I realise the title sounds a little like living with a monster and it’s not supposed to be disparaging. I was brought up in a vegetarian (sometimes Vegan) household so if I knocked it, my mother would not be happy and I enjoyed my mum’s inventive cooking. I eat meat now and it was a choice I made in my 20’s. I am actually very happy with a mostly vegetarian diet, but I live with a carnivore; actually 2 carnivores and 1 kind-of-vegetarian, who is sometimes a vegan, who sometimes eats lamb kebabs…
I have no issue with M being a vegetarian, but I used to get irritated with her inconsistency and how expensive that made it. In any given week M will eat a burger, a beef stir fry or a pork chop, then explain to me with a long suffering sigh at the dinner table why she can’t possibly eat that chop, as she pushes it around her plate, as it died and it is flesh. Well, put like that, I don’t fancy mine now thank you very much! When I was ill last week and Hubby was in charge of meals he will be the first to hold up his hands and say he took the easy option and ordered takeaway. M of course, ate whatever he came home with or had delivered, as it was a treat and it was always meat.
Pushing down my irritation about food is something I got used to quickly as everyone in the house, apart from me, is a fussy or picky eater. J and Hubby love meat, but J has issues with thickness, consistency and providence. His meat must be cooked in a certain way or he can’t eat it. I understand he has to have control over it due to his past and I don’t push his comfort zone in any obvious way. I found that if I say to him ‘oh don’t try that as you probably won’t like it’ he’ll give me a look and say ‘I might!’ and dip the tiniest tip of his spoon in. I always praise him when he tries something new and I never make him eat anything he doesn’t want to. However, pushing my irritation down with M’s love/hate relationship with meat is more difficult. I do manage it as I pick my battles with M. Revision, GCSE’s and managing her time on social media are battles that I give more priority too.
M is learning about herself and deciding who she is. Claire, M’s closest friend, is vegetarian and is mostly consistent but will eat fish and sometimes chicken. M started off being vegetarian as she wanted to be similar to Claire and have something they could share, but as she found out a little more about how meat is prepared and specifically how animas are killed, she became genuinely interested. I think M can disassociate herself from meat when it’s in a form that doesn’t look like the animal. If I make a cottage pie she is more likely to eat that than a steak as it doesn’t look like meat. Similar is a burger or a McDonalds meal. I always offer her a veggie option and sometimes she chooses it, sometimes not.
She’s not a passionate vegetarian, but does read about it and watch YouTube videos and I have changed my shopping habits because of M. I only buy organic meat now, which is more expensive, but after watching some of those harrowing videos with her, I found I could no longer buy meat unless it was organic and free range.
My problem is disconnecting M’s general faddiness with food and her genuine wish to be vegetarian. I have never criticised or belittled her food choices, we don’t do that with anyone in our house, but I can’t say I haven’t inwardly sighed as she rejects another meal. Of course I worry about her health as a vegetarian diet doesn’t mean healthy if your main food group of choice is chocolate! M doesn’t show signs of having weight issues or worries which would alarm me but we talk about healthy choices which seem to go into the ‘blah blah’ part of her brain. I have decided to have a rethink about how I cook for the family and instead of having a family meeting and telling them (J and Hubby would turn white and run scared!) about the changes, I’m just going to incorporate some subtle tweaks. I started a few weeks ago and used Quon instead of beef mince in my lasagne and no one noticed. It was tasty and healthy. We are having fish tonight which J and Hubby tolerate but I have to follow J’s strict food rules and I know it will make M happy.
I will try to get away with an obvious vegetarian meal once a week, for the entire family, not only to support M but for health reasons. As long as it has cheese on it, J will eat it. However Hubby is lactose intolerant so if nothing else, it will make me creative. Thank goodness for Baby S. She eats whatever I give her and gobbles the lot. She is well into weaning now and I make everything she eats, so at least there is one person in the house that likes my cooking!
M is at a crucial point in her life – GCSE’s, relationships with boys as well as her friend network, the pressure of social media and learning about who she is. We agreed to cook a meal together once a week which she reluctantly agreed to as it means less time on her tablet but so far she has stuck with it. I learnt more about what’s going on in her circle of friends in that half hour period than I did all week! I have decided to fully support her exploration of being vegetarian even if that means she is not fully committed. It’s her choice.