Being vegan sucks for lots of reasons, but nothing sucks more than having that first conversation with a potential mate regarding your diet. Sadly, there's not an app that can teach you how to explain what seitan is without sounding like a freak. But now there's a book for that as, chef Ayinde Howell and writer Zoe Eisenberg have teamed to create The Lusty Vegan: A Cookbook and Relationship Manifesto for Vegans and the People Who Love Them. The 80-recipe book includes tips for how to create vegan meals that meat-eaters won't complain about.
Lusty Vegan is slated for an October release, but those looking to form an inter-dietary relationship need not wait that long, as the authors are hosting a pop-up diner at G2 Gallery in Venice tomorrow, Thursday, June 5.
The evening includes a five-course meal featuring balsamic and truffle mac-and-yease; citrus and salt-pickled fennel salad; hearts of Baltimore crab cake with garlic dill aioli; filet de soy with blood orange and Napa cabbage slaw; and fresh biscuit strawberry shortcake with vanilla ice cream. All of the courses except for the mac-and-yease, Howell says, are included in the book. Also included are stories about how Howell and Eisenberg (both vegan) have never dated another vegan, which seems sort of impossible when you consider Howell's parents went vegan before his conception, meaning he has never consumed meat or dairy.
Squid Ink: Tell me a funny story about dating a carnivore.
Ayinde Howell: I was dating this young lady and we were at the point of asking if we lived together, would there be meat in the house? She said she'd be vegan in the house and at the time I was very much like, "You'll be vegan all the time." The conversation escalated into a bit of an argument. She said, "So if I eat a piece a chicken, are you going to break up with me?" I said, "Yeah, as a matter of fact I am."
Later, we had dinner night. I went shopping, came back and go into the apartment, turned, walked into the bedroom and she was sitting on the bed eating fried chicken out of a box. She was like, "Are you going to break up with me now?" It was pretty much a stand-off.
SI: Why would someone do something stupid like dating a vegan?
AH: You have to respect someone's differences. We can't control who we like, but if we decide to go down that path, then this book is written for that situation of how not to be a jerk about it. I have a couple of paragraphs in the book where I say, "If I met somebody who said, 'You have to eat ribs and pork chops in order to date me,' I'd say, 'Hell no.'"
You have to understand both sides and give people the time and space to understand this is how I live. If your beliefs are that opposed, maybe you don't want to date something like that. It can become a power struggle, so maybe it's best - unless you're really, really in love with them - to walk away from it.
SI: What should I do when I tell a meat-eater I'm vegan and she makes a weird face?
AH: Let them have their reaction. Then the questions will come and ask they ask their questions, you can give back facts casually, like, "It works for me," "It's really easy for me," "It's cheaper in a lot of ways." Being vegan means being armed with the answers.
The things some vegans miss is we're supposed to be nice to the animals, but we're also supposed to be nice to the humans, too. And then there's the whole masculine part. I've had women who say, "Oh, you don't eat meat? Does your penis work?" It's just marketing stuff, stuff we're told. You're a man, you gotta eat a piece of raw meat. No, you don't.
SI: That's a much more diplomatic answer than I would have given. My response would have been, "How hot is the girl?"
AH: Yeah. That too.
SI: Why haven't you dated a vegan?
AH: It's just something that hasn't happened. Actually, the young lady who modeled for book cover, we started dating and she's starting to become vegan, so I think I'm getting there. It is different. There's a surprising amount of ease looking for a restaurant. What wore on me was, you eat three or four times a day and every time you eat there's a visual and physical representation of how far apart you are.
SI: It's also nice to sample from your partner's plate.
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AH: Yeah, the entire social aspect of eating isn't held up any more. I had a girl who was like, "You can't eat anything, so we can't go out. You can't hang out with my friends." You don't like every vegan you meet, so it's finding that balance - they're vegan, they're attractive, I like her, she likes me.
Tickets to The Lusty Vegan pop-up dinner on Thursday, June 5 at 7 p.m. at the G2 Gallery, 1503 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice are available for $65 per person, $95 with wine.