Six months ago I took the plunge of going from being a meat-chomping milk guzzler to a committed vegan. It was a transformation achieved quite literally overnight: one evening I went to bed with a bellyful of chicken and milky hot chocolate, and the next morning woke up swearing off all animal-derived products – forever, or at least so remains my intent.
Since that fateful day, I have learnt an awful lot about my diet, what foods I can’t and ought to eat, and which cuisines and supermarkets and restaurants are vegan friendly, or bafflingly not so. What has surprised me the most however is how becoming a vegan has altered other not insignificant aspects of my life, in ways that I never foresaw. Not least among these is my love life.
For it turns out that we who play the dating game as vegans have certain obstacles to surmount that our carnivorous competitors can blithely side-step, yet also have the decided advantage of being dealt a couple of extra tricks with which to test the suitability of our vying men-folk. In short, while I have never looked back from going vegan, the fact of being a vegan has made me look twice at my male suitors.
To would-be vegans and would-be daters, I therefore humbly offer the following advice, gleaned from six months of viewing men through vegan-goggles:
The First Date
It is almost inevitable that the fact of one’s being a vegan will be mentioned on the first date, or at the very latest on the first occasion at which the possibility of eating food together is mooted. How your suitor reacts to the announcement can be crucial in determining whether to grant the honour of a second date. In my experience, men invariably fall into one of three categories:
1. Most men, no matter their actual opinion or the extent of their knowledge on veganism, will, if they like you, react with non-committal understanding and polite curiosity, possibly shaded with amusement or admiration. These men deserve a second date, though be alert: if they forget in the intervening days that you are a vegan, which is after all fairly definitive to your identity, then he is either rudely inattentive or hopelessly incompetent.
2. A minority of men, namely those who think the matter on your plate does not warrant the label “meal” unless it includes meat, may attempt to point out the absurdity of your life choices and persuade you, for your own bodily health and mental sanity, to eat a steak and kidney pie. These men are to be walked out on mid-date.
3. Finally, it is perfectly possible that you may find yourself on a date with a fellow-vegan. Be wary however of reacting with too much enthusiasm to this discovery, for it may mislead either party into the false belief that they have found their soul mate. Veganism may well be fundamental to both your characters, but it is equally plausible that all other aspects of your characters are fundamentally opposed. No man, or woman, should be judged on their dietary preferences alone.
If in doubt remember: even Hitler was a vegetarian.
The choice of what to eat on your first dinner-date is always fraught with potential pitfalls. Any dish that is likely to end up wedged between your teeth, fouling your breath or falling off on the journey between plate and mouth is never lingered on during the menu perusal. Unless you are a vegan, in which case you will find, at most restaurants, that there is but one option for you, and that option is invariably the messiest. Be it pasta in tomato sauce at an Italian, or noodle-soup at an Asian, a vegan’s lack of choice at “normal” restaurants (that is, eateries which serve bits of animal arranged with cheese) will transform her in minutes from sophisticated, alluring lady to a sloppy, slurping, bib-requiring two-year-old.
For non-vegans newly dating vegans, Valentine’s Day poses a challenge. Chocolates, romantic meals, strawberries in cream – all suddenly apparently impossible due to your sweetheart’s ethical choices. Ah, but it is not so. If vegans couldn’t eat chocolate, I wouldn’t be one. I would simply find it impossible. Yet fortunately, there are many dairy-free choccie options on the market, ranging from high-quality dark chocolate, to raw cocoa “cakes”, to “milk” chocolate produced with soya or rice milk. And while it is true one may struggle to find such delights packaged in nauseating – sorry, romantic – heart-shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day, the effort one’s beau must go to to procure your sweetmeats is a far greater testament to his affection than his ability to pick out the pinkest, fluffiest, biggest, most vomit-inducing box in the shop. What is more, if he really likes you, he could try rustling you up a vegan treat himself – chocolate avocado cupcakes being my particular Valentine’s Day tip.