My Kid Is Becoming a Vegetarian as I’m Getting My Hunting Licence
BY SUSAN GOLDBERG
Photo © jaysi/123RF
Nov 6, 2017
My 10-year-old son has decided to become a vegetarian.
I am just a little bit resentful about that decision.
I thought that, as a meat eater, I had a duty to understand and respect exactly where my food came from.
Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against vegetarians — I was one, in fact, for several years (coincidentally, years before I had children). I respect my son’s choice, which he says has partly to do with the fact that he just doesn’t like meat very much and partly with the fact that he’s not entirely on board with killing animals to feed himself. I agree that we all could probably do with eating less meat and, presumably, more vegetables and legumes and such.
It’s just that I really don’t want to have to think any more than I already do about food.
Thirteen years into this parenting gig, I thought I had the feeding-kids thing down. Over the years, I’ve come up with a fairly simple revolving roster of (generally meat-based ) meals that I rely on to get through the weeks. I batch-cook, filling the freezer with things like chicken souvlaki, Instant Pot chili (made with pancetta and ground beef), shepherd’s pie, pre-marinated chickens that I can stick in the oven and roast whole on a Friday evening and then later turn into chicken stock, which serves as the basis for all kinds of soups.
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It’s a highly refined system. It took a lot of time, years’ worth of meals, to evolve.
And now the whole thing has been turned on its side, forcing me to activate a part of my brain that I thought I could leave on autopilot for a while. And I resent that.
I’m sure that there are dozens of easy, tasty, kid-friendly, healthy, vegetarian meal options that the Internet would happily show me if I would only click — right now — on any number of links. It’s just that I don’t want to click. I don’t want to have to start from scratch. The idea of entirely reworking the roster, of a new round of mealtime trials and errors, leaves me grouchy and paralyzed, like a deer caught in the headlights of a grocery truck.
And speaking of deer: Guess who just got her hunting licence? Oh yes I did. I spent a whole, beautiful, weekend this past summer in the conference room of a rural fire station learning about gun safety and hunting regulations so that I could eventually, possibly, shoot a deer (or even a moose) and fill my freezer with venison. I thought that, as a meat eater, I had a duty to understand and respect exactly where my food came from. I thought that hunting local deer would be a more ecologically sustainable way of consuming meat.
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And I got my hunting licence because a certain 10-year-old had expressed an interest in hunting, and I thought that it would be a cool thing for us to do together. Also, if he was going to one day handle firearms, then I felt I had a duty as a parent to make sure that I knew how to handle them safely as well.
You can see how well that’s going.
I’ll get over it. I’ve already made vegetarian lasagna (two thumbs up), mini quiches (rejected), minestrone soup (so-so) and at least two batches of marinara sauce. It’s easy enough to leave the pepperoni off the pizza, soften beans in the Instant Pot, stock up on pumpkin and sunflower seeds, which he’ll snack on. I’ve talked to my kid about the need for him to participate in planning and food prep. He’s still happy to eat fish, which broadens our options a bit (except that the school doesn’t allow fish, so it’s not, sigh, a leftover-lunch option). I will, eventually, click on the links, revise and expand the roster.
If I ever shoot a deer, I guess I’ll have a dinner party.
Eventually, with some thought, going vegetarian will feel like second nature. And I guess that’s the thing about raising children, about living in houses with other people who continue, always, to grow into their own, autonomous selves: we never, for long, have the luxury of being able to operate on autopilot, of not having to think. I know that’s a good thing, even if, in the short run, it makes me just a little bit grouchy.