Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

Being a single, hetero-ish vegan woman, I’ve often been astonished by the some of my experiences with carnies. Yes, I’ve only been vegan since early last year, but went vegetarian nearly eight years ago, so I’ve racked up a few notches on my belt since then. Most of the men I’ve dated since then haven’t been vegetarians. And all of them, at least once, seemed a little unsure at best, and downright clueless at worst as to how to manage our dietary differences. I don’t blame them for it – anyone faced with someone with a diet different from their own can be perplexing. Fold in the hopes of getting said-person-with-a-different-diet into the sack can yield out-and-out handwringing.

For example, while I was on a bit of writing sojourn in Vancouver last fall, one nicely turned out gent decided to take to a swanky chophouse for our first date. I had mentioned I was vegan, but perhaps he wasn’t listening? As such, while he was mowing down on his prime rib, I was gnawing on a side of potatoes and a salad (which, as I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, I don’t really mind doing). He seemed almost annoyed at the fact that there was little I could eat on the menu, and I felt embarrassed for perhaps not making a better suggestion. 

Maybe the above is a bad example (as the evening progressed I realized I was seated across DSM-grade, if a little low-rent, narcissist). Either way, most statistics say that anywhere between four and seven per cent of Canadians are practicing some form of vegetarianism, and those numbers are far more pronounced in younger cohorts. As such, if you eat meat or dairy, fine -- but there’s a solid chance in your courting days you’ll fall prey to the wiles of some captivating veggie sometime, somewhere. 

You’ve asked a date with a beguiling veghead on a date, and they’ve accepted. Let a sister help you out. I’ve rolled with vegetarians for years, and a lot of the chow-related missteps seem to rest on some recurrent oopsies. Here’s a few do’s and don’ts.

Right off the bat, DON’T be afraid to ask if your date is vegetarian if you’re suggesting the eatery. Never hurts to show a little interest. 

DO check out the place you’re meeting. Most restaurants post their menus online, or pin them up outside. Good choices are Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern or East Asian restaurants – all of these cuisines incorporate a hefty load of veggies and plant-based proteins. Better yet, go online and find a top-rated vegetarian restaurant in your area. 

DON’T make the vegetarian thing an issue. If they bring it up, great. If not, don’t. If you’re stumped for engaging conversation, ask about where they grew up. Pedestrian, yes. Boring, maybe. But vegetarianism isn’t a political party; most of us don’t need to talk about it like it’s our job. 

If the vegetarian thing comes up, DON’T talk about how much you couldn’t live without meat, or how you think tofu tastes like sh*#. It’s not that we’re offended, we mostly don’t care. 

DON’T worry about getting “recruited.” Rest assured, we probably like for you personality, or at least your looks. So relax, there’s no veggie version of Dianetics we’re going to press into your hands. 

DO a little homework. A lot of us aren’t aren’t born into vegetarian households, so figuring out the ins and outs the kinder diet takes some research. PETA’s PR department is foolhardy at times, but offers a good introduction to vegetarianism here. 

DON’T get creepy. There’s a few, um, sex-related myths about vegetarians and vegans. I won’t comment on their legitimacy, but keep it classy, okay? We’re trying to have a civilization, here. 

My count says five don’ts and two dos, but don’t (that makes six) let that scare you. At the end of the day, our choice of diet does tends to triangulate into broader issues of what we care about. Regardless of what we choose to shove into our faces, dating is showing a little respect. Remember that, and you’ll do just fine.