Mo-o-om, what’s for dinner?

Image courtesy http://www.zazzle.com/animals_are_my_friends_poster-228505690643377345 

I hate it when people ask, “but aren’t you going to feed your children meat?” It’s even worse when the question is accompanied by the wide eyes and open mouth that reflect an inability to comprehend the situation.

I’m so tired of people telling me that a vegetarian diet isn’t a healthy way to raise children. I haven’t eaten flesh for over ten years and am a fit, strong, healthy and happy woman who has borne two healthy, beautiful sons.

My nearly-two-year-old is an eating machine and loves guzzling up his beans, cereals, fruit and veggies. He gets plenty of protein from all the peas, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs and cheese he eats, and his energy levels are boundless. There’s a reason the expression is “full of beans”!

My four-month-old is above the average curve for his weight and length, and I am exclusively breastfeeding him off my hearty vegetarian diet.

Vegetarianism may be an ethical, environmental, economic or religious choice. But it is undoubtedly a wholesome one. People need to realize that it is a growing lifestyle and can be every bit as healthy as an omnivorous diet (in fact, often more so!).

As parents we have a responsibility to ensure that our children receive all the nutrients their growing bodies need, as well as a safe and loving environment in which to learn and grow. That doesn’t predicate the need to eat animals or harm them in any way.

As George Bernhard Shaw so eloquently put it: “Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends”. I don’t know how I could teach my kids to love animals, and then tell them that it’s okay to eat them. It just doesn’t make sense.

When they grow into independent individuals they will have to make their own choices about many things, including this issue. But in the meantime, I have to be their feed-o-meat-er.

 

 

lettuce learn together

I think I’m starting to get the hang of this blog thing. You log on every couple of days, jot down some thoughts, and then phone your mother and beg her to read it so you have at least one “hit”.

In my excitement, I’ve been telling everyone I know about my new hobby. The responses have been varied (“That’s nice, dear” – Mother; “What’s a blug?” – Grandma; “Wouldn’t you rather be sleeping while the baby’s quiet?” – Well-meaning Friend).

I seem to have a lot to say about raising eco-aware children. Kids who understand and respect the bio-rhythms of the earth and who appreciate our small place within it. Well, it’s easy to preach the virtues of such things, but I do sometimes wonder how successful I am at putting them into practice.

And finally, today, I received some proof that my efforts are slowly but surely making their way through the little skulls.

I was reading a book with my not-quite-two-year-old (by reading, of course, I mean slapping the pages and going “Aaah!” at the pictures) when we turned to the page about food. “Can you show me the tomato?”

Ari pointed diligently at the tomato.

“And how about the cucumber?”

He gesticulated wildly at the picture: “Ima! Ima!” (this is cucumber until his tongue masters further phonics)

“And where is the lettuce?”

Ari paused. He scoured the page. And suddenly he lifted his arm and pointed out the sliding door into the garden. “Out deh!” he said triumphantly.

Well!

It made one Veggie-tot Mom’s heart very proud.

grape expectations

This afternoon I was in one of Durban’s more up-market food stores when I saw something I haven’t seen for a while: grapes. Immediately my memory was awash with heady summer afternoons, stuffing myself with luscious grapes, the sweet, cool juice dribbling deliciously down my sweaty torso.

Hooray, I thought, the grapes are back! But when I picked up the package to pop it into my basket, I noticed the let-down on the label: “imported”.

I berated myself for (almost) falling into this trap. I should know that September is way too early for grape season. But then it’s so hard to know what’s supposed to be in season when these days, because we can get pretty much everything all year round – at a price.

There are several reasons why buying imported fruit is a no-no for a Veggie-tot Mom:

  1. It’s expensive. Unsurprisingly, it costs a lot to transport imported goods from faraway lands. But at nearly R30 for a tiny plastic box of small green grapes, I feel there have to be better ways to invest the money, whilst supporting our local economy which so desperately needs it.
  2. It’s got a huge carbon footprint. Loads of precious fossil fuels are used to transport the fruit to our country, usually by air. So the cost to our planet is as steep as the cost to our pocket. Do I really want to responsible for the slow strangulation of our planet because I fancy a handful of grapes? Really?
  3. It’s tasteless. Yes, in more ways than one, but here I’m talking purely about the palate. By the time imported produce reaches our South African shelves, it’s usually spent several days in sunless cold storage and has often been treated with life-prolonging chemicals (which do nothing for the taste, or texture, of the fruit).
  4. It’s not special. When something is constantly available, it’s no longer a treat. Nature in her wisdom has kept her infinite variety cycling with the seasons to intrigue our tummies and our taste buds. Why mess with this delicious system?
  5. It’s not the message I want to send to my boys. As their provider of both physical and spiritual nourishment, I see it as my duty to make choices on their behalf. I want them to experience the pleasure of enjoying nature’s choicest blessings when the time is right.

So back went the box onto the shelf, and I reached instead for a punnet of plump strawberries (which I know are in season because they are blooming in my backyard – I just can’t get to them before the monkeys do!).

Most parents agree that it’s our responsibility to teach our kids about manners, road safety, and respect for their elders. But I think that teaching them respect for our planet is equally important, and a global picture of food an excellent tool for this. It teaches them patience, appreciation, and a sense that food is a miraculous gift rather than an entitlement.

So go local. Go seasonal. And go outside and have some fun.