Neither of us grew up vegetarian (indeed, my favorite food was a t-bone steak, swimming in soy sauce), but we’ve both converted…me at the onset of Mad Cow and chicken flu, and Devo when he met this awesome, beautiful, engaging, persuasive girl at school. And we’ve remained vegetarian for a variety of broadly-scoped reasons. Except for occasional dalliances with fish, that is.
Becoming a vegetarian later in life is all well and good, but it means that we have basically no idea how to talk to our children about being vegetarian. So we’ve had to make it up on our own. Here is a typical conversation:
“Mommy, what’s that?” She points to the meat section of the grocery store. Lia is always so eager to know exactly what kind of meat is being displayed on the pictures in the grocery store. Which one is cow, which one is chicken, and what on earth is seafood?
“Poor dead animals. Why are they dead?”
“Because people killed them.”
“Why did people kill them?”
“Because people like to eat dead animals.”
“Why do people like to eat dead animals?”
“Because meat tastes yummy. But we choose not to eat meat because we don’t want to kill animals.”
Lia has an abiding fascination with “dead fish”. Last fall, someone brought a pan of (delicious looking and smelling) fish to the Pathfinder campout, and Lia was entranced. One favorite conversation always starts out, “Kris eats dead fish?…Why does Kris eat dead fish?” Refer to above conversation to see the route this particular conversation always takes. (Poor Kris, out of all the people who ate fish that night, he has been singled out as the object of mystery, puzzlement, and eternal fascination.) Her favorite food in the play grocery cart is, you guessed it, the fake can of tuna.
We usually go against our general habits and partake of fish while in Guam. (For one, I personally have no problem eating fish that was caught humanely and locally. For two, my step dad, Jesse, makes the most awesome fish in this world…mahi-mahi, parrotfish, yum yum.) But now we don’t know what to do. How do you explain to a 3 year old that something that is wrong…isn’t always wrong?
(Would it be wrong if we ate fish when Lia wasn’t looking?)
And while we’re on the subject, how do you explain carnivores to a budding vegetarian? We tell Lia that it’s wrong and bad to kill animals that God has created. So now she scolds the birds for eating bugs and worms. And why do lions eat animals?
It gets messy. Very messy.
Makes me think of the impossibility of a black-and-white existence. Sooner or later you’re going to find out that all the pieces don’t fit together. May as well start now.