The Care and Feeding of Omnivores

Vegans are about 1 to 2% of the American population. As with any group this small, the vast majority of us find ourselves in "Mixed Marriages" with Omnivores - or in any case sharing a kitchen & dinner hour with Omnivores we love.

This page is not here to offend those who feel strongly about being Vegan, but it is here to assist those who want to move toward being Vegan, or simply eating a higher percentage of plant based meals, and find that there are practical barriers preventing them.

Some Vegans will not allow Omnivore food in their houses, and persuade their partner to keep a Vegan house, if not a Vegan life. This article is not for them, but for the huge majority of Vegans - or wannabe Vegans - or seasonal Vegans observing Lent- who have two cuisines in their kitchen.

My personal perspective (which I realize is not shared by all) is that the number one priority in life is Love - for God and others - and that I should do what I can to nurture human relationships. I am not a person who feels that eating meat is a sin - if I did, that would change my perspective greatly. But, when I speak with others, I find there are a lot of other people who feel as I do. They don't want to fight over food, they don't wish to criticize or control those who choose to eat meat, but for their own reasons they don't want to eat meat or animal products themselves.

I feel like if it is possible to share a kitchen & a life with love - well, we might find a lot MORE people eating Vegan meals. Those who want to become Vegan will find it easier, and those they live with will be more drawn to a healthy, tasty loving lifestyle. In time, in this situation, even Omnivores may find themselves eating more Vegan meals or dishes.

Here are some common cooking scenaria:

1) Perhaps the most common - the person who wants to be Vegan decides it's too much trouble to cook two meals, and decides to just eat animal foods part or all of the time. This page is here to help that person see that it is possible - and not even that difficult - to be Vegan when your family is Omnivore.

2) Second scenario - the Vegan and Omnivore share a kitchen and cook together. A happy arrangement. This page will give some ideas to facilitate that food relationship.

3) The Omnivore is the family cook & prepares all or most of the food. This can be difficult because many cooks take pride in their creations, and feel hurt if someone never wants to eat what they cook - even if for a good reason. This page will give the Omnivore cook some ideas for turning out food that pleases everyone at the table - without a lot of hassle.

4) The Vegan is the family cook, and wants to accommodate the Omnivore's food tastes, but doesn't want to cook two whole meals every day.

So, here goes! Here are the methods that I have found help in cooking for a "Mixed Marriage."

  • Think of Animal foods as a side dish. Prepare a lovely, balanced Vegan meal for all diners, then add one plate of meat or cheese for the Omnivore. This is my most common method.

  • Avoid composite dishes like casseroles in which meat and cheese are mixed with starch and veggies. Most of these dishes aren't that all healthy anyway. If you MUST serve a dish like that, set out the Vegan ingredients and bake them without the animal products in a separate dish. This is the most trouble of all the choices - and not an everyday sort of solution.

  • A slow cooker or Crock Pot can be your best friend. A FROZEN piece of meat (2 1/2 to 3 pounds) can be set down inside, dry seasonings sprinkled on top, and turned on high (do NOT preheat- crock will crack! Some manufacturers recommend adding a little water - I don't add liquid myself - check your manual if you like.). Four or Five hours later, you have roast-whatever to last several meals. I have used this method with pre-marinated lamb, beef roast and turkey breast for several years and have only once had a bad result (tough cut of meat). The Omnivores say the meat is moist and tasty. After cooking, whatever is not eaten can be sliced or cubed and frozen for adding to future meals. Since the meat is frozen when you start, the task is less distasteful (no dripping "juice") and it only takes a few seconds. And, if you do it with refrigerated rather than frozen meat, that also produces a great result.
  • An indoor grill (I use a George Foreman Grill) can be used to make exactly enough meat for one diner for one meal - and takes next to no time. This is a good choice for adding a chicken breast, steak, or pork chop to a meal. Add a little spaghetti sauce & cheese to the chicken breast, and broil - and you have Chicken Parmesan without much fuss. Some people pre-grill & freeze chicken breasts for such applications. It can also be good to pre-dice chicken breast prepared this way to add to stir fry or noodle dishes.

  • Share a marinade. Sometimes I make a marinade - say teriyaki or dijon - and use it both for the meat for the Omnivore and for tofu for me. This is nice if you want a themed meal (like Chinese night) or for one of those meals where you need something in the place where meat traditionally goes on the plate. This is also a good option for those who enjoy Seitan or Tempeh (they're not part of my diet).

  • Plan a veggie plate. Some nights, meat is the "star." For instance, when there is Steak for a Birthday dinner, Lamb for Pascha ( Easter ) or Turkey at Thanksgiving. On these days, it is a perfect time to make a meal out of side dishes. For instance, a meal of Lima Beans or Peas, Roast Potatoes, Salad & Bread with Fruit for dessert is a balanced meal for a Vegan that pairs well with meat.

  • Look-alike food. Sometimes, you want to blend. If the omnivore is having a burger, you have a veggie burger. Some Vegans regularly enjoy meat-analogues (things like veggie hot dogs or veggie chicken nuggets). I usually avoid them for financial, health and taste reasons, but if you enjoy them, this can be a good option.

  • Throw some corn on the Barbie. If you're barbecuing, it is good to have Vegan choices. Things I enjoy are: Corn, Eggplant, Portabella Mushrooms, and Zucchini - to name a few.

  • Most butchers are willing to cut meat for you however you like it - this saves you from distasteful task of cutting it up. For instance, I sometimes buy a slab of ribs and ask the butcher to cut them into four equal rib sections. Then barbecuing them is a simple matter of putting them in the Slow Cooker, covered in purchased sauce, for 4 to 5 hours on high.

  • Some Vegans are happy to take on the task of cooking for the Omnivore in their lives, while others prefer not to. Cooking together is a good option in that situation. The above meat cooking tasks take just a few seconds, and it is a simple matter for the Omnivore to step into the kitchen to get things started, or to clean the grill, without necessarily taking on all of the dinner preparation tasks. 

  • Starting in 2017, I will be sharing Omnivore Recipes and ideas of how to accommodate a Vegan, in addition to my past Vegan Recipes with ideas of how to accommodate an Omnivore. 

Whatever methods you choose - keep Love at the center, and enjoy your family!