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He's Just Not That Into You...And Your Meat

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Can we now add eating habits to the long list of modern relationship deal-breakers? The New York Times published a pre-Valentine's Day article this morning discussing the difficulties couples face when their diets are dramatically different:

Ben Abdalla, 42, a real estate agent in Boca Raton, Fla., said he preferred to date fellow vegetarians because meat eaters smell bad and have low energy. Lisa Romano, 31, a vegan and school psychologist in Belleville, N.Y., said she recently ended a relationship with a man who enjoyed backyard grilling. He had no problem searing her vegan burgers alongside his beef patties, but she found the practice unenlightened and disturbing. [...]

June Deadrick, 40, a lobbyist in Houston, said she would have a hard time loving a man who did not share her fondness for multicourse meals including wild game and artisanal cheeses. “And I’m talking cheese from a cow, not that awful soy stuff,” she said.

I have to say I'm with June on this one -- soy cheese is not sexy. (Sorry, Zach.) But neither are vegetarians who think meat eaters "smell bad" -- hey now! There's no reason to get mean about it, and I know plenty of reasonable veggie heads who have no problem dating the more carnivorous members of our species.

In my house, we have a pretty strict policy of "eat whatever Mommy makes you and like it," but that isn't to say some culinary compromises have been made. My boyfriend's tastes run to steak, potatoes, and Doritos, while I have weird addictions to things like falafel, anchovies straight from the can and Sriracha sauce. We both agree on pasta, fresh green veggies, fish, and Costco potstickers.

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Overall, though, he's a pretty good fit for me food-wise. I make sure he has a balanced diet (otherwise he'd happily live on microwavable burritos and corn dogs), he makes sure I have fun with recipes like Sloppy Joes and chicken Kiev. We also love going out to dinner together and experiencing new restaurants, and our mutual love of shows like "Top Chef" and "Iron Chef" means that we can talk about food with each other with enthusiasm and interest.

I've dated some picky eaters in the past, guys who wouldn't eat any meat other than chicken and hated the taste of pretty much everything except cereal and peanut butter. Let me tell you, for a girl who passionately loves food and cooking, watching your boyfriend dump freshly-cooked vegetable stew into the sink because you forgot you had put some ham hock in it for flavor. That's not disappointing, that's heart-breaking. We didn't last.

Perhaps less emotionally traumatizing, although no less difficult, is figuring out how to share meals with somebody who has a serious food allergy. I'm not nut-crazy, but I do enjoy using peanuts, cashews, and walnuts when I cook -- a no-no when the guy you're with swells up like a balloon after inhaling even the merest whiff of peanut.

Food choices might just be as important to a relationship as finances or sex, when you get right down to it -- what else permeates and shapes our daily life so much as our meals? For me, experimenting with flavors and ingredients (ranging from veal liver to tabbouleh) is a passion and a vocation -- and sharing that passion with the person I love is integral to the happiness of our relationship.

I'm gonna pull a Julia Allison and turn this one over to the crowd: do you have a different point of view about the role of food in your relationships? Are you a veggie or a meat-eater? What are your policies on dating members of the opposite taste?

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