Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg know a thing or two about food (Howell is a chef, and Eisenberg a food writer). And veganism (he’s a life-long vegan; she’s been meat-free for seven years). So what happens when plant-eaters date meat-eaters? Howell and Eisenberg would know—neither has ever dated a fellow vegan. In a new cookbook and dating manifesto for vegans and the people who love them, the co-authors provide advice and recipes for how to woo—and navigate—a meat-eating mate. The Lusty Vegan hit store shelves this week, so VegNews’ Colleen Holland sat down with the pair to get their best dating tips, favorite meals to impress a new love interest, and how this food/romance/lifestyle guide all started.
VegNews: Why did you decide to write a guide to vegan food and dating?
Ayinde Howell: After lots of “field research” (ie, dating omnivores) and exploring the topic in a weekly food column I had back in 2011, I had a wealth of stories and lessons learned. After hearing the same conversation about troubles with their non-vegan mates among my fellow vegans, I knew I was not the only one.
Zoe Eisenberg: I have been writing about food and relationships for five or so years. When Ayinde and I met, we realized we had both been having many of the same issues in our relationships regarding our lifestyles. We decided it was a topic that was begging to be addressed on a larger scale.
VN: Why have neither of you dated a vegan?
ZE: I’m a closet romantic. If I’m into someone, I just can’t tell myself to calm down because that someone eats meat. Attraction and love are not rational, so I just go with it. Unfortunately, I have never met someone who was pushing the right buttons who also happened to be vegan, single, and mutually interested. That’s a tough combo to find.
AH: It really comes down to attraction. Often times, the “perfect” vegan person is just not turning you on in the right way. Or worse, you find the “perfect” vegan partner and they put you squarely in the friend zone and go off and have babies with a Hollywood producer who doesn’t even make good films. Sorry, still stings.
VN: What do you want vegans to know about dating meat-eaters?
AH: Vegans need to know if their meat-eating mate will protect and respect their beliefs and feelings around why they choose to be vegan. And the meat-eater wants to know why you are vegan, why they should change, and why you are so into it. These are usually honest questions, and your answers can make them think in ways they may not have before.
ZE: I want vegans and omnivores to know that dating one another is completely doable so long as you’re willing to compromise. If you’re not willing to do that, you probably won’t succeed in any relationship, vegan or otherwise.
VN: What’s your favorite date-night menu from the book?
AH: I just had the Devil’s Pot Pie with a fresh green salad with the Chimichurri Dressing. And Strawberry Shortcake Biscuits for dessert. It was amazing!
ZE: I am kind of obsessed with the Korean Bibimbap. I still don’t know how to pronounce it, but I sure know how to eat it. And dessert would be the Spiced Peach & Plum Cobbler because it’s easy and delicious.
VN: Since you’re the experts, what are the best aphrodisiacal plant-based foods?
AH: Asparagus, ginger, chocolate, and hot peppers are great for activating blood flow and stimulation.
ZE: Greens, greens, and more greens! They all enhance circulation if you know what I mean.
VN: What’s your best relationship advice?
AH: If it’s not deep down in your gut a “yes”, it’s probably a “no”. And if that “yes” includes a person who likes a burger every once in a while, can you accept that and not try to change them? Forever? Trust yourself to know what you can live with.
ZE: Try to remain patient and present. Often when things get hard, we start cataloging faults and wondering what else could be out there instead of gritting our teeth and doing the work we signed up for when we dropped the big “L” word. Relationships are not cars—we can’t just trade them in, get a new one, and expect that the same issue won’t arise.
VegNews’ co-founder Colleen Holland is always up for an insightful conversation on food and relationships.
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