My eldest son was 8.5 when he decided to become vegetarian. He’s now nearly 12 and says he will never eat meat again—ever. He’s extremely dedicated, even refusing marshmallows and gummy bears because they contain gelatin. (We found some very expensive and delicious vegan marshmallows from Sweet & Sara for campfire s’mores—after all, what’s a Canadian summer without a marshmallow roast?)
Luckily, he’s a pretty good eater—he’ll try new things and readily eats all the protein and iron-rich foods I insist on. In fact, he’s a much better vegetarian than I was when I swore off meat for 5 years in my 20s and proceeded to eat a whole lot of bread and cheese.
But it wasn’t cute chickens or cuddly pigs or even fears about environmental degradation (the usual reasons kids offer) that turned my boy veg—it was disgust. Disgust at the still-beating heart of the freshly caught fish his dad filleted in front of him, disgust at the slabs of bloody meat hanging in our local butcher shop window. He’s found lots of political/environmental/health-related reasons to continue with his choice, but he’s having to explain himself less and less these days.
The kid is riding a wave—with Oprah recently trumpeting the benefits of Meatless Mondays and “institutional feeder” Sodexo introducing the veggie-positive campaign to its massive network of hospitals, universities, senior centres and corporate cafeterias.
But the truth is, not many of his friends and classmates have jumped aboard. His school lunch—packed with things like cheese sandwiches, tofu, veggie dogs, sushi, and tomato pasta—is one of only a handful of vegetarian meals in the gymnasium where he eats. Of course, with fuel prices soaring and the pillars of cheap food cracking (as the always astute Wayne Roberts writes in his Now Magazine column this week) he may not be alone for long.
Maybe even his flexitarian family will join him.