To Meat or Not to Meat

I’m a vegetarian by marriage.  I grew up in rural Missouri. You don’t find a lot of vegetarians in the Midwest. I was raised with a chicken coop in the backyard and they weren’t our pets. Neither was the hog. My partner was raised a vegetarian. We wrestled with how we wanted to feed our own kids and decided that we’d go with the route that we felt did the least harm, so Sissy and Piper became vegetarians, too. At least until they are old enough to decide for themselves.

Sissy is actually the most militant vegetarian among us. She sneers at meat; she looks with disdain at hamburgers. Our struggle with Sissy has been to get her to be tolerant of meat eaters. We chose. They get to, also. With Piper, our challenge is to remind her that we are, in fact, vegetarians. She’ll eat anything put in front of her, especially if it’s fried. She doesn’t care what’s under the breading.

The “pretend” meat revolution confuses a Piper even more. “Is that ‘fake’ taco meat or ‘real’?” Piper asks, assessing what looks like seasoned hamburger waiting to be stuffed into her corn shell. She’s right. Veggie hot dogs are called “Smart Dogs.” Soy burger is called “Crumbles.” Fake sausage is called “Gimme Lean.” The marketers spend a lot of time trying to make vegetarians comfortable. Bait and switch doesn’t do it for me. If I wanted to eat bacon, I’d eat bacon. I don’t want “Fakin’ Bacon.” I assume the naming of vegetarian products is for “transitioning” vegetarians or “occasional” eaters. Sissy and Piper have been raised on tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans, and nuts. These are their norm and they’re perfectly comfortable with these choices until another kid looks into their lunch box and says “What is THAT?” Hmm. Perhaps Sissy’s judgement is a defense mechanism.

Piper cares greatly, though. The vegetarian choice seems a mystery to her. At lunch with a cousin the other day, Piper led an inquisition.

“So, is that a ‘real’ hot dog or a ‘fake’ one?” Piper asked.

“It’s turkey,” Cousin Jillian said, taking a bite. “It’s real.”

“Mom, is mine real?”

“Yours is a veggie dog, P. It’s not real. We’re vegetarian, remember?”

Piper looked from her plate to Cousin Jillian’s again. “So,” she said. “Do you eat real dogs, too? Like the kind that bark?”