The New “Multivore” Family

The New “Multivore” Family

How to manage the kitchen and keep the peace 
in a vegan and omnivore household.

Illustration Credit: Peaceable Kingdom with Two Olives, by Will Bullas

A committed vegan falling in love with a die-hard bacon lover may sound like the plot to a romantic comedy, but many people in real-life “multivore” relationships find that managing mealtime is no laughing matter.

As the number of vegans rises, so too does the number of families with blended kitchens. JL Fields, co-author of Vegan for Her, says that navigating a household with two—or more—approaches to eating might be daunting, but it can work. “Have faith in the idea of the journey,” she suggests, adding that it’s important to recognize that it’s as much about managing the relationship as the meat.

Talk about It

Calmly sharing your reasons for being vegan is key, says Ellen Jaffe Jones, author of Paleo Vegan. “People who go through this transformation . . . are very often impatient with others around them who don’t get it,” she points out. She suggests watching documentaries together, or sharing stories about others who have altered their diet for a similar rationale.

“If you can find that connection, that visual image . . . at least if they don’t make the change, they will respect you for why you did,” she says. “Conjuring up the image of Bill Clinton, who was ready to have a heart procedure [before nearly eliminating animal products from his diet]—that is powerful.”

Set Clear Boundaries

Both Fields and Jones emphasize the importance of being open and clear about what’s OK and what’s not for each person. Fields told her husband that she didn’t want to buy or cook animal products. “When we go grocery shopping,” she explains, “if there’s meat in the cart, it’s because Dave put it in there.” As the household chef at the time, her husband was comfortable cooking vegetarian, but when Fields chose to go vegan, he said that he felt like he was in over his head, so Fields began cooking again.

Jones suggests dividing refrigerators, freezers, and pantries into sections. Just structuring the kitchen differently, she explains, can help reduce daily frustrations and long-term resentment.

Be Creative

Go gung-ho with greens and grains, but also try cooking up beefless crumbles in chili, or veggie hot dogs. “There are some loud voices in the vegan food community that pooh-pooh anything if it’s not a whole plant,” says Fields. But if there are foods that help people feel like they’re not missing anything, she encourages giving them a shot.

Jones’ book Kitchen Divided offers conventional recipes “veganized.” With a few substitutions and tweaks, meat-eaters might not even notice know a dish is vegan, Jones says. And if family members absolutely have to add their meat, “at least you don’t have to feel like a short-order chef.”

Respect Each Person’s Journey

Don’t try to change your loved ones, says Fields. “Since I’m a vegan lifestyle coach, a lot of people will say, ‘How can you help other people if you can’t make your own husband be vegan?’” she says. “To which I say: No one made me vegan. I had my moment, and he’s gonna need to have his.”

Over the years, she’s watched him flirt with the idea—including an encounter with a family of deer that turned him off venison—but she doesn’t push. “Neither one of us is compromising on our ethics. . . . I don’t try to force him. And he has never said to me, ‘Being vegan is ridiculous,’ or ‘You’re a pain when we go to restaurants,’ or any of that. Never.”

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