I was 11 when I decided I could no longer eat meat. I had a friend who liked to inform us at the school lunch table what our meals were prior to landing on our plate. He didn’t paint a pretty picture, so needless to say I was scarred.
My Mom was horrified. The staples of German fare consisted of meat and potatoes- what would become of me? For a long time, we fought regularly at the dinner table. I remember the turning point when my Mom finally waved the white flag and stated if I was going to continue on this path then we had better figure out how to do it right. Not to mention, she was not about to cook two meals, so I’d better learn my way around the kitchen.
My level of nutrition has waxed and waned over the years. While under my Mom’s wing, she made sure I got in my daily dose of veggies and protein, but the freedom of college brought way too many late night calzones. After graduating, my fridge was full of leftovers from a moonlighting gig at Boston Market or bagels from my roommate’s job. Only in the last 10 years has my interest in cooking evolved into a satisfying hobby. I’ve learned how to actually enjoy tofu, I’ve fallen in love with the bounty of our local farms, and a plate full of colorful veggies brings me joy.
I have different reasons for abstaining these days versus when I was in 5th grade. The bottom line, however, remains the same – I know a healthy, balanced diet can be obtained without animal protein. My husband is a vegetarian by default. Unless he grills, or his Mom cooks for him, there’s no meat to be had in our house. Thankfully, he has agreed to let me steer the nutrition decisions for our daughter, and together we are doing our best to provide her with all the nutrients and minerals a growing child needs.
I also know there will come a day when my little one will begin to question what’s on her plate. She will notice Daddy doesn’t always share his food with her, and she will be curious as to what those circles are on her friend’s pizza. I will welcome her inquiries with age appropriate answers, and I’ll do my best to keep her “under my spell” as long as I can. But the truth is there will come a point when I will no longer be able to hold her back, and she’s going to go for it. She might even like it. As much as I can’t bear the thought, she is her own person and she may make choices I don’t always agree with. Part of the beauty of parenting, right? Learning at which point to let go and let them fly.
I will admit, I take secret pleasure in hearing my baby ask for seconds of her eggs and kale, or her tofu and noodles. I like to think I’m laying the groundwork for her taste buds; after she’s done rebelling against my ideas maybe it’ll come full circle – only time will tell. In the meantime, we will continue to visit our favorite farms on Sunday mornings, and hopefully she will have a healthy understanding of where our food comes from.
It’s all about exposure, right?