Over the summer, my daughter announced that she was becoming a vegetarian “starting next week.” This proclamation was always met with laughter and quite a few comments about how it sounds a lot like that diet we are all going to start on Monday.
For the most part, I think she just liked saying the word “vegetarian” because “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” isn’t the only word that sounds “quite precocious.” Adults love to hear children use big words. We think it’s cute, and my daughter is the master of getting the grown-ups to think she’s cute.
Then, about two weeks ago, I noticed that she was removing the liverwurst from her sandwiches. She loves liverwurst. In fact, I buy it especially for her. When I asked her why I kept finding uneaten liverwurst in her lunchbox, she told me, “I’m a vegetarian.” At Thanksgiving, she passed on the turkey. “I don’t eat bird. I’m a vegetarian.”
The real test, however, came while we were out and about and I suggested we hit a drive-thru for lunch. Yeah, go ahead and cringe. Call Child Protective Services. On occasion, my children eat fast food, and I feel like a lousy parent for making it happen, but the alternative would have been to not feed them at all. So, yes, she wanted a Happy Meal.
“Burgers are meat,” I warned her.
“Mom, everyone knows that McDonald’s doesn’t serve real meat.” She had me there! McDonald’s isn’t real food, and so how could it be made from real meat.
The fast food shame aside, I’m not freaked out by the renouncing of meat the way some parents might be. My daughter eats eggs and cheese. She isn’t a big fan of beans or the other plant-based proteins, but to be fair, we haven’t tried them all. This could be an opportunity to do some culinary exploring.
If I’m honest with you—and I do strive for honesty in all things—our family could use a real diet make-over anyway, and as the primary shopper and cook, I have the power to make it happen. Do I want to be a vegetarian? No. I’m a gal who enjoys a good burger. Note that I wrote good, and not McDonald’s. I am, however, open to being a flexitarian—a term I know that true vegetarian’s hate, but that’s too bad—I’m using it.
I think that we could eat multiple meatless meals per week in this household, and no one would notice. In fact, I think we could go to one chicken, one fish, and five vegetarian suppers per week, and meat wouldn’t be missed at all. Beef, pork, lamb, and chocolate-covered insects could become special occasion foods. And if I’m only buying one pot-roast per year, I’m probably more likely to buy it fresh, organic and local. There are definitely some economic and environmental advantages to making this kind of change.
Besides, last night, my son announced that he is now a vegetarian, too. Of course, I think he was just trying to get out of eating turkey-leftovers for supper again. For him, the real test will be bacon.
Maybe our family can become bacon-eating vegans. That’s the next step.