Living Together With an Omnivore
written by Ise
A guide to being vegan with non-vegan housemates (parents, partner, roommates).
Omnivore, carnivore, flexitarian, pescetarian, vegetarian, vegan… Chances are that there are differences between your diet and lifestyle and that of the ones you’re living with. The non-vegan housemates and partners that you’re spending your day-to-day life with probably have different thoughts on certain important matters. This does not only result in occasional double cooking sessions for dinner: sometimes the lifestyle differences lead to tension in your relationship. Here’s how to deal living with an omnivore, whether that’s your partner, family or roommates.
Cooking and eating together is an important part of any relationship, it’s quality time! By preparing your food together you’re showing others that vegan food can be made with everyday ingredients and that animal products aren’t necessary for a delicious meal!
Sadly, it is not realistic to have vegan dinners every day (otherwise you wouldn’t be living with omnivores anymore). Another way to cook together is by preparing a vegan dish as your base meal! Like this, you will still be sharing your food in some way. For example, if you’re making a stir-fry you add the noodles, condiments and vegetables first. Then towards the end you can separate the dish into two batches and add tofu and meat apart. Making a vegan dish as your base meal has a lot of practical benefits as well! It saves you time and money because you’ll be using the same ingredients. The cooking process will flow more smoothly because you’re preparing the same dish. And, also very important, cleaning up will be faster!
Other dinner ideas and tips
If your housemates aren’t really into cooking, another option is to have them try one of your own home cooked meals! Let them know ahead of time that you will be preparing a vegan meal for everyone. My advice would be not to surprise them with a vegan meal, because that may come across as obtrusive. Your housemates might become defensive as they perceive your surprise as if you’re imposing your personal choices on them. Keeping this in mind, a surprise meal is always something that could go either way. There is a possibility that they love the food, but also a chance that they hate it, and that’s alright! You made them try something different, and life would be boring without new experiences. Just have a few back-up options available such as sandwiches, veggies with hummus dip, or maybe take-out!
When going to eat out (whenever that may be possible again...), there are also many possibilities to enjoy your food together! You don’t necessarily have to go for a vegan restaurant, these days there are plenty of restaurants and cuisines with vegan-friendly options. A tip is to look at the menus ahead of time, to see what is available. For example, you want to have Japanese ramen. You can look at Japanese restaurants in the area and take a peek at their menus to see if they have vegan broths and toppings (like tofu!). If all of you start salivating at the prospect of going there, you’ve found your restaurant!
Sharing your food is very important for a healthy relationship. If having completely different food doesn’t appeal to you, a solution might be to share your side dish! For instance, if you’re having a portobello burger and others are having meat burgers, you can all enjoy the fries! Sharing a side dish, whether that’s a funky salad, guacamole with tortilla chips or bread with olive oil, helps bring the meals together into one joint dinner!
It is important to have a clear idea of what you can expect from each other. Setting your own boundaries is perfectly reasonable. Not sharing the same values doesn’t mean you have to be put in uncomfortable situations! Think about your own comfort levels and tell others about them. When grocery shopping: are you comfortable buying meat, eggs and dairy for others? What about cooking? If you’re the one preparing dinner, and they want meat burgers, would you be willing to bake that alongside your black bean burger? Also spend some time on sorting out the fridge and your cabinets. It may sound weird, but what do you think of the idea of having your own shelf? Communication is important here! I myself am okay with buying yoghurt for my partner, and his tub may happily stand next to my soy-based yoghurt in the fridge :). However, baking an egg is something I won’t do for him. He’s very understanding and cooperative, at my place he’s already 100% vegetarian (we don’t live together), but he’s quite fond of his quark, hahahah.
Be respectful towards each other
You have to respect the fact that not everyone thinks and does the same. You make your own choices, as do other people. The decision to go vegan requires commitment and isn’t as easy for everyone. No one is waiting for a preach or your unsolicited opinion. It is likely that you’ll provoke others and make them think of you as a sorehead. An open conversation is a different story, in which you listen and don’t criticise each other. If you feel any resentment and negativity, sit down and ask how the other feels. Sometimes just talking about their feelings will help them feel understood and will help get rid of the barriers and built up irritation. Take this opportunity to express your own feelings as well. If you and your housemate(s) respect each other’s decisions and choices, you will work out a lifestyle that works for all of you.
Vegans and omnivores sharing a habitat
Regardless, there will be difficulties every once in a while. It is hard to understand each other sometimes, why one goes to such lengths for the environment and animal welfare, and why the other does not. At the end of the day, some relationships run more smoothly than others do. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer — because it’s more about the people involved than the business around the food and lifestyle.
Read more: What to do with non-vegan items after transitioning to veganism? Not only can there be tension between people, but also within oneself.