SPOUSES OF VEGANS — ASSEMBLE!

Hi there, Medium.

I am Irish, 35 and a man. My wife is American, 28 and a woman. She is also a vegan and an organic farmer.

I spent the first twenty six or so years of my life not caring all that much where my food comes from. In fact, sometimes, when I think nobody is looking, I still don’t care. I grew up in Ireland and most of my food came straight from the family freezer. Any vegetables I ate were boiled to a soft mush — lest they retain anything resembling flavour or nutritional value — then plastered in Chef brown sauce.

Legend has it that there’s fruit in it. Somewhere.

I started cooking for myself in my mid-twenties, not necessarily for health reasons, but because I just wanted to eat nice food on the cheap. At age 29, I met my future wife in Galway, where I was living. She was visiting from America, working on an organic farm a couple of hours away. I was in a cover band, and working part-time as a cleaner. We met at an open-mic stand-up comedy night that we were both performing at. She returned to the States to work a season on an organic farm in New York State, but we stayed in touch.

When she was done, she came to live with me in Ireland. Since then, we have lived in both Ireland and the US, where she spent two seasons managing an organic farm in Michigan and working as part of the crew on another farm in New York State.

What I used to think farmers looked like. Before I married one.

It was inevitable that my wife would some day become a vegan. She had been drifting towards it for years, already being a lifelong environmentalist and, during our time in Michigan, becoming a vegetarian. Being the more enthusiastic cook of the two of us — I had become an irritating member of the church of Jamie Oliver once I began making my own food some years before — I assured her that I would only prepare veggie meals for us from here on in. I might still eat meat myself, but only as a selfish accompaniment to a dish that had to function as a standalone, satisfying vegetarian meal.

The Naked Chef, thankfully not naked.

So, at the start of 2017, when she decided that she was going to become fully vegan, I was hardly surprised. It played into her interests in both animal welfare and sustainable agriculture. But it also posed a problem for me. I wasn’t really all that interested in becoming a vegan, but when the person you love is making a life decision that is both beneficial to their health AND the environment, how does one argue with that without looking like a dick? One doesn’t. One can’t. Also, we were living with her parents at the time, who one could describe as aggressively non-vegan. Not the best place to start from but, as with the vegetarian decision the previous year, I agreed to prepare vegan food for the two of us from here on out. As well as that, I promised that once we moved into our own place that we would have a completely vegan household, so long as it was understood that, outside of our own four walls, I would remain an ignorant carnivore with permission to eat off the vegan map guilt-free.

Another powerful man who had to bend to his wife’s animal-loving ways.

So far, it’s worked pretty well. After moving out of her parents’ place and back to Ireland (where we spent a few months living with my own aggressively non-vegan family) we found our own place and, for the most part, we keep a vegan household. Having said that, if we order food in, I may opt for a meat dish. If she buys herself some vegan ice-cream of an evening, I will most likely be led astray by the Ben and Jerry’s siren call. But any food I prepare for both of us is vegan. Having eggs and dairy as staples in our pantry is a thing of the past, and I have discovered the wonders of nutritional yeast and almond milk. Food-shopping has turned into a considerable pain the arse, but it’s getting easier. It does mean maybe doing a level of research I wouldn’t have dreamed of back in my early 20’s, but it’s not impossible.

However, we are living back in my home-town in the north-east of Ireland now, and conducive to veganism it ain’t. Eating in restaurants is essentially impossible, save for chips and curry sauce (but only so long as it’s Sing Li). Things like tempeh and plant-based spreads have to be delivered by mail. Temptation lurks around every corner. One has to be vigilant in ingredient checking, as animal products are found in the most unlikely of places. Recently, I found myself checking the ingredients of a jigsaw puzzle, so paranoid have I become. In this blog, I hope to outline some of the things we do to keep our household vegan, offer some sympathy to other Spouses of Vegans (herein known as SOV’s) and assuage some of your guilt by outlining to you all the occasions that I fall off the wagon.

The Vegan Option.

(Remember, this is being written by a person wo has yet to become a vegan. It’s not lost on me that you can rearrange the letters of the word ‘assuage’ to spell ‘sausage’. In fact, I’m so proud of myself for starting this blog that I plan on getting a croissant as soon as I leave this library. I am a house-vegan, but a street-carnivore.)

Here’s to sympathising with any and all SOV’s out there. Hopefully this blog can become a place we all meet and lick our wounds.

Shit. Wounds aren’t vegan.