June 6, 2013

Eating Animals

Or eating other things that you might not think are food...
As you probably know, I'm a vegetarian.

And, as you probably also know, M isn't.

Frankly, this disconnect in diets is typically a greater strain on our marriage than our differences in religion.

This has been a pretty simple issue up until recently. When the babies were nursing they were vegetarians. Then came the more complicated issue of solid food.

Now, I'm a vegetarian for several reasons. My parents became vegetarians when they were teenagers, and raised their kids with the same values.

I couldn't have cared less about the values. I cared about the fact that every single day in the lunchroom was agony after agony- endless humiliations over my lunch box. Because I was unpopular, and kids will seize on ANY difference and make it the only thing that matters.

A vegetarian kids these days... nobody bats an eye. In the 1980s?

I might as well have been eating bugs.

Kids were awful. They would tease and taunt, they would sneak lunchmeat into my food, throw bologna in my hair, stick hotdogs in my coat... you get the idea. And I began to wonder...

Why the hell AM I a vegetarian?

My parents told me they were vegetarians because they thought killing was wrong, and killing an animal isn't any better.

I decided that I agreed, basically, and kept to the lifestyle.

Then came my youthful experimentation and rebellions.

...and I became a vegetarian all over again, but for different reasons. I learned about the way animals are treated in slaughterhouses, how they're treated when they're bred, and worst of all- how many animals are killed in a way that renders them inedible. They're bred, tortured, slaughtered, and then just thrown away. I didn't want to have anything to do with that.

BUT- I also had done lots of reading on human evolution, on culture, and in philosophy.

I decided that killing is generally wrong, but is a fundamental property of life. That killing animals for food is entirely natural. But the way we do it? Not so much.

So I'm not against eating meat because it's meat, I'm against it for the WAY we do it. Which means I'm still a vegetarian, but if the world came to a catastrophic end and if I survived the nuclear/zombie/sunburst apocalypse, yeah, I'd be hunting and killing animals to eat them.

And then there's M...

M loves to eat meat. He loves chicken, steak, shrimp, bacon... you get the idea.

He's a wholesome, American, big appetite-wielding omnivore.

Most years for his birthday I cook him surf n' turf (as ethically farmed as I can, I assure you), and we cohabitate peacefully, despite our differing attitudes on eating meat.

When our children were born, they nursed. That's fairly typical. But there's still lots of research that has failed to find any conclusions about when people started eating meat, and more importantly, how.

But one thing is clear- we kind of sort of aren't supposed to. We have to cook it, and we have to sort of wean into it.

So when do we introduce meat to the kids? Do we introduce meat to the kids?

We've decided to wait until they're old enough to really understand what we're telling them. Old enough to know what death is, and to make choices about whether or not they also want to eat bacon and shrimp and whatnot knowing full well that something had to die for them to have the option.

You see, it's so much easier to be a vegetarian now than when I was a kid. You can get a veggie burger at any Burger King. (You usually have to wait an extra ten minutes while they pull one out of deep freeze, but they have them.) It's not a bizarre fringe movement. When I was a kid, nobody had heard of such a thing.

They seemed to think that chickens are vegetables.

So I don't worry about the girls being alienated because of their diets. They can go to school with tofurkey and gardenburgers and the chances are the school lunches will have a vegetarian option anyway.

However I must confess, I don't want them to eat meat. I want them to make the same ethical choices I did.

And so, I make it very clear that when M eats meat, he's eating an animal.

They find this hilarious.

They want to know about ALL the animals that daddy has eaten.

If he has bacon with breakfast, they'll remind him all day long that he has a pig in his tummy.

Daddy also eats tiny cupcakes.
Daddy has eaten a deer, a pig, a chicken, a cow, a sheep, a fish, shrimp, and most amazingly, an alligator.

It's kind of magical.

Fortunately, M also finds this hilarious. He's happy to play along, to talk about ALL the different animals he's had in his tummy. It's an excuse for him to try new foods as well, this summer I'm pretty sure he'll be picking up some bear jerky near my parents' place. So they'll get to marvel at how daddy ate a BEAR.

But they are also becoming aware that to eat the animal, you have to cut it into little pieces. And that means killing it. And they're not sure how they feel about that.

I've always believed that if more people actually thought about where their food came from, they'd be vegetarians. And I'm pretty sure I'm right- as more people learn about GMOs and the general culture of food we have here in America, they make different choices. And sometimes, the choice is to limit or eliminate meat from their diets.

I don't know if the girls will grow up and eat animals too, but I'm pretty confidant they'll never be able to look at a burger without thinking, "ground up cow." And that's good.

It means they also won't look at a bag of potato chips without thinking, "reconstituted powdered potatoes combined with saturated fats."

And if that's how they choose to feed themselves, at least they'll be doing it with their eyes open.

You know, like Luiz Antonio, the now-famous vegetarian toddler.

I think it would be best if we all paid as much attention to our food.


  1. I think that kids today are at an advantage when it comes to food. They are taught a lot more about what they are eating. There are times when my daughter asks why we don't eat this or that and I am able to explain it and she gets it. I am proud of the food choices she makes at 8-years-old. Your kids will be so much better in the long run. I totally cringe when I think about what my parents fed me!

  2. We're omnivores here, but we're very picky about what type and how it's raised. We also talk to our boys about what animals we eat, why, and how it's done. It has not lessened our desire for meat (sorry, I can not live without meat) but I am happy that the boys are not ignorant in how we get the food in front of us. I hope it will teach them how to look beyond the very obvious, and to look deeper for info. Not just in hy we eat what we do, but in other aspects of their loves. Great post!

  3. I'm curious to know, how do you supplement the iron and protein in your kids diets to replace what they originally would get from the meat? I am only asking because all the vegetarians and vegans I know are childless, so I have never been able to find out how you ensure your kids are still getting all the nutrients they need.

    1. Protein is easy- most Americans seem to think they need a lot more protein than they do, it's one of the reasons we keep packing on the pounds! Iron is a little trickier, since the best sources of iron are leafy greens. Like most people, my littles are hesitant about leafy greens. The trick is finding ways to prepare them that they WILL eat. My kids love spinach- IF it's chopped up superfine and mixed into scrambled eggs. But also, cashews are LOADED with iron, and the kids love those. :) Other iron heavy foods are tofu, beans, and quinoa. Which are, coincidentally, also loaded with protein.

  4. I've been a vegetarian since age 18 and my husband became one at age 19. We've raised all 3 kids veggie so far. It's not that big a deal really, just for other people when they find out. My kids are more extreme than us, they turn their nose up at fish- which is the compromise we made with our parents when we stopped eating meat as teenagers. People are still prejudiced against vegetarians, however. We deal with it a lot.



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