I never used to know what nooch was until I met my girlfriend. To me, nooch sounded like something from outer space. But now, almost a year into our relationship, not only do I have the correct definition of nooch (a nutritional yeast used for cooking) stored in my head, I’m also much more astute to the existence of other healthy edibles and how their consumption is beneficial for both the body and the environment. This is because my girlfriend is vegan, and I am not.
According to a survey by The Hartman Group, an advising team in the food and beverage marketplace, 12 percent of Millennials are vegetarian. Surely many of them are pairing up with other vegetarians and vegans. But at that rate I think it’s safe to assume that mixed pairings such as Rachael and I are not uncommon.
When she first told me she was vegan, I figured what most people do—she doesn’t eat meat. I quickly learned, however, that there is much more to the vegan approach to healthy eating. My first brush with her veganism came in the form of cupcakes, a treat we both used as common ground when we began dating. She’d have to check her phone to see which cupcake shops served vegan cupcakes so that we wouldn’t spend time walking to the wrong one. Cupcakes were one thing, but when we started actually going out to sit-down restaurants together, let’s just say spending a lot of time reading menus beforehand became a routine.
Now, you’re probably thinking I’m complaining, and I’d agree it sounds like I am, and at first I honestly wasn’t sure if a pizza-loving guy such as myself could have the patience for the fine-tooth combing that went into deciding where we can go for dinner (for the record, trying to find vegan-friendly establishments is no easy task). But I respected her noble decision to go vegan, so we made it work.
It hasn’t been easy for her, either. Rachael had to also get used to my own eating habits.
I asked Rachael to reflect on our miles-apart food choices. “At one point a few months in, mind you, we started dating less than two months into my being a vegan, I just couldn’t understand how you—or anyone—could say they love animals and still choose to consume them,” she told me. “It seems mind boggling to me, but there’s a mutual understanding and respect for the other’s choices. We eat a lot of Asian-inspired food.”
Although we found a safe haven with fortune cookies, you can only eat Chinese food for so many nights in a row, so I decided to try some of her homemade vegan meals. As it turned out, this was a good move for our relationship in more ways than one. Not only did we end up finding some dishes that we both enjoy and can share, we also discovered another way to spend some quality time together by being partnering chefs in the kitchen. She’d show me the mysteries of nooch (turns out it’s also a good cheese substitute) and spaghetti squash while I’d be the taste-tester, although I wasn’t really sure how it was supposed to taste.
Have I been converted to being a full-on vegan? No, I have not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect people’s decision—or my girlfriend’s—to live that lifestyle. While I eat conventionally healthy and am now more conscious of how my food is made thanks to Rachael, my own personal diet is not that of a vegan’s. Will I someday become vegan? Maybe. For now, though, I’m living proof that a cheese junkie can be with someone who won’t go to Pizza Hut.
Jason Savio is studying journalism in the graduate program at Emerson College in Boston. He enjoys writing about the arts and entertainment, and also contributes to Pulse Magazine, for which he has his own video game column and reviews music. Follow him @TheRealJSavio.
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