Thursday, September 22, 2011

Conflicted and Looking for Feedback.

Pre-Script: To my vegetarian friends/readers, please take no offense.

I have this sinking feeling that I'm mere steps from vegetarianism. And it worries me a bit. Because, if we're being honest, no one likes a vegetarian except maybe another vegetarian.

So what's this about? As it is, I hardly eat any meat, but I've always reserved the right to have turkey on Thanksgiving (or on a sandwich if it's Boar's Head) and to eat chicken. But just recently even thinking about chicken makes my stomach churn.

No, I am not pregnant. So how can I explain this sudden aversion? I could blame it on re-watching Food, Inc. and feeling mildly ill all over again. Maybe it's the fault of the chicken I cooked recently that just seemed a little less-than-stellar. Maybe it's that weird sensation I get sometimes when I think of chicken and my tongue feels little furry. (And, no, there is absolutely no way to get around the gross and completely random factors of that confession.)

Any way you shake it out, I can't shake this sinking feeling that my chicken-eating days are numbered. Did you see that sentence right there? It sort of made me gag. Add that to the list of reasons why I just might be done with chicken for good.

I tease about no one liking vegetarians (HI, vegetarian friends! I really do love you!), but I am not kidding about the internal conflict created by the idea of a meatless lifestyle. And it's not just a matter of eating meat being more convenient in general. It's all of the implications that come with being 'vegetarian'. Like, am I going to be a 'bad' vegetarian if I don't think to ask if that French Onion Soup has beef stock in it? Or what if I can't resist the turkey on Thanksgiving?

And how in the world will I explain this to my kids? In particular, what kind of impact would being a vegetarian have on Luca, who of late has become very tuned into how I already eat differently than she does? As it is, she notices when I don't have sausage or bacon with breakfast and almost wants to test me about it, aggressively offering me bites of meat off her fork and incessantly questioning my reasons for saying no. So far I've managed to slip by with a 'I have plenty to eat on MY plate. YOU need to eat your own food.' but for how long will that work? I know this seems like a weird conflict to have, but getting her to eat a variety of healthy foods has always been an issue, and if she sees me consistently passing on meat I worry she'll decide to do the same. And, even though this might rile the vegetarians I know, I don't necessarily believe in letting a kid her age (4) become a vegetarian when it's not a choice she's really able to carefully weigh from all angles and make an informed decision about.

Future meat-shunning hippie?

I admit I am being sort of tongue-in-cheek about some of my concerns, and I also realize that much like not having to buy into the belief that I have to label my parenting style (have you SEEN the mommy wars and the women who worry over whether a decision they make about parenting is or is not in line with their self-proclaimed 'style' of parenting, rather than just doing what feels right to them?) I also don't have to label how I eat. I CAN just decide not to eat meat today because the thought of it is grossing me out, but decide TO eat it next week. But I do have some genuine parenting concerns about my impressionable, picky-eating, somewhat eager to be like mommy 4 year old and whether my choice to not eat meat might impact her choices.

SO I am turning to my readership to ask you mommies out there (or non-mommies who just want to chime in) what YOU think about this whole issue. If you're a vegetarian or other-special-diet family, and your kids are on the same eating plan, how's that working out for you? Do you have concerns about the impact to their health, social life, etc. in the long-term? If you're a mixed-status household (like my family where I eat almost no meat, but the hubby and kids love them a good steak) how do you feel about the issue? And for everyone, at what age do you think a child should be given full disclosure about their parents' eating habits and full decision-making power on their own (specifically in terms of meat vs no meat type issues, not in terms of 'please just feed me popsicles and blueberries' issues)?

Thanks for any feedback!


Rheslie said...

Well, You know I've seen food inc and Loved it and I JUST watched another really good documentary called Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. Its a lot about how Veggies are super plus healthy. Sure, I learned that in grade school but I think I needed a brush up on why they are awesome. Other than a good documentary referral I do not have much advice than to tell you When I married Rhett he thought meat needed to be in every meal and I didn't. Now like you, meat is hardly every eaten in our house. We just don't buy it very often and I don't know how to cook it unless its turkey burger or turkey bacon. None of this was helpful but, good luck, you are smart and awesome! It will all work out.

mkpoggie said...

Crud. My first comment and it's going to be all super long. Sigh.
1: I totally feel you. It took me more than a decade before I could switch over to the veggie side. Stupid meat being so delicious. A friend of mine introduced me to the term "vegetarian lifestyle." That basically means you can make up your own damn rules. She and her boyfriend were vegans at home, vegetarians out of the house and, when her boyfriend was out on the road with his band, he would have steak when he felt like it. And also sleep with other people. Bastard. The point is, do what you feel is right for you, but don't make yourself miserable. Go veggie and then, in six months, if you feel like eating a poor, innocent chicken, DO IT. And always apologize when at a potluck. People hate vegetarians less if they know how difficult they're making things.
2: As far as kids, my plan is to have Claire eat the way that I do until she reaches an age where I think she can start having a say in what goes on her plate. I'll likely explain to her where meat comes from and, if she still wants some of daddy's bacon, that's fine.
But with kids that have already been introduced to meat, here's what I do with my preschoolers: Every year, I do a week or two on food. We learn about eating healthy ad food groups and what people in different cultures eat, et cetera. Since these aren't my children and I'm not free to traumatize them (dangit), I explain vegetarianism as being similar to allergies--foods that are good for some people aren't good for others. It hasn't caused a problem yet, but I'm sure it will one day. I'll burn that bridge filled with children when I come to it.
Quick story: A student of mine, after meeting a live turkey at school days before, broke into tearful hysterics on Thanksgiving Day when his mom told him he'd be eating turkey. Inconsolable for the majority of the day. When I asked her what she ended up giving him instead, she said, "Chicken nuggets."
I just read over this, and none of it was helpful. Hooray!

Muffin Cake said...

Leslie, Thanks! I'm scared to watch Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. I mean...what if at the end of it there's NOTHING left for me to eat?!?! ;)

Mary, it was helpful! If I was a single mom my kids would probably be on the veggie train and it would be no issue. But my husband is from Ohio...need I say more regarding his love for meat? We actually got in a fight in Germany when we went there because we were waiting for a table at a lovely restaurant on the Rhine and he spotted a meat cart and abandoned me and our dinner plans in favor of 'fleisch' by the river. I swear to you I was SO SICK of weird meat substances by this point in that vacation that I flipped. We now joke that if we ever divorce it will be because of schnitzel. ;)


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