“What would you like for breakfast?” I asked my daughter recently.
“BACON!” she said.
“How about Weetabix instead? And maybe Daddy will share some of his bacon,” I said.
“Mummy doesn’t eat bacon,” she said.
“No,” I said. “Mummy doesn’t.”
Around 20 years ago, I became vegetarian-ish. I still ate chicken if there were no veggie options, but I gave up all other meats. Maybe ‘gave up’ is the wrong way to put it – I never really liked eating meat that much, so it was hardly a sacrifice. I simply stopped doing a thing I didn’t enjoy doing anyway.
I wish I could say that I carefully considered the health, environmental and animal rights implications of vegetarianism before concluding that it was right for me, but I really just found the texture of meat to be a bit icky. Later I read about all that other stuff and thought, “Hey, this vegetarian thing could actually be really good for me and the planet,” but it was secondary the ick factor.
A few years later, I lost my taste for chicken too. Besides a brief flirtation with pescetarianism a few years ago – which taught me that I’m not really into fish either – I’ve been vegetarian ever since. It’s such a basic part of me now that I don’t even question it. I’m a woman. I’m a wife. I’m a mother. I’m a vegetarian.
But my husband isn’t. And neither is my kid.
Why I let my child eat meat
1. She’s tiny.
Like, 2nd percentile tiny. And picky. I don’t want to deny her anything that will help her grow, especially protein. Yes, I know there lots of are non-animal sources of protein, but while I’m quite happy to eat a quinoa burger or a pile of hemp seeds, she’s not. Because she’s two. I’m lucky if I can convince her to eat anything that’s not fruit or cheese.
2. It’s easier.
I don’t have to worry about her not being able to eat at nursery, restaurants or other people’s houses. She doesn’t have any food allergies, so she can shove any old thing in her gob.
3. I want to let her decide if she wants to eat meat for herself.
A controversial idea in the veggie community, maybe, but I want to expose her to as many foods as possible as she grows up – and that includes meat. She rejects most everything I put in front of her in favour of Babybel cheese and bananas, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.
When she’s old enough to ask, I’ll explain to her where meat comes from. If my answer bothers her, she doesn’t have to eat it anymore. Her diet is already 80% vegetarian anyway, so it would hardly be a big change.
The only meat she’s shown any real enthusiasm for is bacon, which I totally get, because bacon smells delicious. She’d rather have a lentil pie than a steak pie. The last time she tried a beef burger, she scraped it off her tongue. She won’t even touch fish fingers, the most inoffensive, child-friendly food ever.
I won’t be surprised if she goes veggie too, but if she doesn’t, that’s okay. She and her father can tuck into their Spaghetti Bolognese while I eat my Quorn version. We’ll all be covered in sauce by the end regardless, because we’re messy like that.