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Sugar Bowl Mix: Vegetarian or meat-eater?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Vegetarian or meat-eater?

Vegetables Clip Art
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Tim doesn't eat meat. He's been a pesco-vegetarian for fifteen years. He eats fish, dairy and eggs. The girls and I do eat meat, although we rarely eat red meat. We usually eat chicken, turkey and occasionally "the other white meat," pork. We also eat a lot of fish and vegetarian meals, too. The concept of vegetarians and vegans has frequently come up at meal times since Tim often eats something different.

Katherine's favorite school lunch of the moment is chicken teriyaki. She regularly orders chicken fingers and she loves turkey bacon. So it came as some surprise on Thanksgiving day when she announced that we were "really terrible people" for killing and eating turkey and she couldn't believe we were going to put turkey on the dinner table. Tim was having fish so we said she could eat fish for her Thanksgiving dinner, too.

As dinner time approached Katherine came into the kitchen, saw the turkey breast on the counter and began crying.
"Oh my gosh!" she shouted indignantly. "You already killed the turkey! I can't believe you killed the turkey! I can't eat dinner with you if you're eating turkey!"

This scene lasted throughout our entire meal, pretty much killing (pardon the pun) our Thanksgiving dinner.

We were completely perplexed. Hadn't she, just the day before, ordered turkey bacon at breakfast?

Caroline piped up in the middle of dinner with: "Mommy, why is it called turkey breast?" Not helpful.

A few days later I talked with Katherine about Thanksgiving dinner. I asked if a friend at school had said something to her about killing turkeys. She said no, it was just because turkeys were some of her favorite animals and if everyone went around killing turkeys and eating them they would become extinct and she didn't want them to be extinct. It didn't help her feel better when I assured her turkeys were not at risk of extinction. It struck me that it probably also wouldn't help to point out that some fish actually are at risk of extinction if we continue "to go around killing them and eating them."

The reality of raising animals for food is not a topic I am ready to broach with my six-year-old. The fact is it's not a topic I like to think about a whole lot myself. It's a lot easier to simply go to my local grocery store, buy the packaged boneless, skinless chicken breasts, preferably organic and free-range, or get the wild-caught salmon at the fish counter. Not anything to be proud of. But the reality of modern, urban living.

If I really thought about it or had to be involved in the process of farming I would become a vegetarian. Or maybe not.

When I was a little older than Katherine I had a good friend who lived on a farm where her family raised cows. They named all the cows and I thought it was rather fun to open the gate and let the cows back into the barnyard at night. One winter night as we ate steak for dinner my friend's mother announced, with an air of hilarity, that we were probably eating Bessie. I choked back tears and almost threw up. I never ate steak at her house again.

However, this incident didn't stop me from eating meat elsewhere.

So, I'm curious. If you're vegetarian do you raise your children vegetarian? If you do eat meat, how do you broach the subject of meat and where it comes from? Do any of you have children who decided on their own to become vegetarians? Do any of you live on farms where your children get a hands-on-experience of the food chain?

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