Author Archives: Shaun
We need not have feared! As Louise mentioned in a previous blog post, last week our two boys embarked on a school trip to the Isle of Wight. We did complete the requisite school forms beforehand informing all interested parties of their vegetarian dietary requirements, but still had some some worries about how it would go.
I for one had visions of my children (who, let’s be honest, can be a bit fussy about what they will eat even when it is all veggie) coming home hollow cheeked, half starved and completely ravenous. Well, I am pleased to report that this was not the case at all. In fact it was quite the opposite.
There was lavish praise all around from both boys for the selection, quality and, most importantly, quantity of the vegetarian fare that was provided for them during the course of the week. The fact that lots of desserts were on offer was of course a big plus factor but, judging from the comments so far, we may have to make some changes to the fare we provide at home. One son informed us that he was now used to eating much more than before, as they’d had a starter, main and dessert for every meal, so we’d have to start giving him bigger portions.
So well done to the school , well done to the hotel and well done to my children for making it through the week and coming back well fed as well as safe and sound.
Coming back on the long drive from the Lake District after a very wet and muddy camping trip over the August long weekend, we popped into a service station café for a bite to eat. It was a bit wet and chilly and so we all really fancied something hot and tasty.
Finding something hot and tasty wasn’t as easy as you’d think though, once you excluded the bacon, sausage roll, chicken nugget and steak pie options from the menu. Of the fifteen or so items on offer, only two were in any way suitable for vegetarians: a toasted cheese and tomato pannini and a cheese and onion pasty – vegans were completely out of luck. My wife and I settled for the former and our children ended up with some cold snacks as neither of these options appealed to them at all.
Now for many years I wouldn’t have even noticed something like this so I am not about to get on my high horse about it (well ok… maybe a little bit), but these days, due to the increasing influence of my vegetarian children and the general change in our household diet, I am very much more conscious about what we all eat.
The vast majority of people do eat meat and, fair enough, the café as a roadside commercial enterprise needs to cater for the preferences of the majority and is not claiming to be vegetarian. But even if we put vegetarianism aside, with all the newspaper and television stories about an obese and unhealthy general population, do we really need menus filled with this much processed junk and saturated fat?
One of the many arguments put forward by those who oppose vegetarianism is that we evolved to eat meat in our diet. Even if you accept this argument, you can’t possibly believe that it formed 80% of our meals and it certainly wasn’t the kind of processed rubbish served in this café. Yuck! More fresh fruit and veg options please!
As I finally got around to reading the June issue of Vegetarian Living magazine last week, I was very interested to see the story about the Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath who offer vegetarian cookery classes for 11- 16 years old children.
As my own children are showing much more interest about what is going on their plates now than they did in their pre-veggie days it made me wonder if they might be interested in something like this.
Now, although my two boys are twins and 99.99% genetically identical, any parent of identical twins will tell you that this certainly does not mean that they cannot be different in just about any way you would care to think of.
Mentioning it first to Douglas, he seemed very keen on the idea. He had a look at the magazine article, asked me lots of questions and asked for me to sign him up. Good boy I thought. When I brought it up with Julian however, he looked at me as if completely mystified. For what possible reason could he want to want to learn how to cook his own meals when he has two perfectly good parents who are happy to do it for him?
In some convoluted logical way, I suppose he has a point. Having said that I am going to find out a bit more about these cookery classes as they sound a great idea for some kids (if not for all.) Living in Hertfordshire, cookery classes in Bath would not really work for us, but hopefully there will be something similar available closer to home. I’d be very interested in getting some feedback from anyone whose children have attended vegetarian cooking classes so we can decide whether it something we should try.
I was in the supermarket a while back and I had taken my 10 year old son along with me. For me it was a chance to spend some time with him after being tied to the office for the previous 5 days and having seen very little of either him or his brother. For him, whilst I am sure he was glad to spend some time with me as well, I am not so delusional that I can pretend that it was not my promise to buy him a chocolate muffin that persuaded him to come along.
After a while I had collected all of the items I needed and had dutifully purchased the muffin as the last but most important item, when I noticed that he was looking quite unhappy. There was not too much to it, just a look on his face and a slumped body posture that experience tells me I have a 10 year old with an issue. When I stopped, looked down at him and quietly asked him what the problem was, his face suddenly crumpled and I could see he was really upset. It was all very quietly done. There were no loud cries or tantrums, we did not get any undue attention from any other customers, but here was my child stood in the middle of the supermarket and in a very undemonstrative and dignified manner, he was very unhappy..
I asked him a number of times what the problem but he wouldn’t reply though he was obviously upset until after we had paid for the groceries and for a good while later in the car as we here heading home. Of course, the whole time I was wondering whether I had done something wrong, whether someone in the supermarket had done something to upset him or whether something else had happened entirely. Again asking him what the problem was, he would not give me any answers beyond “it’s nothing Dad…OK?”
It was only later in the day that I got an explanation. Confiding to his Mum, he described his feelings as we walked though the refrigerated section of the supermarket.
My son, although only 10 years old, has been a vegetarian by his own moral choice for some time. In hindsight of course, given his beliefs, it is quite reasonable that the meat, poultry and fish conspicuously on display would make him feel uncomfortable. In a misguided attempt to not to make a fuss in front of his Dad he had not said anything to me as I in my ignorance wandered leisurely through all of the aisles and he reluctantly tagged along. At some point however, it had all become too much for him.
Obviously, I have learned a lesson here and will not take either of my children with me through this particular section of the supermarket again. Having said that, whilst I guess this may be a part of the supermarket you would deliberately avoid if you are vegetarian, I am sure that it is not always possible to avoid this type of situation when you are doing your weekly shopping. This must be something that other parents of vegetarians have had to learn to deal with, so I’d be keen to hear about how you have dealt with it and what your thoughts are.
As the summer holidays approach, my mind wanders back to this time last year when my parents were visiting us for a few weeks. They live in South Africa and we don’t get to see them as often as we would like. If we are lucky we might get to see them once every couple of years, but no more than that.
A month or so prior to their visit I’d mentioned to my mother on the phone that Julian had become a vegetarian.
Although at the time that he made his decision it did suddenly become very clear to my wife and I that we had insufficient knowledge about the nutritional requirements for vegetarian children and a fairly limited range of vegetarian meals in our repertoire, all in all we were pretty happy to support him.
From our point of view, it was our job to make sure they had a healthy diet as they grew up. If that diet was to be a vegetarian one, then we had better quickly brush up our knowledge about nutrition and expand our cooking horizons, both of which my wife really threw herself into.
In any event, when I told my mother, it was clearly a bit of a shock to her that a) my children would make such a decision and b) that we were happy to accommodate them. She spoke her mind quite clearly to me:
Was it possible for young children to grow up healthy on a vegetarian diet? She was pretty sure that she has read somewhere that it wasn’t. What kind of parents would allow their children to tell them what they would or would not eat? Children should be made to eat what was put in front of them, end of story. No doubt some busybody at school had turned their mind to this nonsense with some moralistic preaching. Did we know who? All children go through these kinds of fads but we really should not encourage it and must force him to eat meat. (There was more, but that was pretty much the gist of it…)
Now, let me state very clearly that I think my parents are wonderful people. I could not have asked for a better upbringing or a more loving home. But honestly, I couldn’t agree with this way of thinking. I think we have long moved on from the days when children were expected to simply do and think whatever they are told to do and think by their elders.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advocate a complete “laissez faire” attitude to child rearing. Children definitely need a firm guiding hand from responsible adults if they are to avoid some of the more perilous pitfalls during growing up. Surely however, if a child is mature enough to make a rational decision on moral grounds about whether or not they wish to eat meat products, they deserve some support in that decision. Maybe my parents just belong to an older generation where things were done differently, but I want my children to be able to weigh up facts and independently reach their own convictions on things like this.
I believe that most “younger” parents feel like we do and would do the same thing for their children that we have done. At least I hope they would.
For the record, when my parents eventually visited, my mother did sit down and have a chat with Julian about his decision to be a vegetarian, and was impressed by both his conviction and his knowledge of nutritional requirements. She has reconciled herself to the situation and realised that it is possible to raise a healthy vegetarian child, which is just as well as we now have two of them!
Have you ever had to deal with this type of situation with family or friends?
Obviously we all have our opinions and beliefs and we like to think that while some may be more strongly felt than others, generally we feel that it is our own view of the world that is the correct one.So when our children opinion something different it is interesting to see how we react.
18 months ago, out of the blue my 9 year old son Julian solemnly announced at the dinner table that from that day forward he was resolving to be a vegetarian. For reasons of conscience, he would no longer eat meat or fish and he would be much obliged if in the future we would refrain from dishing said food onto his plate.
Let me be quite honest and state that at this time neither my wife nor I were vegetarian. Pangs of conscience about eating meat or fish were not something I suffered from in any way. Though my wife had been vegetarian when younger she hadn’t shared this with our children, so wherever this idea came from, it definitely was not from us.
Looking back, I have to say that my reaction to my son’s pronouncement was somewhat condescending. As parents who believe it is our responsibility to teach our children how to think but definitely not what to think, it would never have crossed our minds to try to change his mind. Having said that, wasn’t it obvious that this was simply something he had come out with as a result of someone whispering in his ear at school? Wasn’t it equally obvious, as a 9 year old boy, something that he decides today is something that he will forget about tomorrow?
And so it began. As dutiful parents we began preparing meat free dishes for meal times. More often than not this was for the whole family, but occasionally just for Julian alone. How long would this last? In our opinion, not very long.
How wrong could we be?
A year and a half later, not only has my son resolutely stuck to his resolution without wavering but it was not too much later that Douglas, my other son ( and Julian’s twin brother), announced that he too wished to become a vegetarian. Over the last 18 months I have seen both of them graciously accept gifts of sweets containing gelatin or other “banned” ingredients (without I might add ever mentioning to the gift giver their beliefs) and then quietly either put the sweets in the bin or hand them over to some other child to enjoy. I have seen them expand massively the range of foods that they will eat. I have seen them tackle plates of vegetables that I know they are not particularly fond of but which they have eaten because they know that to be healthy they need to eat them.
I have not seen them compromise on a single occasion in any way. In short, they have a belief and I have seen them show the kind of stubborn resolve in support of that belief that I am sure may adults could not muster. I have nothing but the utmost admiration for my children. I am hugely proud of them.
It has been a very interesting and challenging time for my wife and I. While it would be a falsehood to state that we are now a 100% vegetarian family (the two of us have yet to take that definitive step), there is no doubt that our family diet bears no resemblance to that of 18 months ago. Do we eat less meat and fish than we used to? Much, much less. Do we have a more varied and interesting range of family meals that we serve up? Definitely. Have our eyes been opened to the huge variety and choice of vegetarian recipes, meat free sausages , burgers and the like that are available to the modern vegetarian. No question (…and let me add that some of it is absolutely delicious !)
Where will we be in another 18 months time I wonder? Judging by the topics of conversations around the family dinner table recently, I have a feeling that dairy products might be the next thing that my boys wish to cross off the menu. That might be interesting!