Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Having a different diet than your spouse


When you live with someone, oftentimes you end up adopting habits - both good and bad - especially when it comes to food. Couples often tend to share meals together and eat the more of the things that they both like. It is common to hear of married couples putting on weight together. And when one spouse goes on a diet, oftentimes their partner will lose weight as well. When you're in a long-term partnership, sometimes one spouse will eventually develop a health problem and have to change their diet for the better. It happens!

One of the things that I have been struggling with this year is that I've had to change my diet - for the better! You'd think that it would actually be a good thing, which it certainly is in many ways, since my energy level and my general health is much, much better than it was earlier this year. However, I somehow feel bad that husband-ji and I have to eat different things, as he has not changed his diet.

Although husband-ji is tall and slim, and has never had any major health problems, his diet is definitely not the greatest. He HAS to eat 3 cups of basmati rice (minimum - I think 5 cups is more ideal for him!!!) before going to bed. His favorite vegetable is Aloo. He doesn't eat for hours and then absolutely stuffs himself at night. He is a strict vegetarian that eats no egg or even yogurt. He has lived this way for his entire life without any problems, so he can't understand why I have developed any health problems after switching to his diet.

When you live with someone, you often end up adopting their diet. You tend to make things that they like more - especially we women tend to do this more. If I make something and husband-ji doesn't like it, I will feel bad. And then I (subconsciously) automatically end up making only things that HE likes, and not what I really want.



 And when you have an Indian partner, it is almost non-negotiable. Many Indians are notoriously stubborn about their diet. Many ONLY want to eat Indian food. Even when they go to a restaurant, they may prefer to eat only Indian food. So, if you're the partner of an Indian, you will ultimately end up eating more rice than you'd have ever dreamed! Even after ten years, I still don't like eating rice every single day. [Side note: I find this food rigidity more common with Indian men than Indian women; the Indian women in intercultural relationships tend to be much more flexible than their Indian male counterparts!]

It makes it worse that I am married to the world's most pickiest eater. He hates zucchini and broccoli. In fact, he hates most Western vegetables. He will only eat Roma tomatoes. He also doesn't like Indian vegetables like eggplant or gourd. He refuses to eat yogurt. He is even very particular about the kind of rice he will eat - long grain basmati only. He has MOODS. Sometimes he will not FEEL like eating one of the mere 5 vegetables he loves. And if I make something that he doesn't like, he will refuse to touch it and instead mope around and eat mango pickle like I've kicked him in the balls! To make things worse, my inlaws will phone nearly every day inquiring about what he ate. And if he is not well-fed, that makes me look like a shitty wife, by Indian standards. These superhuman expectations are completely unreasonable and not to mention, I simply do not have the time or patience to be a proper Iyengar wife who cooks 3 dishes per meal & 3 meals a day! I mean seriously, who on Earth has time for that?!?!

And to top it all off, not only is he picky - but he is a vegetarian. Who has basically forbidden me from cooking meats in the house or placing any non-vegetarian items on "his" plates, or "his" pans. Of course, he is very discreet about forbidding me and pretends that he does not. If you ask him, he will say that he most certainly does not. For example, I will ask him if I can cook non-veg on a certain day. He will say yes. Then I will go out and buy a special pan and purchase the meats, and then he will change his mind when I start to cook it. He will cough and complain that it stinks - for days on end. And then he will ask me to go eat meats "outside" or at my mom's house - which is expensive, and I have to commute! Then I will feel bad, and wonder why I had to go to all the trouble when he could have directly said no in the first place. In true Indian fashion, he will never outrightly say "no" to anything! I will only get a direct response after I get completely flustered, like a peacock with her feathers ruffled.


In terms of food, I have had to compromise A LOT in my relationship. I love all different cuisines, and am more flexible about food, so it made more sense that I was the one who had to adjust in this regard. But sometimes I wish husband-ji would be more flexible and open-minded about food. Oftentimes, he will flat out refuse to even TASTE something - even when it is vegetarian! I was never given that option, when I was in India, and everyone shoved food down my throat that I could not refuse. And even though I love Indian food, there has been a lot of things that I have learned to love. I used to hate dosas and sambhar. Now I love them, after having them so much...with no other option!

Don't get me wrong - husband-ji has definitely come a long way. When I first met him, a decade ago, he would not even touch pasta. Until I introduced him to pesto gnocchi and penne arrabiata! I also got him hooked on to guacamole and Mexican food - which has some great vegetarian options. [Of course, everything that he seems to prefer has RICE in it - risotto; burrito!] But still, at home...he wants Indian food - ALL day, every day. Seriously, our rice cooker is on it's last leg. Even when we go out and try different cuisines, he HAS to come home and stuff himself with rice and pickle before bed. In this regard, he is such a typical pampered prince desi guy! And he wants everything cooked fresh, no leftovers. Aiyoooo Rama. And while I love the idea that everything is cooked fresh in Indian food, I soooo wish someone else would do it for me! Pretty please? (Hello, where is my MIL when I need her?! Ha ha..)


(Husband-ji will not taste this delicious arugula, ricotta, and zucchini salad)

It wasn't really a problem until earlier this year, when my doctor ordered me to eat non-veg once per day for my anemia. It was a huge change for me too, as I have been on a predominantly vegetarian diet for the past decade. On top of that, I am supposed to eat more boiled eggs, and try to sub in brown rice instead of white basmati rice. Any Western doctor will tell you that white rice is the devil; while any Indian will say that is ridiculous! (Cultural difference #957...)

It was really difficult at first, since for dinner I automatically cook for husband-ji all "his" favorites or else he will turn into a grumpy ogre. Now, I had to think about myself too. I still had to make husband-ji his white rice, vegetable veppudu (side dish) and dal/sambhar/rasam. I also had to make brown rice for myself, as well as two boiled eggs. Together we would share the veppudu and lentil dish. It seriously is a lot of work, doing all that and watching Maya by myself who wants my undivided attention at all times of the day.

Luckily, the only saving grace is that Maya (ever the mixed child!) is so adaptable and flexible to food. She loves Indian food, but she is more adaptable like me and enjoys virtually every cuisine. She will eat anything. She also loves both brown and white rice. Any vegetable. She seems to not have a preference, and just enjoys everything - thank GOD! One picky eater in the house is enough!


For breakfast and lunch, it is much more easier. We have always eaten separate breakfasts, but share a chai together. For lunch, I have my non-veg dish "outside", which gives me energy during the day, and doesn't bother husband-ji since he is at work. Finding little loop-holes like this has really helped.

Of course, I technically don't have to cook for husband-ji every single day. He is a much better cook than me anyway. But since his main love language is "acts of service", it makes me feel like I kind of have to....to show my love. I mean, in reality, what else CAN I do for him? Not much!!! He's not going to appreciate something like vacuuming as much as he'd appreciate, say, a good hot dinner after a long work day.

Plus, Maya & I like to eat dinner early around 6pm, and he is not home until that time. He also prefers to eat dinner much later, as many Indians tend to do. So if Maya & I need to eat at a certain time, I end up cooking dinner on most weeknights.

It has been a real struggle, but I am trying to make it work! And the biggest factor that keeps me going is that my health is really improving - I am glowing from the inside out; I have enough energy to keep up with my daughter; and I just feel better. So in the end, it has been worth it, even though it does seem like a LOT of trouble.

In an intercultural relationship, it's all about finding that balance!

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Dear readers, if you are in an intercultural relationship, have you had to compromise about food/diet?
Do you notice when you live with someone, you end up eating all the same things?
Do you have a different diet than your spouse? 
How do you make it work?

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55 comments

  1. Hey Alexandra,
    My first time commenting here, have been a silent reader for a few weeks now. Firstly, i really want to appreciate how honest and forthcoming you are in your posts and how really awesome you are for being FLEXIBLE!! :)
    My husband and I are both Indians (Iyers to be precise) and i was totally nodding my head when i was reading your post today.
    He would just out rightly refuse to taste anything that he is not used to (read zuchini, arugula, squash, brocolli etc) Wants his aloo and rice and smbhar 24/7.lol
    But he has come a long way from what i knew him from the past decade or so. We have substitued Quinoa for Rice and i make Aloo once a week now as i want my son to learn from us.

    -Bindu

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    1. Thank you bindu! Aloo rice sambhar......same situation! Ha ha!

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  2. Lol... I hear you loud and clear. I don't know why but Indians feel that they won't feel full from eating anything other than rice. The other day I suggested making spaghetti for dinner and they were like what!!/All that chopping veggies draining and cooking sphagetti takes time and in the end its just pasta. Ummm of course it's a pasta dish..lol. What else do they expect it to be? I found it really amusing.
    Why doesn't your husband eat yogurt?. From what i know ALL brahmins eat yogurt religiously at the end of their meals. No meal is complete without curd rice. Even in weddings too!!! I mean who wants to eat curd rice, lemin rice at weddings?! That is soooo not party food!.

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    1. He doesn't eat yogurt due to his extreme pickiness...FML.....

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  3. Hi Alexandra,

    Another silent reader again.. I could not stop and nod every few sentences, and giggle once in a while. My hub hates eggplant, zucchini, squash, broccoli and much more. all he will survive on is beans, potato, cabbage, carrots and spinach. And it is more than 100% true that, it is the wife's duty to make sure the husband of the family is well fed, whether u know cooking or not.. LEARN IT! My husband is an amazing cook and he keeps telling how he used to cook everyday, every meal when he was working and staying with friends. And how he used to pack meals !! Now, even if im down.. sick. i end up making the rasam atleast for that day. Indian men's palette is as stubborn as them. You dont have to be in an inter cultural relationship. Even the same caste (iyer-iyer) same breed has similar pbms. Worst, he would take eons to even try a dish from the next state.... Welcome!

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    1. Ha ha ha.....welcome indeed! We should form a support group :D

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  4. I was nodding to myself while I was reading this. My husband and I are both indians. I love to eat vegetables and healthy stuff while he only wants to eat rice, lentals and stuff with sauce. He also used to hate pasta but I finally got him hooked on it by tweaking the recpies. He still takes out all the veggies I put in the pasta and prefers to eat pasta and sauce only. It annoys the hell out of me because I spend a lot of time grilling those vegetables. I love eggplant, carrots, cauliflower, gourd and pretty much any other vegetable but he makes a face when I cook those and I feel guilty about making him eat them. Few months ago, he started finding recipes online and wanted me to make them for him. He loved them but I gained 10lbs. Now I have put my foot down and told him that I am going to cook lots of vegetables and he has to eat them. He doesn't gain any extra weight even when he eats bad while I gain a pound every time I eat out. I want him to enjoy his meals and feel bad every time I make something which I know he's not going to like. I am slowly getting him used to healthy eating. I got him to get rid of cereal and started making eggs in the morning. It's funny that a grown man can sometimes act like a child when it comes to food. Anyways, just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. Indian men can be stubborn sometimes.

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  5. Why are you putting up with this bullying, Alexandra? Why do you need to report to your ILs what you cook every day? Why do you let someone tell you what you can and cannot cook in your own kitchen?

    I am Indian, carnivore, married to a picky Brahmin vegetarian and I do not put up with that. My husband respects me and my choices and my ILs do not get a say in how we manage our home. If you lie on the floor, people will walk all over you. Stand your ground and do what's right for you.

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    1. Stop teaching people what to do!!
      She is amazing and not a troublemaker like you. Life is not a war!! Love needs understanding, adjustments and commitment. And SHE knows what she is doing

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  6. Food is also a big issue in our house, as I have kids from a previous marriage, who will not agree to eat Indian food everday, a toddler and part-time veg husband.

    I want to say a few general things. First men can get away with eating more calories than women, they don't have periods or pregnancies, and their hormones are different. Then ayurveda classifies people in 3 different types, and what is good for one is not necessarily good for the other. Then Indian people are plagued by a huge type 2 diabetes epidemy. As I understand it, a few decades back, in India, no one was eating so much white rice, which is pure glucose.

    I'm going to be very inpolitically correct, but I find it shocking that your husband gives you so many rules about the food you eat. I find it on the edge of abuse. Control is a form of abuse. His plates, his pans, his house ? Really ? If my husband tried that one on me, I would answer very rudely lol.

    In my house there is a rule ; eat what I cooked or cook for yourself/us. I try to make a variety of dishes over time so that anyone can have his favorite regularly, but it means kids will sometimes eat Indian, and hubby will regularly eat soups and salads and pies. I have even had him eat recipes from Kerala, which made his Tamil moustaches twitch mwahaha... But it means now on his vegetarian days he is so happy because he gets to cook and I eat his food (including chili lemon gravy which forces me out of the kitchen each time because of the fumes, and each time I remember him the Indian army uses chili as a weapon).

    To me, basically, food is medecine, therefore I can't compromise on health foods. And to me the cook in a house is like a priestess. Greens for everyone. And gradually cutting down on meat and fish portions. If my husband doesn't want smelly cheese, I accept but we keep eating it. And if he wants to sulk and munch a packet of crisps or peanuts instead of eating my food it is not my problem - especially as we don't eat at the same time (sometimes I hear loud disapproval sounds coming from the kitchen lol). It will not stop me from cooking more greens.

    I've had a number of health issues in recent ears, linked to food, I'm having some right now. To be honnest each time I try to do more vegetarian meals, I get sick. I think I may have food intolerance of leaky gut or something. So I need to read more and more stuff about nutrition and health to understand all that. It's really hard to maintain a healthy and nutritious diet that is also good for the kids, I can't follow all the unreasonable fancies of hubby... After all marriage is abou compromise isn't it ?

    Take care, Padparadscha

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    1. Also as you are trying to conceive, it is a good idea to follow doctor's orders... I got "diabetes mellitus" during my last pregnancy and it was a nightmare (I was only allowed 3 spoonfuls of rice or 2 small potatoes per meal for starch)... Although you find iron in vegetals, you need to increase protein intake to lose weight before pregnancy, this will reduce risk of having "diabetes mellitus"...

      During your pregnancy you will certainly feel nauseous, maybe you could tell your husband his nausea because of food smells is his physical contribution/sacrifice for having a healthy baby ;) - Padparadscha

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    2. Alex, I've been reading stuff again about strategies to fight anemia, on the FAO website... I know, I have strange hobbies...

      It seems the problem is that there are 2 kinds of iron ; the one you find in cereals is difficult to absorb by the human body, the one in animal products is easier to absorb and what's more it helps the absorption of cereal iron. You only need small quantities of meat to help absorption of vegetal iron... So basically, maybe cold meat wich you can buy at the mall and store in the fridge, such as ham and turkey, would do the trick (no smell) ? Or smoked fish ?

      Also apparently to fight anemia, it helps to have good vitamin A levels (found in sweet patotoes, mango, carrots, pumpkin, leefy greens...). Pumpkin pie, anyone ?

      I wonder how you are managing with this food issue... xxx (Pad)

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    3. It has improved a lot..... will update soon :)

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  7. God, that is some hard work you are putting in!!! I am very very lucky because I'm the Indian picky vegetarian in the relationship, my husband is German and has completely accepted that I like food a certain way (my way ☺️) and thankfully he is not at all fussy or demanding. He eats his meat out of the house and tbh I don't think it's fair to ban it in the house - just that I won't cook it and since he works like crazy, we end up eating what I make. As a kannadiga I do love Indian good but also love every other cuisine except any tofu stuff, hate it with a passion! My inlaws are also gems and basically eat 90% vegetarian these days, my SIL is also vegetarian since she met me as an impressionable 9 year old 😊 anyway, I completely get that you don't want to have a grumpy husband but he lives in Canada now, time to adjust buddy!

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  8. I am a single, 25 year old Indian guy. I was a picky eater like your husband until I lost my mother a few months ago due to cancer. I had no choice but to teach myself to cook and now that I cook 4-5 meals for myself everyday, I eat anything that is easy and quick to make, helps in maintaining lean muscle, I don't care about the taste. Which means I have gravitated away from Indian food towards western food like chicken breast, eggs, pasta, canned tuna, boiled veggies, brown rice, oats, sweet potato etc. Sometimes I get teary eyed remembering my mom while cooking, how she used to indulge my food habits, your post reminded me of her.

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    1. So sorry to hear about your mum. Big hugs to you.....

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  9. Oh God the picky Indian prince syndrome; yes my husband is afflicted with that as well. Luckily over the years I have had somewhat an an influence on how he eats. He's much more used to eating salad almost everyday and eating veggies that are simply sautéed and seasoned instead of diced and blended and spiced into oblivion like they are in most Indian dishes. But he still refuses many veggies and sometimes I feel Iike I'm giving up too much in the foods I like : broccoli, chard, kale etc, just because it's too time consuming to make what I like and an additional dish that he will eat. I love fish and he also complained loudly if I cook it, claiming the smell makes him sick. (It's all very dramatic with him in bed and the blanket over his nose). I don't think Indian men have any idea that they are spoiled in this way. I remember being shocked when I first met my husband and offered him a slice of apple and he demanded I cut it smaller. I laughed because I honestly couldn't believe it, was this man a toddler who could only eat bite sized pieces of food? But his mother always cut his fruit in small pieces for him so that's what he was used to. I refused and he got mad but guess what? HE LIVED. Indian men need to stop being coddled. It's not their fault the way they were raised, but they should be held accountable for childish behavior into adulthood. As wives we should also be held accountable for enabling this behavior. We have needs and desires too that are equally as important as theirs.

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    1. My partner is first generation Canadian, but came here when he was two. Being that he is fairly westernized I wasn't anticipating any problems like this... and to be honest he is really good in this regard. I shouldn't complain, however it is funny when I go to his parents' house and he goes on about how he would love it if I made him Indian food like his mom makes, and his mom said when he was a little boy he said he would marry a girl who makes him lemon rice and rassam every day, lol!
      I am just straight up blunt with him, like, you better never actually expect that from me :) and if you are then you gotta find a different girl!
      The funniest part is his mom says that Indian girls these days are not learning to cook and that I show more cultural interest than they do. This was last week she told me that she was glad I'm me, and not, as I imagined, a substitute or less good match for her son. She was explaining how even her own daughter doesn't make the food right. I tell my partner, "you learn your family's food!" To which his mom agrees. I would like to learn too and have told them this but it's easier to learn from him.
      Meg

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  10. I was so nodding my head while reading all this.you dont have to be in intercultural relationship to experience this almost all Indian men are the same wrt to their palate.. Stubborn! Alsi what i have noticed different individuals hav different metabolism so the same food has different effects on different individuals. But what i m concerned is the food habit that ur husbandji has developed might give him problems in future if not now.. Even doctors in India recommend brown rice over white rice.
    Manisha

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  11. I hope I am not crossing a line here, but this seems like you are being a pushover. My husband and I tam brams who grew up in Chennai and now live in the US. We grew up eating rice and lentils and vegetables, because that was all the options we had growing up. But after moving to the US, we have so much fun exploring all the cuisines that are available. Though we live in Seattle, where there are tons of Indian restaurants, we almost never go out to eat at an Indian restaurant and prefer Thai or Mexican/Italian/Ethiopian etc. (Sidenote: If you like pasta, you must try Machiavelli next time you are here). I don't agree that all Indians or even Indian men are not agreeable to change. Also all tam iyer/iyengars love yogurt, so I think your husband is just extra extra picky. The best way to get him to change is to force him to try new things on a weekly basis?

    I understand it's your blog and you share just a very small part of your life in here. But from reading your blog, it seems as though you are the one who gives up a lot and has adopted an immense amount of Indian culture - way more than any Indian DIL would ever have (even your writing sounds so Indian, the phrases you use etc). I hope that your husband and inlaws understand this and are appreciative.

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  12. It sounds like your husband is just a plain old picky eater who happens to be Indian. I've met many an American who is ridiculously picky - I had a roommate who only ate some variation of pizza, regular pasta with spaghetti sauce, or grilled chicken for dinner. Zero seafood. Zero veggies. Zero variations on the above items.

    Personally I have zero tolerance for such behavior. You are really good for putting up with that. I love food, love all cuisines, and think that part of being an adult in Western society is not behaving like a picky toddler when it comes to food.

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  13. Hi Alexandra, you are usually good about acknowledging the cultural and culinary differences that exist in India and which vary from one region of the country to another. In this post however, you have missed that and stereotyped Indians as rice eaters :( It is well known that culinary habits in India depend on what grows more in each region of India. Which is why in Southern India, you will find more rice eaters since climatic conditions there favor abundant rice crop. In the Northern regions, wheat is grown abundantly, and hence plays a dominant role in the cuisine there. Also, in cosmopolitan cities in India, people are more amenable to trying food from other parts of the country as well as international cuisine, especially the younger generation. Speaking from myself, I am from Mumbai, living in the US, and our family eats rice once a week, if at all, and we only eat brown rice. We enjoy international cuisine as well. Also it is incorrect to say that "any" Indian doctor will find ridiculous, the idea of white rice being bad for health. You will find several books written by Indian doctors who advise against excessive carbohydrate consumption, or those who will recommend brown rice over white rice if you must eat rice, and will also ask to keep the proportions in control (for example, 'The South Asian Health Solution' by Ronesh Sinha)

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    1. Please do read: http://madh-mama.blogspot.ca/p/disclaimer.html
      I am married to one man, not the entire of India. When I speak of him or his family, I am not speaking of the entire of India.
      BTW there are millions of rice eaters in India.....lol. If you are from Mumbai then you would obviously have had access to more international foods - neither Hyderabad nor Chennai has the amount of international restaurants that Mumbai has always had.

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  14. Your husband reminded me of my Mom. She is like him, strict vegetarian, doesn't even eat onion and garlic. Growing up, she wouldn't let anyone bring meat in the house or even use her utensils to cook meat outside. She would throwaway anything that touched meat. Also we couldn't come home after eating meat outside unless we took bath before entering house.

    I agree with few other comments. I think your husband need to become more flexible. Just curious, how did he get into tattoos? It is very unlike Indians specially ones whose diet follows certain religious teachings.

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    1. Yes, his family is like that too...very particular about stuff like that!
      His diet is more to do with him being picky, but of course he is a Hindu and does not believe in eating meat. He got his tattoos originally to cover a large 3rd degree burn on his arm. In some ways he follows the religion, in other ways he does not.....he has not performed a pooja in years!

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  15. Definitely food for thought.
    Food is such a personal thing. People from different parts of the world eat so differently. Dog meat, insects, snake meat etc may be strange to me but for some one else, it represents food.
    Would I be able to accept my spouse cooking/eating that I am unfamiliar/uncomfortable with at home? It would definitely be a journey.

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  16. My husband was picky when I met him. I later learned from my MIL that he was picky as a child too and it was hard to find food he would eat. When I started living with him I quickly learned that he was happy just living off dal, aloo tamatar and rice. Me not so much, I need variety on my plate, the same old stuff day in and day out will bore me. I never just ate the same old continental fare growing up, I sure as hell wasn't going to start eating the same old dal sabzi roti chawal everyday. From early on we would cook dal and veggies in bulk so it would last at least two meals. So that on these days I really didn't feel like eating it DH still could while I topped my plate with a salad.

    Now the maid does the Indian cooking for his tiffin, and I cook the variety of dishes from around the world. Thanks to DH commute and typical Mumbai work life he rarely is home when I eat dinner with our daughter. We only really have time to eat together as a family on weekends, and we often don't all eat the same thing. We just eat together, for us that is what matter.

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    1. If you have a cook, then it's a different story....

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    2. I wish I had a cook! OMG would make life easier!

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  17. This is another very interesting post, Alexandra.

    I used to be a very picky eater, but that all changed when I moved to Taiwan. I slowly started to try new things and now, there is a lot more variety in my diet.

    When I met my Taiwanese husband, my diet changed even more. I started to eat cleaner and healthier. He is a great cook and when he cooks, we always cooks a lot of veggies, so I guess he changed my eating habits for the better. Also, we tend to share the cooking responsibilities 50-50, with me cooking Western food and he preparing Asian cuisine. However, if he wants shellfish, he has cook it himself, as I am allergic to it.

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  18. @Alexandra

    It is true that Indian men are spoilt by their mothers. We do love home cooked food because our generation did have the luxury of a stay at home mother. Not a very practical approach to life but I guess old habits die hard. It is also because there was absolutely nothing to choose from. It was home cooked food all the way as eating out was unheard off. Thus, our exposure to foreign food was limited. Hell, we didn't even know the cuisines of different communities. These things have changed for good.

    About Indian vegetations, they are picky eaters and sometimes very very difficult. These often makes life difficult for their spouses. If the girl is vegetations she turns her husband into one and it the boy is vegetarian it is vice versa. Moreover, Indian vegetarians often go out and eat meat on the sly. Not all but some do. Then they eat a mouth freshener and enter their house. The pure vegetarians actually cannot stand the sight of meat or smell, they vomit. They cannot eat where they same pan was used for cooking meat. I sometimes feel that vegetarianism is impractical. Except India where vegetarian food is abundant I don't find any country which is purely vegetarion. Neither Europe not Asia knows vegetarianism. The minute you put a restriction on what you can or cannot eat you create trouble for yourself.

    Bengalis have no problem with non veg food. In our community if somebody stops eating fish, it is considered a great tragedy. He is asked "is everything ok??". It is assumed that is he going to renounce worldly life. We cannot think of a world where we don't get to eat fish. Fish is our love and source of creative inspiration.

    In bengali marriage a big fish is decorated and send to the girl's house from the boy's house on the marriage day. In olden days, a bengali bride was asked to hold a live fish in her hands before she entered the new household. If she was successful, it was assumed that she could firmly hold the reins of the household. Even bengali brahmins eat fish.

    However, there is class hierarchy in non veg foods. The north indians considered fish as dirty because it comes from the river while chicken and mutton are ok. So a fish eatin bengali non vegetarian is perhaps inferior to the butter chicken eating punjabi in their eyes.

    It is strange that some communities cannot live without non veg while others run away. Indian brand of vegetarianism is often imposed and stifling. The vegetarians often have this air of superiority about them since they do eat meat. That in itself is a character certificate for them.



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    1. I disagree with you about India being the only country where being vegetarian is practical. The advent of veganism(not even vegetarianism veganism) is HUGE in many western countries like USA and Australia. It's so big to the point that a completely vegan mall has opened in the US and beef sales have plummeted in Australia. In countries like the UK as well vegetarian food is widely available because of the large communities of Indians

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    2. I disagree as well! In my home country (in central Europe) 10% of the population are vegetarians and even almost 20% of all under-40-years-olds! But of course this is no religious choice, but a lifestyle choice. Nowadays, you get vegetarian options in every restaurant here, even in more traditional ones.

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    3. @anonymous (first one) - totally, and also many Indian vegetarians use their vegetarianism as this status symbol to show how devout, how pious, how *brahmin* they are. My husband has such relatives and they are so full of sh*t! LOL

      Luckily, both my daughter and my dad think that my cooking is the best :) hee hee

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  19. Hi Alexandra, I have been a silent observer of your blog until now. While I have always had agreeable and disagreeable opinions on many of your posts, I am very concerned about this particular post of yours. Why does your husband have to be treated a king?? Why is it always you cooking, even when you fall sick (as you have very well mentioned in this post)? And he takes the pleasure to sulk when you choose to eat what you want?? I don't see the point here! aren't intercultural relationships supposed to be a mix of both cultures? why is it that you have to prove yourself to be as much Indian as you could be? I don't see the difference between you and many other Indian women who choose to please their husbands and their families by being the perfect Indian wife who cooks only the food that the husbands want! I am sorry if I sound rude. Your parents in law asking you what you fed their son.. seriously??? This is extreme male chauvinism! While there are so many young Indian women trying to fight this out back in India, I am totally shocked to see such an attitude coming from someone in a inter racial relationship!

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    1. yes, my indian boyfriend was always very flexible. living in an european country he was always cooking european food when we were together. sometimes indian food. but it never came to this extreme. i guess husband j was used to be a prince and ur acting just like his mother now. husband j looks cool, i love his tattoos and shoes, but he should be more flexible concerning food (and maybe other stuff we don't know). i am surprise how u share all ur live on the internet. very brave

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  20. I don't understand what exactly do you hope to gain from this post. You've pointed out yourself earlier that your husband is very understanding and flexible that is why you both are able to survive this relationship.
    Is food an exception to all this or is it much more than that? Also you've had major health issues so I don't understand how you cooking and eating non veg at home can actually bother him especially when you're anaemic. Isn't well being and health the top most concern in a couple's livelihood? Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't see how its just about you wanting to eat variety of cuisines or him being picky with meals but when health issues crop up your concern shouldn't be anything other than your partner's well being.

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    1. I never try to gain anything from any posts. I write whatever I feel like, whenever.
      He is very understanding and flexible, he is a wonderful dad and husband, and my best friend. He is simply a picky eater, that is all. Other people who are married to picky eaters will understand.
      The smell of cooking the non-veg had previously bothered him, but he is ok now. Will write more of an update later...

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  21. For a vegetarian Indian meat is not food at all like shards of glass are not food. They have been taught to hate non veg food from their childhood. Their food problem is very acute. In Indian marriages too where one partner is strictly vegetarian, it very difficult. This coupled with the fact that Indian men always had something to cook for them makes things complicated. In Alexandra's case where health is issue, I agree husbandji should be more flexible. When he is fine with Maya eating non veg that too outside home, then he should not impose his will on her wife.

    You can control things in your home but what about outside. There is something else. Indians do not consider foreign food as food. For them it is like light supper of snack. Some even find them too bland for their taste. Unless they eat rice/roti, dal and get that bloated, fulfilling feeling it seems that they have not eaten. This bloated feeling is at the root of why Indians are so stubborn with food choices.

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  22. Alexandra, ur Husbandji should read these comments :)

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  23. Hi Alexandra,

    My husband and me are south indians, but we belong to different states, religions and culture. My hubby too is a Brahmin and is a slightly picky eater, but not fussy. I never knew anything about Telugu brahmin cooking and learnt whatever I now know from Google and friends. He will not touch things he doesn't like and won't even taste them...for eg. he doesn't like pasta, because he THINKS its rubbery, he doesn't like mushroom bcos he THINKs it tastes like non-veg. In the 11 years of our marriage I did not cook NV for about 7-8 yrs....not bcos he told me not to cook it, but because I knew he wasn't comfortable. I used to pig out on NV when we go out. In fact he would ask me to try out new NV dishes and we would even get NV food packed home and even order in NV food. He also doesn't have any problem going to a NV restaurant and getting NV packed and brought home. He does not have a problem with seeing NV dishes or the smell etc. Sometimes he makes a face at the smell of fish.

    But since my mom lives with us and she is over 75 and now does not take that well to outside food, my husband himself asked me to start cooking NV at home-instead of my mom getting stomach problems when we get food from outside. He does not have an issue with cooking NV in vessels--there are no his vessels and my vessels -- though im sure his mom and folks would have a fit!!!

    But at the same time, he is picky and would want some jam with the chappathis and subzi that I soo painstakingly made. He would want some honey or a banana with the dosa though there is chutney. These little quirks are annoying, because when we eat at a restaurant he can eat with just 1 side dish!!!!

    I could not believe it when in the beginning days of our marriage he used to say--fridge is to be used to only keep veggies,milk curd etc, not to keep left over food!!!! Because that is how he was brought up. That is what he has seen while growing up. Any left over food would be thrown out, or kept in the vessel itself and given to the maid (because they can eat left over food!!!) His folks are still like that and they cook fresh food, 3 or maybe more times a day too!! And such mothers would bleed tears if they know their son's wife uses left over food. But I never give him left over food. Food he eats is always prepared fresh and I finish off whatever is left over the next day. But not that he won't adjust and eat left over food, its that I feel bad serving him left over food, when he adjusts so much. So in a way these are small compromises we make and are happy doing it.

    Coming to your post, as few of them have pointed out, I too feel that there are toooo many restrictions with respect to you cooking and eating what you want. I'm not judging, but I too feel your husband should give in to let you cook and eat what you want in your own house. It's your house too.

    I agree to the truth that Indian men are pampered and coddled so much when it comes to food and its surprising that the daughters are not pampered so much. It's always the wife who adjusts and starts cooking the food the Indian husband wants and her taste also changes over a period of time.

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  24. Very interesting read Alexandra. I believe strongly in adjusting and adapting wherever you go. When we lived in India we did that - ate differently out of what was available. Just a friendly advice or words: be careful not to compromise too much in your marriage. What seems to be gentle gestures of adapting and adjusting in the beginning can lead to you loosing yourself.. If you are the one always compromising and your hubby is not.... read the comments you got here, and make your hubby do that to. Its give and take always - from both parts. Otherwise you are in danger of loosing yourself in the end. Biiig hugs to you sweetie:-)

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  25. Wow, I feel kinda exhausted just from reading this post. Thank God my husband eats anything I cook, even that way it's still a lot of work to cook everyday. I feel your struggle. At least you are feeling better! That's great!

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  26. I don't think you're being bullied Alexandra but I do think that you're giving in to unreasonable demands and expectations.

    All relationships require some compromise. The question is to what extent and at what cost.

    From your posts, it seems to me that your husband is a wonderful man and his parents are good people too. I'm sure they would understand how hard it is to look after a young child and cook Indian meals everyday.

    At the end of the day, only you can decide whether or not this is acceptable for you.

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  27. Dear Alexandra,
    I am in a intercultural relationship where one of us is vegetarian (me, European girl) and the other one not (my boyfriend who is Asian) and it works pretty well.
    I have to disagree with some of the comments here: In my opinion it is never a good solution to force a vegetarian to be "more flexible", i.e. to eat meat! In the end, I think it is a matter of mutual respect: I want him to respect my vegetarianism and I accept and respect the fact that he eats meat. Even though I would prefer if he was a vegetarian too, I will certainly not change him and I never complain about him eating meat. I wouldn't cook or even touch meat for him, but if we dine out I don't have any problem if he orders meat, I don't make faces or criticize him. I wouldn't even mind if he cooks meat at home (and I tell him that from time to time) as long as he doesn't want me to try it, but he never does, he always cooks vegetarian things and is happy with it.
    Other than my vegetarianism, we both aren't picky eaters and love to try and cook new food, this might make things easier.
    Please do not compromise on your health! If your doctor tells you to eat meat and if you want to do it, you should be able to do it at home, and even more so as you would cook it yourself and your husband doesn't even have to touch it!
    Take care and best wishes!

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  28. I so agree with you on one tending to cook what one's spouse likes.I realised I barely cook whatever hubs said was not good the last time i cooked ha ha and I am so running out of what to cook these days.

    Dear readers, if you are in an intercultural relationship, have you had to compromise about food/diet?
    - Not really at the moment. Somehow, my western cooking is better than my south Indian cooking bwahaha, so my bread, pasta is turning out better than my Indian dishes. I definitely eat more cheese. However, I cannot live with a sweet meal (like bread and jam) like hubs can. So many times, he eats bread and cheese with some olives while I am thinking of what to eat. I started eating eggs in the past few years but I did eat them with my granpa when I was young and then stopped. I have no problems with meat in the house having lived here and rented rooms with others who eat meat but hubs doesn't really cook.

    Do you notice when you live with someone, you end up eating all the same things?
    -Yes. We often end up at Indian restaurants because the are cheap and they have something vegetarian guaranteed for me.Sometimes we have different dinners and eat at 2 different places when he wants some meat.

    Do you have a different diet than your spouse?
    - Yes. Sweet breakfast for me? No. bread and cheese many times a week? No. Meat? No.

    How do you make it work?
    -I definitely bake a lot more bread than before but don't eat most of it. I leave it for him to eat with cheese. He has option of eating out if he doesn't like it or cooking something himself if he doesn't want to eat what I made (I try not to take it too personally ;))
    Sometimes, we eat in different places together - like I eat first and then go with him while he eats if he is really craving some burger. We always check out menus of the restaurants/eateries we pass by and see if they have vegetarian options and meat options for future purposes. I am not that much of a fussy eater as long as I feel it is healthy and can eat bland food quite often.

    Send your hubs to live in east Asia for a while. He will get used to the meat smell and be forced to eat the few vegetarian options available because there is no choice. I think living/ hanging out with people who cooked and ate meat all the time made me become more tolerant and put up with meat smell. Once upon a time when I first came here, I almost cried because the entire canteen smelled bad to me and now I do not even notice it (except for a couple of dishes).

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  29. Hi Alexandra - not going to repeat a lot of what the other commenters have posted but you have to take care of yourself and honestly, the hell to what other people think or dislike including your closest ones. I mean is not like you doing drugs, robbing a bank, etc...

    Sorry to say this but it comes a point in everyone's life that they have to stand up for themselves and tell other people "I hear you; you don't like it but deal with it. Grow up and stop trying to make me feel bad for something that is actually beneficial and good for me".

    We are not Stepford Wives. Good Luck!

    Millie B

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  30. I just wanted to point out something, which maybe you know already from your India trips. Don't be so hard on yourself! You compare yourself to your MIL, all be it probably jokingly, but women in India have SO much help! Wouldn't cooking fresh 3 times a day be much easier if you knew a maid would come around to clean the kitchen and wash up the dishes? Many maids/helpers do all the chopping of veggies too. Or they're taking care of the kids while the lady of the house basically just mixes together these pre-cut veggies or pops them in to a pressure cooker! LOL, trust me, an Indian housewife struggles when faced with the reality of the no-help western world. You're doing great :)

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