V For Veg: Vegetarianism plus love: Can couples make it work?

Anne Dinshah's Take Down Brownie with vegan ice cream.
Anne Dinshah's Take Down Brownie with vegan ice cream.
Posted: February 09, 2012

IT'S ALWAYS the same old story: Boy meets girl... or else girl meets boy... or girl... or boy meets boy...  Anyway, the part that's the same is that two people come together from divergent worlds and try to turn those two worlds into one.

Whether they hit it off depends on a lot of factors, and one of the biggest - and hardest to ignore - is food. All of us have foods we like or dislike, of course, but when one would-be lover is a vegetarian or vegan, and the other isn't, the issue is much more pronounced.

Will somebody switch sides? Will they create a separate-but-equal dinner detente? Will they compromise in little steps, trying to reach a general consensus?

There are probably as many answers as veggie/non-veggie couples. Sure, some so-called "vegansexuals" draw a hard line, with the mantra "Lips That Touch Liver Will Never Touch Mine." Others prefer to jump into the fray, mix it up and see what happens.

South Jersey's Anne Dinshah is one of those adventurous souls. You could say she wrote the book on this topic, because she did. It's due out at the end of this month.

Dating Vegans (American Vegan Society) grew from Dinshah's column in American Vegan magazine and is largely a chronicle of her matchups over one dedicated year with men, some of whom were not quite vegan, and others who were wayyy not vegan. She talks about how they reacted to her veganism and what foods they found as common ground. She even interviews her exes to get their take.

One ex, Brad Holdren, told her, "On the grand scale of 'squeezing the toothpaste' issues, vegan is not huge. Other topics, like kids or religion, seem tougher. I gotta believe it's just a learning process that involves cooperating together."

Across the board, Dinshah said, "what worked best was asking a guy what are his three favorite vegetables, then I would craft a delicious entrée using those."

Sometimes she worked the other way, though. "One guy dared me to make him like brussels sprouts. I made him three dishes and he liked all of them, including a fruit pie that has brussels sprouts in it!

"It always impresses a man if you can make a dessert he likes," she added. "Everybody likes dessert."

The book includes recipes for treats like easy vegan fudge and almost-as-easy brownies (See recipes at Philly.com/veganchoc) that even those who are not as handy in the kitchen can make. "If you really want her," Dinshah advised male readers, "make her some chocolate. You're going against the stereotype."

There are also perspectives from couples who have come up with their own solutions to the "food compatibility" issue. These make Dating Vegans a wider resource for anyone who has an interest in love, as the methods of resolving these differences spill out into other issues couples face.

But no matter who you are, Dinshah said, love comes down to "chemistry and compatibility: You need both. Opposites attract, but not too much! There has to be an overlap, an intersection, and food is always part of that."

V for Valentine: David Steinberg, a vegan for nearly a decade, noted that his anniversary is the day before Valentine's Day, and he keeps petitioning his wife to combine the holidays. "No way!" she says. Steinberg has a new show, "Inside Comedy," on Showtime. The third episode airs tonight at 11.

Anne Dinshah will chat on food and relationships at noon Friday on philly.com.

Vance Lehmkuhl is a cartoonist, writer, musician and 10-year vegan. "V for Veg" chronicles the growing trend of plant-based eating in and around Philadelphia. Send your veg tips to VforVeg@phillynews.com and follow @V4Veg on Twitter.

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