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david eddie

The question

My husband ate meat until two years ago, and is now vegan. Being in charge of meal planning and preparation (although we get some outside help), I accommodated his request and prepare both meat and vegetarian/vegan options for him and our three children. Although I did not agree with this and the rest of the family is not vegan, I complied in the interest of matrimonial harmony. Previously we agreed that our kids should eat what I prepare for them but my husband would of course prefer that the entire family eat vegan. He has now jumped on the WHO conclusions that "red meat causes cancer" and keeps bringing up that we should protect our children. I am upset and feel that my husband doesn't appreciate how much effort I put into cooking and planning meals our children will eat. What should I do?

The answer

What a colossal pain in the butt your husband sounds like. Oops, wait, sorry – did I say that out loud?

Let me start again. I feel your pain. I, too, am the principal chef of a family of five, and know what a scramble it is to try to come up with interesting, exciting, different dishes all the time – a scramble the beneficiaries of which, I know, only vaguely/peripherally appreciate.

And for a while, my two oldest went vegetarian.

My scramble became a tofu scramble, until one day, just as abruptly, they abandoned vegetarianism (cheeseburgers may have been involved).

I'd like to give some "macro-advice" here. I'm a bit of a food nerd – and the person I consider among the most enlightening on the topic is Michael Pollan. He's written brilliantly and at length about diet, but has also done us the courtesy of breaking down his philosophy into seven simple words:

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

By "eat food" he means things your great-great-grandmother would not have recognized, such as "go-gurt" or "non-dairy creamer." "Not too much" is self-explanatory. And by "mostly plants" he means more leafy plants and items you might find in a garden, less mass-produced grains like wheat, which have been industrialized and GMO-ed out the yin-yang. Become a "flexitarian."

Much as I hate to admit it, and much as I once would have said you'd have to pry that strip of bacon from my cold, dead, greasy hands, your husband's right: We cannot afford to dismiss the World Health Organization's recent findings on processed meats (that there is an indisputable link to cancer) and (over-consumption of) red meat. They were just too thorough (based on 800 studies) and conclusive.

Basically I'm suggesting that if you do become a "flexitarian" and eat mostly plants, you should be able to accommodate everyone in the household.

Note that this is a suggestion, not a prescription, and one I am only gradually incorporating into my own household – and will ultimately probably fail at when it comes to my wife, who loves nothing more than a big, bloody steak. Her eyes light up when she sees one coming up to room temperature on the counter (you must, repeat must, bring steaks up to room temperature before cooking). It makes her happy: and to me "happy wife, happy life" trumps all other aphorisms, axioms and creeds.

Speaking of which, your husband could stand to get off his (vegan) high horse, and could maybe use a little (tofu) tongue-lashing to be brought in line. So he's gone vegan: congratufrigginlations. Tell him not to become the kind of vegan who tries to boss everyone else into adopting his lifestyle choices.

Some might think you and I are fools for being too accommodating to our families' dietary restrictions and preferences. I can hear the ghosts of previous generations: "They should eat what you put in front of them!" And maybe they'd be right. Probably we're all getting a little too precious and prescriptive about our little dietary preferences. I definitely feel that often, especially among modern parents. ("We don't do pop," a judgy sanctimommy said to me once when I offered her kid one. Whatever happened to a simple, "No, thank you"?)

Whatever the larger picture might be, I certainly think we can say if your husband would like to influence what appears on the family table, he can jolly well snap his veggie-gnashing pie-hole shut, strap on an apron and chip in on the cooking.