“One extra large mighty Meatosaur pizza with extra ground beef. And then one thin base Vegetable Supreme-o with no cheese and no extras. No, not mozzarella, nothing. In fact, put the extra cheese on the Meatosaur.”
This is our pizza order. My boyfriend sometimes jokes that he is offsetting my veganism. As hard as I (subtly) try, I know if I am out for dinner, I will come home to half-eaten chicken curry, or at least, leftover spaghetti bolognese. So when we order pizza out, he jokes he’s eating meat for two.
You might ask what the point is of me being vegan and my boyfriend eating meat, as we both cancel each other out. But that’s the thing – it’s precisely not the point. The ‘what difference does it make?’ argument is one of the first questions most vegans are faced with: one person eating vegan food doesn’t stop billions of animals being killed each year for consumption. It doesn’t even bring a single factory farm’s conveyor belt to a halt. But it does start a debate. We don’t live in vacuums and since turning vegan, I’ve realised what I chose to put (or not put) on my plate can speak a lot louder than words.
I’ll admit, in the first few months of going vegan, I was ready for a fight with anyone. I had acquired all this new knowledge concerning the food industry, but couldn’t understand how my boyfriend was still happy eating the way he always had. Why didn’t he want to read the same books as me? Why didn’t he want to put himself through hours of awful, harrowing video footage to know the truth about a system he paid money into every day?
I had a million and one ideas going on about the kind of person that chose to ignore what I now saw as so obvious, but judging the people closest to you doesn’t help anyone. Your veganism, your vegetarianism, your belief in whatever you sustain yourself with, are all choices. Yes, this becomes a grey area when someone’s diet involves eating other sentient beings, and I’m not going to deny the times I’ve chosen to force the issue on why my boyfriend still eats bacon, why he can still drink milk and why he still orders ground beef on his pizza.
But hey, guess what, not one of those rows have ended with him changing any of those decisions. We’ve had joke rows and full on “I don’t understand how you can’t make the connection” rows and he still has the same pizza order he’s had for five years. Whether discussing the moral dilemma of our shopping list starts with a sarcastic text or a shouting match, the end result has never changed: he’s not for turning, and neither am I.
The reason I’m okay with this is because he is okay with this. He doesn’t cringe over my When Harry Met Sally-style orders in restaurants (I’ll have the cactus burrito but if it comes with feta then no feta but if it’s the corn salsa then extra salsa to replace the feta but no dressing and you get the picture…) and he doesn’t cook things like sausages or bacon when I’m at home. I didn’t ask him to do this, he just worked out it would be a better way for us both.
The reality of living with an omnivore is that you can’t avoid the issue when it’s on your plate three times a day. But it doesn’t have to define everything, either. I love hanging out with my vegan friends as there’s a shared understanding, but I think it’s also vital to show that as a vegan, you can live alongside other people and not in a tofu bubble. When you share a vegan meal with your meat-eating friends, your choice becomes possible, feasible, maybe even, dare I say it, normal.
Shouting and statistics and judging the people around you probably won’t get them to feel any better about veganism as a choice they can make. But showing them that day-to-day you still get to eat amazing food, some of which they may never have thought could be veganised? I think that sounds like a way better conversation to start.
I may not have been able to turn my boyfriend vegan outright, but we eat exactly the same dinners five nights a week. It didn’t happen through battles won or lost, it happened through life and having jobs and a zillion other things to do- we will both cook, but it’s always vegan. It turns out he got sick of the cheese, butter or meat he bought going bad as he couldn’t eat it in time before the use-by-date. Now he says he feels healthier and leaner without so much meat, dairy and eggs in his life. Apart from cow’s milk, our refrigerator is 100 per cent vegan, and every meal we eat that’s the same, I know my boyfriend is helping save the lives of animals, whether he planned to or not. I think the pizza order is just a guy thing.
So here’s a recipe for a super-warming polenta cornbread and vegan pumpkin chili, perfect for sharing with friends who won’t even know they’re ‘missing’ anything. It’s also gluten free and soy free, so should work for whoever comes round for dinner.
Makes enough for 6
For the chili: