How I Got My Meat-Loving Husband to Go Vegetarian During This Pandemic

published Apr 10, 2020
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Like so many other people, I made a run to my local grocery store to stock up on essentials shortly before our stay-at-home order went into effect. I knew there was no hope of finding disinfecting wipes or toilet paper, but I was surprised by the emptiness of the meat and poultry cases. They were as bare as the cleaning supplies section — not a chicken breast or pork chop in sight.

I don’t have a problem with skipping the meat. When left to my own devices, I turn to simple, mostly vegetarian meals anyway. My husband Dan, however, is very much a carnivore. Because he works at night, we eat dinner separately during a normal work week, giving us each a chance to indulge individual cravings. While I’m at home feasting on veggie bibimbap, he’s ordering meatball Parm at the office. So while I personally wasn’t worried about getting through the next few weeks sans meat, I wasn’t sure Dan would feel the same.

Credit: Casey Barber
Casey Barber

I decided to use this time as an opportunity to show my burger-loving husband how varied and satisfying a plant-based diet can be. Honestly, even if I had found meat, I knew we needed to start streamlining our eating habits for my sanity: I’m not heating up two separate dinners each night, and ordering takeout would quickly get expensive.

Here’s what’s been working for us.

3 Strategies for Transitioning Your Household to a Plant-Based Diet

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had some hits and some misses. But these three strategies have proven successful.

1. Cook with familiar flavor profiles. We’ve been loving anything that offers the same flavor profiles as the meat-based meals Dan typically turns to. For our favorite Tex-Mex foods, I’ve amped up the beans, making burrito bowls and enchiladas with pinto beans instead of beef, and bulking up white chili with cannellini beans instead of chicken. This week, I’ve got crispy Thai basil tofu on the menu. I know he’s not psyched about that one, but it’s the same sauce he loves in our Thai basil chicken, so I’m feeling confident. Sauce solves everything, right? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

2. Keep a steady rotation of comfort foods. If there’s pasta involved, chances are my husband is going to go for it. Sheet pan gnocchi dinners seem to be tailor-made for these times, thrown together with whatever needs to be used up, be it frozen spinach or kale, sliced onions and garlic, or the remaining bell peppers in the fridge. Pierogies are sure to make an appearance soon, too. They’re always good comfort food, whether you nab some at the store or make them yourself. Here’s some more great vegetarian comfort food:

Credit: Faith Durand

3. Introduce some new foods, too. In addition to these comfort-food fallbacks, I’m bringing in ingredients that are a little more outside Dan’s comfort zone. Last week, I made chickpea coconut curry with quinoa, adding extra garlic to appeal to his palate. I’ve been eyeing this similar pantry-friendly recipe for Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon, too.

I’m very aware and very grateful for how lucky Dan and I are at a time like this. We’re both able to work from home without too much disruption, and I’m already used to meal planning and cooking for the two of us. It helps that the “we’re all doing our part” mentality has led Dan to open up his mind to dishes that don’t usually appear on the family meal plan.

In this unexpected situation, it’s been a small pleasure to see how switching up a few ingredients hasn’t been much of a sacrifice at all. And when things go back to “normal,” I’m planning on making this new way of eating part of our new normal too.