Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vegging Out

Hazel has decided to be vegetarian. She announced it last night as we were sitting down to a vegetarian meal from the Dinner Swap - roasted veggie panini sandwiches, spinach salad, grapes & raspberries. But she had obviously been thinking about it.

We have a handful of vegetarians in our life, so here and there Hazel has asked questions, which I have answered. How do people become vegetarian? Either they choose it (for a variety of reasons), or their parents are, so their whole family just eats that way. Why don't they eat meat? Some don't like how it tastes, some don't like the thought of killing or eating animals, some think it's healthier. Can vegetarians eat fruit? Yes, they eat everything except meat, and some still eat fish. But they eat everything else, like rice, grapes, cereal, yogurt. Et cetera.

Yesterday at school Hazel bought lunch. When faced with cheese or pepperoni pizza, had chosen cheese, not her usual choice. When she told me this at dinner, and said she was now vegetarian, I decided to take her seriously, not like the amused reaction my parents gave me when I made the same announcement at age 11. True, I said was going to be vegetarian "except for ham", and it obviously didn't stick, but people, even children, like to be shown some respect.

We talked about how this would affect our family. We can work with it, making sure there are enough meatless choices for her. Breakfast and lunch are no big deal, so dinner is the only meal to consider, and with the Dinner Swap there will always be at least two side dishes that are usually meatless. And there is always PBJ. Actually Hazel overdosed on PBJ last year and doesn't like it anymore. Or cheese. But I have encouraged her to try to like them again because they will go a long way in expanding her vegetarian meal options. We talked about protein sources - nuts, beans, dairy - and I even told her about tofu, which I have eaten only a few times and never bought or cooked with - Ed says NO to tofu, but I think we could try it out. In fact, Ed feels overall more amused and less supportive, or maybe less believing, than I do. But when he asked her how she came to the decision, she simply told him, "I just feel done with meat." Then tonight the next Dinner Swap meal came. Really fabulous fixings for southwest chicken/taco salad - chips, lettuce, homemade bean & corn salsa, dressing, cheese and slow cooked chicken. Hazel looked around the table and said, "Mom, being vegetarian and picky is hard work." I said, "Yes it is. I think you should drop being picky." I knew she was hungry. She sat down and filled her plate with chips and lettuce and some bean salsa. Then she got out the ketchup and used it to dip her lettuce in. My girls love ketchup. Then she asked if she could have a hard-boiled egg from the fridge. And that was dinner. I didn't say anything; she seems quietly convicted.

It's interesting. I wasn't going to write about this until I knew if it would "stick", but then I changed my mind. Even if she is vegetarian for only a week, or a month, and then wants some chicken fingers, it's part of her story. It's something she has thought about, a personal decision she has made. And can change whenever she wants, like a favorite color. A chance for us to show her our respect and support, and encourage her taking responsibility and consideration for her own health.

But please oh please don't let her go vegan. Or worse (for us) - gluten-free! Vegetarian we can live with. But stop eating butter and flour...and we have a problem.


ESOdhiambo said...

Good for you. Good for her, too, but good for you in your reponse. I decided to be vegetarian for a week, and then it stuck for 5 years. But I was 14 then. I do think it is a much more accepted choice now. Just to let you know, Burger King has a Veggie Whopper. It is rarely on the menu (I've seen it once or twice), but my Hindu friends turned me on to it. It is just the whopper bread and fixings (ketchup included) with no meat. Yeah, it's a sandwich. But it's cheaper than a whopper. You probably don't do fast food often, but just in case you are having an emergency and need a drive-through.

tona said...

I love your response. And as long as we're talking about fast food Burger King has a veggie patty whopper, too. Tofu is hard to start off with, but tempeh is a good place to start like in stir fry, and there are very good veggie crumbles for tacos and veggie dogs, etc, for cookouts, in the produce section of the grocery store. Love Hazel! And she might find her repetoire of veggies expanding. A farmer's market trip on a Saturday could be really inspiring?

Disco Mom said...

We are on Day 4 and she is serious. Her conviction has taken Ed by surprise but I could tell a true internal shift has taken place. I'm OK with meatless, but the overall pickiness is an issue we are working through. Like radishes and green peppers in our salad last night. Get to love your veggies, girlfriend. A trip to the farmer's market is a great idea.

Hazel never liked hamburgers or meat sandwiches but I think we will try veggie burgers and see if she likes them. Some out there are pretty good. And I have tried those veggie crumbles by Morningstar, in the freezer section - I have used them in spaghetti sauce, casserole and chili before so that's easy - they are great. And they have sausage style crumbles too we could use in lasagna or breakfast burritos.

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