marriage between Meat and Veg and a recipe for tolerance.

 
 

Dear seasoned...

I cook all the meals for my husband and me. I love to cook, but I love to cook all sorts of things and the problem is my partner only likes meat. Well, maybe meat and rice. How can I change him? I can’t make one more roast chicken. Help!

Love,

Married to Meat

 

Dear Married to Meat,

It is now widely known that fruits and vegetables are good for you. But somehow, there remains relic consumers of a lifestyle known as meat and potatoes. Your meat and potatoes man may claim to be quaintly unaware of CAFO documentaries and coronary disease, but as two consenting adults, you can’t force him to change his habits. You can treat your partner like a child and hide his vegetables. There are whole cookbooks devoted to the art of kale in brownies and zucchini in chili, but before you grate your fingertips off in secretive vegetable subterfuge, I encourage you to really examine your motivations. Is it that you want him to be healthier? I would argue that it is not worth ruining your mealtime, and possibly your whole relationship.

Nagging can be more insidious than hidden vegetables. When we confront other partner’s deficiencies it is not a bad idea to multi-task and examine our own. There may even be healthy habits where he outpaces you. Is he up early going to the gym while you’re still sleeping? Does he always floss while the toothbrush hangs out of your mouth like Popeye’s cigar? Maybe none of those things is true.

But healthwise for you, its best to accept the meat loving part of your husband along with the parts you do love.  His eating habits were established long before you sat down to share your first meal and nitpicking can undermine the relationship.

All this acceptance does not mean that you have to abandon your beliefs and preferences and become a dinner martyr. If you are the main cook in this family, it is your right to cook the things that make you happy: happy to purchase, happy to prepare, and happy to consume. But your happiness may be in jeopardy if your edible overtures are continually rejected, so seek a middle road.

Sundays have a history of being the day we honor our family by killing an animal and serving it roasted. This could be your tradition too. Many people have been able to sustain themselves on leftovers made with love and I am sure your husband is no different. A large piece of meat can last almost a week, enough time to explore your relationship with other foods.  Make the foods you like, and sit by side with your partner as he eats leftover roast.

My mother married a meat and potatoes man like your husband. My father claims to like peas and broccoli, but when I say “like”, I mean he tenderly serves and consumes one portion with the remains scattered creatively all over his plate. So vegetables were never the star of our family meal. There were no eggplant roulades or green bean stir frys, instead there was always an ample portion of fleshy protein. But my mother, whether out of love or a keen desire to stay a size 2, was in a committed relationship with vegetables, particularly raw vegetables. And so in this polyamorous relationship with my meat loving father and all the leafy greens one woman could crave, the compromise my mother found was a salad course. Not only did we sit down to salad before each meal, but my father’s role in dinner preparation was to make this salad, each and every night.  It could be interpreted as punitary, but I would like to think this ritual of my father washing lettuce in the sink gave them valuable time to stand side by side and talk about their day.

I don’t think in the thirty years my father has been making and consuming those salads that he has necessarily been convinced of their value. Now that we, the children, are grown and my mother has become more relaxed about dinner rules, my father sometimes abstains. But every night he still tears the lettuce and sprinkles it with oregano and garlic salt. He cuts the tomatoes and spoons out salad olives from a jar. He flakes blue cheese off a wedge. It is the same way the salad has been made since before I was born. And then, he sits at the table across from my mother with his hands in his lap while she chews her salad. Chewing salad can take a long time. But that’s OK, he knows there is more to come.