When my son, Andrew, was 5 we took a trip with my vegetarian sister to the Portland coast. Andrew watched Susan eat with interest and about two days into the trip he said “aunt Sue, you don’t eat meat. Why?” I shot my sister a menacing look of “if you convince my son to be vegetarian I will eat your first born!” Somehow she mistook that look to actually mean “go ahead, please, enlighten my son.” And so, as I prodded, threatened and bribed my five year old to eat his highly processed, deep fried fish sticks, that I believed he needed and were good for him, my sister did enlighten him. Andrew, had never really liked meat since he was small, meal times were usually a nightmare. One time he sat to the table for six hours because he wouldn’t finish his food (this was an experiment in a battle of two control freaks—I lost). The day we returned home from Portland. My five year old, in his five year old voice, said “mama. I am a vegetarian.”
This is the trip that changed our lives. He is 5 in this picture
Of course I tried to reason with him, explain that growing boys needed meat to get big and strong, but he wouldn’t hear it. He was vegetarian and that was that. I tried to be the responsible mom and say, “you will eat meat.” but short of grinding it up and feeding it to him intravenously there was no way this child was going to eat meat. So I settled in, thinking he would grow out of it, I “supported” him. I made chicken noodle soup for the family and picked the meat out of his bowl (I admit this with only slight shame as I was not vegetarian, not interested in becoming vegetarian and didn’t really understand what it meant to be vegetarian.) He was a picky eater anyway, now it was worse. Everyone gave me advice on what to do, I found the best thing was to support him the best I could. But I remained a meat eater. I did take him to the Dr to see if he could grow ok without meat, the Dr, surprisingly, said he was fine.
Many people teased him, including members of my own family. Many people thought I was a bad mother for not making him eat nutritiously (they didn’t have kids). His dad threatened, begged, pleaded for him to drop the ridiculous idea, but despite or maybe because of all of that Andrew just dug his heels in deeper and was more determined to be the best vegetarian ever. And, to my pain, he was. A year or two after going vegetarian he discovered labels and he started reading them. If he didn’t know what an ingredient was he would look it up, this self-educating slowly shrunk his already small menu of things he would eat. He didn’t like vegetables and only ate them under duress. There were a few fruits he would eat, but again only if I forced him. His mainstay was Mac and Cheese, cheese sandwiches, white rice, peanut butter and jelly and black bean, brown rice and cheese burritos. I made two meals every time I cooked.
Over the last three years he has brought up being Vegan and I absolutely forbid it. I told him when he was 18 and could cook for himself he could go vegan. Last August, 2011, at age 12 he went Vegan. I forbid it. He went vegan. For six months he lived on black bean and brown rice burritos and peanut butter and agave sandwiches—I didn’t know how else to get him his protein. He continues to self-educate and has discovered a lot of white sugar is refined using cow bone. He no longer eats anything that has sugar in the ingredient list. I had to start making homemade tortillas so I could make him homemade black bean and brown rice burritos. I made everything from scratch. It was a lot of work, and it wasn’t very good.
He is vegan because he can’t stand to think of an animal being harmed in anyway. The more he studied the more he despaired, learning animals are used in almost EVERYTHING humans use.
Andrew with one of his many pets, Tusken (bearded Dragon)–My house isn’t usually this messy, I was making a costume for the midnight release of Star Wars Episode I
Here we are nerding out at midnight, yes that is me on the end, in costume
I despaired. I didn’t know how to help him. We got chickens because he will eat their eggs since he knows they are not fertilized and our chickens are super happy.
We milk our goat so I can cook with their milk—I was desperate to do whatever I could to get him his protein.
This is Penelope, she is still a baby, but will be a great milker
I cooked what limited things I could, but I knew he wasn’t getting the nutrition he needed. He got sick a lot, he was moody and had little energy. Sometimes I cried myself to sleep wondering how I could help my boy—how I could convince him to at least go back to being vegetarian.
My sister has helped a lot. She has talked to him about being tolerant of others choices. This is very hard for him. He is 13. Everything is wrong or right, black or white. My sister introduced me to her friend and animal rights activist, Colin, who actually did volunteer work on “The Sea Shepherd” in Alaska (This is the boat on Whale Wars that goes around the world fighting for sea animals that are being annihilated by fisherman). He wrote a beautiful letter to Andrew that helped me more than it did Andrew. He sent us several Vegan cookbooks and offered real support.
A few months after corresponding with this friend, I met Somer. She told me about how she was eating and why. She was in the middle of the “Green Smoothie” challenge and I decided to do it too. That was March 19, 2012. I told Andrew if he would drink 16 oz of green smoothie I would go vegan for a week. He did it. I was shocked. That was the most vegetables he had eaten in a year. I went vegan. I have been vegan ever since. Having Somer , Colin, this blog and a like-minded community has changed my world.
Andrew is still a very picky eater. The recipes I have found and love, he usually doesn’t (ie African Peanut Stew). But he always takes two bites—that is the rule. Whenever I find something he likes I feel like I have won a gold medal. A few weeks ago I tried Chef AJ’s Disappearing Lasagna from “Unprocessed” I followed the recipe pretty much exact. He loved it. He ate it four days in a row. He ate it for snacks. He said he wished it wasn’t green as he wolfed down his fourth helping. When it was gone he cried there was nothing “tasty, like lasagna to eat.” I have made it 3 times in the last 3 weeks. The only alterations I have made is I put the mushrooms in the food processor and blend them pretty small. Andrew doesn’t like chunks, so if I blend it up—no problem. So if I say a recipe is “Andrew” approved you should be able to feed it to a meat eater and they will probably like it. This weeks Andrew approved dishes are
Chef AJ’s Disappearing Lasagna (mushrooms diced very fine) watch the video here: http://www.eatunprocessed.com/dietitian.html#41
Here is how mine turned out, and it freezes great!
For his treat he has had Somer’s no oil banana muffins and my sister came up with this yummy recipe for peanut butter candy.
Mom’s Peanut Butter Candy (adapted from a recipe from Linda Smith)
½ cup Natural creamy peanut butter
½ cup honey or agave
¾ cup powdered soy or rice milk
¾ cup quick oats
Method: blend everything in your food processor for about 10 minutes (the longer you blend the creamer it is). Roll into balls.