Making the ultimate compromise

For Meatless Monday, learn about one man’s decision to go vegetarian. This is the second installment of a three-part series. Read the first installment here.

By Mark Donahue
For my wife and I, the start of our domestic life together started there in the basement kitchen of the hipster hovel where she resided. Besides tofu, she also fed me seitan, TVP and tempeh — all kinds of fake meat. But I was a little more resistant to everything else, save potatoes (in a concession to my Irishness). Early on I wrote her a list of the vegetables I wouldn't eat, and she took it as a challenge to convert me on every item.

We also went out to restaurants a lot, hitting all the Chicago standards for vegan dining. It soon became apparent that as great as these places were, they were few in number and in need of reinforcements, this city not being particularly sympathetic to non-meat eaters. Such was my introduction to the Us vs. Them situation my girlfriend found herself in when we left the cozy basement kitchen looking for food.

I felt for her — most acutely when we were on the road or stuck in some remote part of the city. Where I could've easily walked into a McDonald's as a last resort, Erika sometimes had to go hungry till we got back to home base. In the time before smartphones it was hard to find a decent ethnic (read: Thai) option if you didn't know the area.

But I never gave her a hard time about how this sometimes inconvenienced me because I did plenty to inconvenience her in the early days. And she kept making me such incredible food. When we moved in together in the spring of 2004, I was fully under the roof of a vegan, and that's what I ate all the time, save lunch.

Lunch was my last vestige of meat. Particularly the grilled and ham and cheese from Big Herm's across the street from my office in the West Loop. I informed her with guilty, mocking pleasure whenever I ate one of these monstrosities. Erika would shake her head. I would laugh. But it was more a matter of me flaunting my last outlet for dietary bachelorism. I was like a travelling salesman on the road.

This gloating was perhaps too much to bear for her, considering how happy it seemed to make her to make me happy with her cooking. It should be all her, as it was in the rest of our relationship. And I know she was also concerned about my health. Even a 20-something young dude can only take so many greasebombs for the team before he starts to get sick in the many ways food can make you sick.

I heard this concern in her voice and saw it in her eyes. So I said I Do. I Do to vegetarianism. And I was equally happy when she said she'd give up her cancer sticks, the final gate to living fully healthy.

Look for the final installment next Monday!

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