Photo Credit: Veer
Quick, picture a bunch of vegans.
Chances are, the stereotype you just conjured wasn’t of a gaggle of strapping gents with bulging biceps. But then, you probably haven’t met the six vegans NPR’s “All Things Considered” interviewed this week—among them a bodybuilder, a triathlete, and a mixed-martial arts fighter—who got together to barbecue beet burgers and prove that it’s more masculine to protect the planet and its animals than to destroy them.
While they’re all proud to have gone vegan, the men all agree on one thing: They’ve been made to feel “unmanly” for doing it.
Nowadays, 5 percent of the population is vegetarian, 2 percent is vegan, and one can both order a veggie burger at Burger King and shell out $100 for a vegetarian tasting menu. But as meat-free food options have increased, can the same be said of carnivores’ acceptance of meat-free people?
Those who choose to cut meat out of their lives are often doing it for admirable reasons: to save animals, lessen environmental footprints, and improve their health. But many carnivores simply can’t get past the notion of not being able to share a filet mignon by candlelight at a fancy steakhouse, or the snooze-worthy prospect of cooking meatless meals every evening.
And you? Would you date a vegetarian?
We posed the question on the Yahoo Food Facebook page, where responses were mixed. Some wouldn’t give it a second thought:
“Yes, everyone is entitled to live their lives,” writes Miami’s Fonda Frost.
“Been married to one for 40 years. What’s your point?" asks Beverly Moraca of Glassboro, N.J.
Others wouldn’t even consider it:
“No, I love to cook,” writes Joyce Spriggle of Lewistown, Penn., “but need to cook more than just veggies!”
Still others have a live-and-let-eat philosophy: tempeh and T-bones peacefully co-existing, if you will.
“Yes,” commented Johnnie Rhodes of Orlando, Fla., “as long as they don’t mind watching me tear into a big porterhouse.”
Some have tried and failed: Rachel O., a grad student in Chicago, tells us that though she dated a vegetarian for a few months, she wouldn’t do it again. Ever. “It limited where we could go out to eat or what we would eat when we cooked together,” she recalls. “He would get annoyed if I got something with meat in it because he couldn’t share with me and he ‘had to make out with me’ so I would have to brush my teeth. It all made me feel very guilty.”
Despite penning a book titled The Shameless Carnivore, author Scott Gold told us he would indeed date a vegetarian … with a few conditions. “It wouldn’t be easy and she would have to be completely awesome in almost every other way.” Entering into a relationship with a vegan, however, is a sacrifice he simply won’t make. “No way. Never…butter and cheese are entirely too important to me. They are a fundamental part of my existence. Give me dairy or give me death.”
Gold isn’t the only one who draws the line at vegans.
"I would be very hesitant to date a vegan, but [it] has more to do with being suspicious of someone who’s elected to restrict [his] own realm of pleasure that much,” writes Kris W., editor, of Boston, Mass. “Celiacs can add a level of complication to dating, but it’s not a choice they’re making. With vegans, they’re choosing (unless I guess they have a medical reason) to shut themselves off from all kinds of delights, and to make every dining experience kind of a pain in the a(*&(.”
Vegans and vegetarians who are male, in particular, wind up dealing with more a stigma than their female counterparts. (Perhaps in part because of the stereotype of women ordering salads and steamed vegetables and constantly dieting.) But famous men are going veg:
Rapper Ne-Yo announced he was going vegan for his 2013 New Year’s resolution, Samuel L. Jackson credited a vegan diet with his 40-pound weight-loss earlier this year, Jay-Z and Bey took the plunge for 22 days, and Dax Shepard went vegetarian for a year before dabbling in chicken (and thus couldn’t accept PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian title last year)
For athletes, the backlash can be harsh: Millions of fans are counting on them to do everything they can to win the game. When Houston Texans star running back Arian Foster announced via Twitter that he was going vegan in 2012, fans and sports commentators alike questioned whether the pro football player could do as good a job on the field without fueling up on meat and dairy.
"Obviously being a vegan in the NFL came with a lot of criticism. ‘Will you be strong enough? How will you get your protein? You won’t survive! You can’t live without meat!’ I heard it all," Foster, who says he went vegan to inspire kids and parents to think about how to live a healthier lifestyle, wrote us. "At the end of the day, it’s not about being a vegan, or being a carnivore, or any label for that matter. It’s about living a healthy life.
As for how his wife felt? “She actually joined me in my journey and we both loved it,” he says. Though Foster now eats some animal protein, he focuses on a plant-based diet and has signed on as a spokesperson for Health Warrior, which makes vegan, chia-based products.
Christina Pirello, a cooking teacher and TV host who has written six vegan cookbooks including Cooking the Whole Foods Way, wrote us that much of the stigma plaguing vegans is based on some truth. “I have met and know many loving, open, truly compassionate and fabulous plant-based eaters. But I have also met the ones who have given this wonderful lifestyle a bad name. They judge and condemn rather than accept and welcome,” she says. “Sadly, these very few, very loud vegan voices have created an unfounded reputation for this movement, which makes dating challenging for both the vegan and the terrified date.
Your best bet for dating a vegetarian, according to Perillo: “Be open and relaxed and willing to accept people as they are.”