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Jan 10 2013

Mixed Marriages–Vegetarian & Carnivore Edition

By at 12:09 pm

We all know studies have shown that married couples who share religious beliefs, practices, and values have an easier time maintaining a successful relationship. What about food values? This also matters.

First it’s just about the two of you. Then you have kids. That united front every child development expert will tell you to present, should probably include food. That has proven easier said than done in my house. I think we’ve become experts at the art of compromise.

I was an off and on (mostly on) again vegetarian when I met my husband. Eventually my squeamish meat/chicken eating (i.e. no bones, liver, etc…) turned into only eating meat on Shabbat, and then mostly not even then. A few years ago I re-committed to vegetarianism. I’ve been pretty consistent, minus ingesting chicken soup a few times when I was super sick. Now I can’t even stomach that.

In fact, after reading numerous Dr. Joel Fuhrman books, including Eat to Live and Disease-Proof Your Children and The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II, I’m convinced that eating any animal products, fat-free, organic or not, is unhealthy. I can’t even convince my husband to buy all organic dairy. The idea of not giving our children any meat, dairy, or eggs sounds insane to most people, including him.

I remember the first time I cooked tofu for my husband’s whole family. It was like a comedy routine.

“Have you ever eaten tofu?”

“No, why would I eat tofu?”

“What is it anyway?”

Funny enough, they actually loved my recipe! They continue to enjoy the healthy (and mostly vegan) food that I cook, including tempeh. At least, that’s what they tell me…

Before I became a vegetarian again, my husband used to joke that he wouldn’t have started dating me if I was a vegetarian at the time we met. I mentioned this to him the other day and he insisted it couldn’t be true. But it is! And I really thought he was serious at the time.

At the recent Hazon Food Conference it seemed like every other woman I met was in the same situation as I am. They’re vegetarian or vegan and their husband/boyfriend/fiancée is not. I met one young woman who is moving to another state to be with the man she plans to marry. They’re in agreement on a vegetarian household, but she’s still trying to get comfortable with the idea of having fish in her new home.

One engaged young woman said she and her fiancée still hadn’t figured out what they were going to do.

In contrast to the negotiations and uncertainties in the younger relationships, one omnivore 50ish husband and his wife were married around age 40. He said, “She’d been a vegetarian for 30 years when we met. There was nothing to discuss.” He freely admits he feels great eating the vegetarian food in their house, and when he does eat meat now, it is from Grow and Behold, a kosher, pastured meat company.

I realize that I can’t make unilateral decisions when it comes to my kids’ food. My daughter used to be quite the cheese monster and we’ve successfully diversified her diet to take cheese down from its #1 spot.

Of course, my daughter, the one who everyone called my mini-me the second the midwife put her on my stomach, tells me that her favorite food is chicken. Not just chicken, but “chicken with the bones.” I feel like the liberal Keatons must have when Alex P. Keaton first declared himself a Republican on Family Ties. She asks, “Mommy, can you make chicken on the bone for Shabbos like Savta does?” And she tells me that you’re supposed to have chicken on Shabbos. Oy. The pressure.

I figure that if I can’t take some items out, at least I can add some good stuff in. Sometimes she loves my green smoothies and right now we’re in the middle of a big fruits and vegetables push. We’re counting up to her required five a day. We’re strategizing for how she can get to that magic number, between, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. At the end of the day there will be prizes–but only for one week. After that, she’s supposed to see that it’s not so bad and she may even have more energy.

What’s the Jewish version of “cross your fingers”?


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