Apparently this week is ‘Meat-Free Week‘ (yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either, cheers Mumsnet). The name is sort of self-explanatory but just in case; it’s a week where families/businesses/general people are challenged not to eat meat, like, none at all. As a veggie family this would not be a particularly radical move for us, obvs. And yes, our entire household is meat-free, my 17-month old son included. Dun dun deeeer!
Don’t worry, I’m not one of those vegetarians. I don’t get evangelical or self-righteous about people choosing to eat meat. I pretty much hate self-righteousness in all of its forms (hence the irreverent blog). Plus I eat fish occasionally, so I’m not even a real veggie. I am a sham; that inferior breed known as pescatarian. Or, as I like to call us pesky-tarians. *chortle*
This post isn’t going to about how everyone should go meat-free for ever, or even for a week, but I do think the idea of becoming aware of how much meat you eat and where it comes from is a good idea. Cos, come on people, it has got a bit ridiculouso. Right? Like, apparently Britons eat 1 billion chickens a year. ONE BILLION. I know Nandos is yummy but that just seems a bit much.
But you can read about all that do-gooder stuff elsewhere. All I want to talk about is my family and my life. Screw the planet and animals and crap.*
My husband and I have been vegetarian for a long time now so when Bubs started weaning it wasn’t really a question for us whether we’d give him meat; of course not. We have a generally healthy diet with lots of variety and we know people who have grown-up vegetarian (and vegan) are genuinely fully-functional adults (true story). Plus, we mainly choose not to eat meat for ethical reasons – which I have already promised not to bang on about – but it would seem very odd indeed not to pass those ethical principles, which are held especially dear by Hubs, onto our children. If later Bubs chooses to eat meat, fair dos, but for now we won’t be feeding him any.
So, yeah, he’s a vegetarian, no big deal, that’s just how it is.
Enter the grandparents.
Now, if one of Bubs’ grandparents is reading this, I’m not talking about you, obvs. You are great. I’m talking about the other lot, or the other other lot. (Bubs has 6 grandparents, naturally).
When I was pregnant and talking to, shall we call them The Undisclosed Grandparent?, I made some off-handed comment about how the baby wouldn’t be having sausages or chicken nuggets or something. Oh the horror! In reply I received a contorted expression and the question “Aren’t you going to give him meat??” Now, while I’m not 100% sure said grandparent wasn’t joking, I feel they were just saying what a lot of other people were thinking.
When we broached the subject with most of the family you could see that worried I’m-not-going-to-interfere-but-what-the-bloody-hell-are-you-playing-at look their eyes. I would quickly rush in with some comment about how, obviously if at any time the baby seemed not to be thriving we would consider…blah blah blah.
I can’t blame them for these reactions. Our choice is totally outside the cultural norm. For some the idea of bringing up your child as a vegetarian would be better described as depriving you child of meat. Okay, maybe in the olden days if you were a peasant and could only afford one loaf of bread to share between a family of 14, or if you’re living on a dollar a day in a slum somewhere, but not now, now here! You bloody hippy lunatics! How will they, like, grow and stuff???
Protein is usually the biggest concern in this scenario. ‘Can he get enough protein like that?’ ‘Are you worried about protein??’ or the classic ‘So, what does he eat?’ Protein, protein bloody protein! It’s all a bit over the top if you ask me. I blame Atkins. Not only for the whole ‘carbs-bad protein-good nonsense’ but for the idea that you get only protein from surf and turf. End of.
Well, folks, and I’m gonna blow your mind here, there is protein is lots of food. Even food that is not meat, even food that is not dairy or meat or eggs. Who knew right? (yes, we all did, so why is the whole veggie thing a problem?)
But there shouldn’t be a problem anyway because he’ll eat fish, right? Wrong! I eat fish if I’m out and fancy it occasionally but at home we don’t have it all. Hubs would prefer if Bubs laid off it for now and I have no problem with that. I don’t eat fish for health reasons. I mean, don’t get me wrong, when I started to eat fish again I sort of believed it was for health reasons, but really I just like seafood. To be quite honest when I end up eating fish more than once in a while I get a bored with it. Give me veggie lasagne any day of the week. Mmmm… lasagne.
This whole no-fish policy (which isn’t even completely the case since Bub’s formula had fish oils in it) is more contentious than I first thought. I think some of my relatives (no not you, obviously, you are totally cool, the coolest of all) think that I will at some point rise up against the vegetarian tyranny and restore my child’s right to eat salmon. Well, I won’t. When he’s old enough to express a desire to taste fish? Sure, go for it. But til then I’m just not that bothered. Because I know he is absolutely fine.
Anyway, yeah, Bubs gets plenty of protein. He gets plenty of everything. Fruit, veg, bread, beans, dairy, eggs, the occasional rich tea biscuit. And, in my assessment, he’s doing alright on the whole growing-up front.
Poor thing, look at those hollow cheeks and dull eyes, he’s basically wasting away… Oh wait…
And if my unprofessional opinion isn’t enough then let it be known that even the NHS says it’s okay to bring your kids up on a vegetarian diet! And the NHS says loads of shit that I do/did is not okay (see every other post I’ve ever written for details). I mean, they don’t unreservedly celebrate vegetarianism; they say stuff like “If you’re bringing up your child on a diet without meat they’ll need a varied diet to make sure that they have enough nutrients to grow and develop”. But, frankly, that’s a pretty weak statement because I’m pretty sure it applies all children, in fact to all people. I doubt you’ll find a paediatrician or health visitor in the land who says “If you’re feeding your children meat then don’t worry about a balanced diet or nutrients or anything.”
Still, despite being very assured in the fact that my toddler is not having his growth stunted or missing out in anyway, I still feel a bit self-conscious when I tell people. I here myself saying “he’s vegetarian” and think “God, she sounds like a pretentious dick.” But ho hum, them’s the breaks. As long as I’m aware that people disapprove of some of my parenting choices, there’ll probably always be a little voice in my head that agrees with them. The trick is to that voice to sit down and shut-up, then go and make a veggie lasagne. Mmmm….
What’s your experience? Were you brought up vegetarian or doing so with your kids? Or perhaps you think a life without meat is not worth living? Either way get involved by commenting below. Or…
*P.S. don’t screw the planet or animals or crap, that would be really bad.