My boyfriend and I have two completely different eating styles: I try new things, while he’s content with the same thing over and over again. When we started dating nearly 8 years ago (yes, you read that correctly) it became apparent really quickly that this food thing would be one of the facets of our relationship that would be
a struggle interesting. I hope by the end of this post that if you are in a relationship where one of you is a vegan and one is an omnivore, one is lactose-intolerant and one eats cheese in every meal, one is vegetarian and one is allergic to anything green… you can find a happy medium.
Well, here’s some background on us:
Firstly, I love fruits. With the exception of honeydew and grapefruit, I love every kind of fruit and berry that I can think of. Love love love. The boyfriend, on the other hand, hates all fruits. Every. Single. One. The closest thing to a fruit that he’ll consume is orange juice (pulp-free only, just like me). But will he eat an orange itself? Nope. (This was one of the first arguments we had as a couple: if you like orange juice, why not oranges??!! Bah!!!) The good thing about this is that I can use his least favorite fruit (bananas) to gross him out and get him to do things around the house! Tee hee.
Secondly, though I don’t like all veggies, I do like many of them and try new ones all the time. The only vegetables I hate are tomatoes (in nearly any form: raw, juice, sauce…), raw onions (they must be cooked to the point of not being crunchy), olives, anything that’s pickled (pickled cucumbers, radishes, peppers, etc.), cooked mushrooms (I love them raw!), eggplant (unless it’s breaded and fried!), and bell peppers (unless they’re chopped up and cooked beyond recognition, and mixed in something to conceal the texture). The not-so-extensive list of veggies that the boyfriend likes and willingly eats are:
- pickles (I hate including this one since it’s basically a cucumber!)
- iceberg or romaine lettuce (he doesn’t like “weird” lettuces like boston, arugula, etc. but will eat them if served as part of a big salad and has dressing on it)
- peas (sometimes, and I’m not even sure of the specifics anymore)
The third most notable difference is our protein choices. Though I rarely eat meat, poultry, or seafood anymore, I do like them all. Any kind of meat, game, fowl, and seafood (except squid, octopus, and steamers) I enjoy. Though my guy loves red meat and chicken, he will not touch anything that has come from the sea, lake, river, or ocean. Going out for sushi together means I order sushi and he orders ramen, udon, or something slathered in teriyaki.
Sometime within the first year together, I told him that I wanted him to try a new food every month. Just one. If he liked it, great; if not, that’s okay. The important thing was that he’d be learning to try new things. I can’t remember how many foods I’ve had him try or exactly what they all were because most have been failures that I have removed from my memory; however, there have been some successes! Gyros, tomato soup, and fluffernutter sandwiches are the three that come to mind… and they are possibly the only three new food introductions of the past 8 years.
I love eggs, he still hates them. I will drink milk plain, he still needs chocolate syrup (and won’t even drink the milk at the bottom of the cereal bowl!). I love bleu cheese and yogurt, while he still considers them both to be “fungus” or “bacteria”… as if that’s always a bad thing!
Despite these crazy differences, we do have our similarities: we both love cheese, ice cream, super-spiciness, pasta, and pizza. Though I am not a huge chocolate fan (while he is) we never have issues choosing a dessert we’ll both love.
Also, I absolutely refuse to make two completely separate meals for dinner. Growing up, my mom never made a special meal just for me if I didn’t want what was being served. If I wanted something else, I’d have to make it. (Usually I’d make myself some cereal or a grilled cheese if my mom was making something gross like pig’s feet! Man, Puerto Rican food can sometimes be disgusting!) This is what I still do.
If I’m making grilled salmon with rice, my boyfriend can grill up his own chicken breast and have that with the rice if he wants. If I just want a salad for a light supper but he wants something else or something more, he’ll break out a can of chili and warm it up. Our pantry is full of his easy-to-make staples such as Top Ramen, Chef Boyardee, Campbell’s soup, Taste of Asia noodle dishes, and Chunky chili. He always has cereal, milk, bread, and peanut butter, too. It’s pretty hard for him to get hungry on the days where I want a banana smoothie for dinner!
One visual representation of some of the fun we have with catering to both of our tastes is this home-made pizza we had for dinner on Sunday. My 1/4 of the pie had vegan “cheez” sauce, chopped spinach, seitan, Daiya mozzarella, and fresh basil. His 3/4 of the pie had tomato sauce, bacon, buffalo-marinated chicken, and pepperjack. Something for the both of us in one easy step.
Here are some things I’ve learned over the past 8 years with the 2nd pickiest eater I’ve ever known (1st place going to his younger brother, of course):
- Pick your battles. Food shouldn’t be one of them. The time you spend eating every day is probably around 2-4 hours, depending on your personal eating style and schedule. Regardless of the exact amount of time, I guarantee it’s less than 1/6th of your day; why let such a small amount of your daily life impact your relationship in a large way?
- “My way or the highway” = the wrong way. Everybody in the world has been raised differently. Some households have the toilet paper coming under the roll rather than over the roll (weirdos…); some parents tell their kids they must only shower in the morning (weirdos…). When you enter a relationship, the things you once considered “normal” are challenged. Realize your way isn’t necessarily right! Negotiate, compromise, and move on – this goes with food as well. My boyfriend’s family eats dinner around 8:30 or 9:00pm, which is about 2 and a half hours later than my family did. As a couple, we eat dinner at around 7:00-7:30, closer to when I am used to but still a bit later than “normal” for me.
- Don’t baby them. If you’re the one who does most of the cooking, and if you’re empathetic, you may want to cater to your picky counterpart’s needs. Sometimes I do this (grilling a burger for him while I make myself an egg white omelet) but as mentioned before, I usually don’t. We’re both grown adults and according to my resume, I’m not a maid or servant. The best way to get someone to make the decision to try a new food is for it to be their only option. If they don’t want to try it, they can make a can of soup for themselves. If they want to try it, awesome! (But, note that the latter won’t happen as often as you like, which brings me to my next point…)
- Try not to be frustrated or disappointed. Believe me when I say that eight years of hearing “Why should I try something new when I already know what I like?” has been the cause of my first (and so far only) three grey hairs. Also, that orange juice argument will be one that we have for the next 50 years. There may be days where I am at a loss for words, but just like with the first item of this list, don’t make it a battle.
- Try, try again… but don’t be forceful. On laundry day, you don’t want to do laundry but you know you must. If you use the word “must” or “have to” or “need to” with your significant other’s newest food challenge, they’re going to want to do it just as much as you want to bleach the bathroom grout or vacuum the stairs. The “try a new food every month” thing is rarely ever monthly because I don’t force him to do it. This has resulted in some big surprises, like when he not only tried a green bean but also tried a carrot at the same time… and I didn’t even ask him to! (He hated them both, but it was his choice!)
- Try, try again… but don’t be sneaky. I used to think that sneaking food was the only way to get my boyfriend to try a new or healthier food. Replacing ground beef with ground turkey, swapping out regular ice cream for soy ice cream. Sure, he may have fallen for some (seitan sloppy joes were a total win!) but he sure saw through the brown rice I used instead of white rice, and boy, he wasn’t happy. The boy has told me that his mom used to do this with him and his brother as kids, the most awful (and traumatizing) being the time she fried fish and told them it was fried chicken. Needless to say, that did not go over well and has probably screwed me over from any attempt to get him to even try seafood. Bottom line: if you love them, don’t be mean or sneaky about it unless you want to them lose all trust in you.
I’m pretty sure my guy will never like bananas, zucchini, eggs, or plain milk. When our kids ask us why they have to eat their broccoli but daddy doesn’t, he’ll tell them it’s because he’s an adult (and I’ll laugh and agree). When we’re old and grey, I’ll probably trade him my mashed potatoes for his applesauce, giving him the same “you’re ridiculous!” look I give him now.
For the record, I’d rather have to trade him his applesauce for my mashed potatoes when we’re in a retirement home than to not have him in my life at all.