Thursday, September 17, 2009

Veggie Tales

"Fish have eyes," Greta says. She is contemplating her dinner - salmon, rice and a few token carrot sticks. "I told you - nothing with eyes."

Greta has decided to become a vegetarian. She and her friend Abi came up with the idea on a play date last week. The two of them have a history of concocting new ideas together. In July, they became hippies. They said hippies don't take baths or change their clothes, an idea that apparently held a lot of appeal for them during the dirtiest days of the summer.

I don't know the exact origin of the vegetarian thing. But, like the hippy thing, she is steadfast in her commitment to becoming a vegetarian, at least for now.

Through trial and error, I have learned that telling her she can't do something is a sure-fire way to enhance her commitment. So when she announced last week that she was going to be a vegetarian, I rolled with it.

"So you're not going to eat any meat?" I asked.

"No," she said. "Nothing with eyes."

"No chicken nuggets? No hamburgers? No turkey?" I inquired, naming a few of her favorite foods.

"Nope." She was resolute.

"Not even pepperoni?" She adores pepperoni above all else.

She contemplated. "Can I be a vegetarian that only eats pepperoni?"

"You can be any kind of vegetarian you want," I reply, hoping to create a few loopholes in the scenario. This kid, who hates all vegetables except for carrot sticks and broccoli made by Miss Liz, and only Miss Liz, isn't going to eat meat?

"Nope, no pepperoni either," she finally decides.

This is one of those parenting moments - in theory I'm in charge, so if I tell her she has to eat meat, she has to eat meat. But I also want to support her individuality, her right to explore her beliefs, and to figure things out on her own. So I decide to put a few parameters in place.

"Well," I say, "if you're going to be vegetarian, we need to talk to your doctor about it."

Her eyes get wide. "Why? Will I be in trouble?"

"No, but you are a growing girl, and growing girls need protein. Vegetables are good for you, but you need protein to build strong muscles and bones. Your doctor can help you figure out what other foods you can eat that will give you protein." I'm feeling kind of smug, thinking this will be enough to change her mind.

"Okay," she says without hesitation. "And lets get online and look up what other vegetarians eat for protein!"

Hmmm. Good move, kid.

So we look it up. She hates peanut butter, so scratch that. She took one look at the picture of tofu and stuck out her tongue. I'm back to feeling smug, certain she won't be able to stick with it.

"Well," she sighs. "We're going to have to get clever about this."


So we're on day eight. It turns out she really likes veggie burgers and tofu nuggets. She has experimented with salad, and found some versions she likes. Lots of cheese, yogurt, milk and fruit.

I upped my game and cooked her favorite meal the other night: a sausage stir-fry with feta, black olives and red peppers. She loves sausage, but she didn't break. "Just serve me the olives, peppers, cheese and pasta, Mom." she said.

"I want to be a vegenarian too" says Finn.

Seriously, I'm in charge, right?


  1. No, you aren't. You haven't figured that out yet? :)

  2. I am so flattered she approves of my broccoli.

    Maybe she'd like my bean burritos, too! Mare loves them. And El, they're SUPER EASY. No, I mean it, it inolves opening cans and stirring.

  3. Wow - I didn't become a vegenarian (Finn rocks!) until I was in my 20's, and even I miss bacon now and then ...

    Luckily there are tons of things that are kid friendly these days in the veggie section. Bean burritos are a fantastic idea.

  4. My son is meatatarian. if it has eyes, he LOVES it, esp steak and salmon.

    my brother just became vegan,now THAT's a PITA**. I am not sure e will even visit me any more

  5. I'm impressed that she's sticking with it! If my kiddo decided to do this...she'd wither away with her selection of what's allowable to eat!

  6. I LOVE your pictures, especially the fish! God, your daughter is really smart! I think you're a wonderful Mom ;)!

  7. My daughter, who is much older than Greta decided to become a veggie last year, my husband calls her a carbatarian or a cookieterian, because she eats more cookies and carbs instead of vegetables, but honestly if she sticks with it I recommend getting these two cookbooks: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman of the NYT and Clean Food by Terry Walters. They are most helpful and everything in the Bittman book has been absolutely delicious so far.

    I tried them both out at my library before I bought them, but they are a worthwhile investment.

  8. I became vegetarian at age 12 or so. And still am, umpty ump years late. So, it may *not* be a phase.

    Jut warning you!

    And good for her that she is prepared to work out what she has to eat, if she is not going to eat meat.

    Guess you're going to have to expand your repetoire!!

  9. I LOVE your pictures, especially the fish! God, your daughter is really smart! I think you're a wonderful Mom ;)!