Friday, September 27, 2013

Can an Omnivore and a Vegetarian Get Along?

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while and I'm excited to finally be able to do it.

I made a radical change to my diet a little over two years ago when I decided to become omnivorous again.  It was a difficult decision for many reasons but one reason especially stood out and that was the fact that at the time, my husband was a strict vegetarian.  He was not comfortable with my transition and it certainly caused a lot of tension within our household.  Our diets, we both thought at the time, were polar opposites.  How could we coexist?

Well, we are in a committed relationship that means we were committed to finding a way to live harmoniously with each other.  Since I am the one who cooks 99% of the meals, a great deal of how we were going to find a way to live peaceably fell up on my shoulders.

I believe that most of the discord we feel with those around us stems from the fact that we are focused on our differences and not our similarities.  This can be said in almost all situations where we regard another as totally opposite from us.  We are choosing to focus on the differences.  And I realized that I was doing just that.

So in order to restore harmony to our household, I made a conscious decision to focus on the things we had in common: vegetables and fruits, starches, fats, sweets, and ferments.

Vegetables and Fruits
Folks who eat a vegetarian diet and folks who eat a paleo diet both agree that plant matter is an integral part of a healthy diet.  This is a perfect area to focus on when trying to find commonality.  Every meal our family shares includes vegetables prepared in a way that everyone can enjoy it.  It's a beautiful opportunity to try new vegetables and to make vegetables in new and innovative ways.  There are all kinds of salads that we have tried.  New smoothie recipes that we have tried.  We've had to expand our horizons when it comes to vegetables and fruits and it's led to some beautiful discoveries.

Starches
As I don't eat rice or white potatoes, we've had the chance to incorporate many new kinds of starches including plantain, various types of yams and squashes, and breadfruit.  We've learned to eat cauliflower as rice and we've learned to use zucchini as pasta.

Fats
I think one of the easiest places to find commonality was fats.  As soon as it became clear that most of the fats we had been eating were not up to par, it was simple to switch.  No more canola, soy, or other vegetable oil for cooking.  We switched to coconut oil and red palm oil for cooking and we use only high quality, organic extra virgin olive oil from reputable sauces for drizzling over already cooked foods.  And we started eating avocado very liberally.  We also started to incorporate a little bit of grass fed, full fat dairy into our diets in the form of ghee (which I make in the slow cooker) and yogurt (which I also make).

Sweets
I love to bake and this was very challenging indeed because most of the grain-free baked goods made with coconut flour or almond flour required eggs.  Initially, I was discouraged and gave up on being able to bake things the whole family could enjoy.  I was reluctantly baking grain free goodies and their corresponding vegan goodies.  It was exhausting.  But I have been able to find recipes for goodies that are both vegan and grain free.  I regularly check Elana's Pantry (her chocolate chip cookies, breakfast bars and raspberry streudel bars are a big hit here).  I've come up with good recipes for grain free and vegan pies. And I have found that many recipes for raw desserts work perfectly in both of our diets.  One case in point is an ice cream recipe my good sister friend shared with me.  It's got a simple ingredient list (cashews, water, maple syrup, vanilla and coconut cream) with hundreds of variations.   There's also my favorite dairy-free chocolate pudding.  A sprinkle of coconut flakes over that pudding makes for a decadent dessert experience.  It's also really good chilled in a grain free crust.

Ferments
This has been most exciting for us.  I had been making yogurt for a while (with soy milk and then later with dairy milk) but recently, the hubby got interested in making kombucha.  He grew his own scoby and has been making it for almost a year now.  And it's wonderful.  The whole family--even the baby--enjoys it.  There are other ferment that we have tried to make such as sauerkraut and fermented carrots. It's fun experimenting and we all reap the benefits of fermented foods in our diets.  I am hoping to try some more ferments in the future.

So there it is. Oh, we still bump heads from time to time over dietary stuff.  And I still cook a lot (and I mean a lot).  But by focusing on what goals we have in common, preparing and eating food has become a much more pleasant and peaceful experience.

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