Friday, May 26, 2006

Is Your Kid a Vegetarian?

I cracked up at this Wacky Mommy post about how her children only eat Macaroni & Cheese, and especially at the comments indicating that a lot of people’s children become pseudo vegetarians at some point or another. It’s hard to imagine that my 4-year-old, J will ever go through a phase like this. While my Little One often eats as though he’s a fruitarian (seriously, the kid would eat nothing but fruit and nuts if left to his own devices), J is the anti-vegetarian.

Last weekend I went out for the afternoon and when I came home to fed, bathed children waiting for Mama to read the bedtime stories so they could go to sleep I was in particularly good spirits. So when J asked, “Can we make pumpkin cake for breakfast tomorrow?”

I thought, Oh What the hell, it's Sunday.
But not to forget that I’m a nutrition fanatic even when I’m being nice, I said we could if we drank a glass of milk with it. And he said, “How about if we have some fruit with it instead?”

I told him that was a great idea, but we needed to drink some milk with it too. And he said, “How about pretzels, are they healthy enough?”

So I explained, “They’re not too bad, but we need to have something with protein: Milk, Cheese, Nuts, Peanut Butter, Eggs, Yogurt… Meat.”

To which he shouted, “Meat! Meat! I want a big chunk of meat!”

And he’s always been like this. The same way we joke the Little One is a fruitarian, when J was younger we used to say that he was on the Atkins Diet. Unfortunately we can’t make that joke anymore because sugar has taken over as his favorite food group, but meat is a close second. To illustrate, one day he said he didn’t feel well and that he needed “something with calcium.” When I asked him what he had in mind he answered, “How about ice cream or chicken bones.”

As he was learning about new foods, if there was a meat we couldn’t get him to try, all we had to do was show him a picture of the animal it came from and he’d happily wolf it down. I once served him a beautiful shrimp dinner that he wouldn’t touch… until I showed him a picture of a live shrimp (which nearly made me lose my appetite - they’re among the ugliest creatures ever), then he was ready to eat.

I have a book I started reading to him when he was a baby called My First Spanish Animal Board Book. And this is how it would go:

Mama: Lion. Can you say "el leon”?
J: Can we eat those?
Mama: No, we don’t eat lions. Cricket. Can you say “EL GRILLO”?
J: Do we eat crickets?
Mama: I think some people might eat crickets. But Mama doesn’t.
J: I wanna eat a cricket.
Mama: There are lots of crickets at Grandma’s in Arizona, maybe when we go there next time we can find some. Frog. Can you say “LA RANA”?

J: Does anybody eat frogs?
Mama: Great Grandma eats frog legs. Should we go to Indiana sometime and have frog legs with her?
J: (jumping up and down, shouting) I wanna go right now!
And on it would go.

He also wants to go to China to visit his godmother and eat pigeons. (Yes, I know he could eat “rats with wings” in an upscale U.S. restaurant, but not on my dime.) I’m telling you the kid’s never met a creature he didn’t want to eat. He really did chow down a big plate of frog legs at Great Grandma’s (I opted for the fried perch, thanks); however, so far I’ve been able to avoid having to refrain from barfing while watching him eat crickets. Now, if the time comes, I'll do my best to be a cool mom and nurture his sense of adventure, but I'll be ordering the Macaroni & Cheese for myself.


Food Mum said...

I'm impressed with his adventurousness. Sometimes I think my children must have been beamed down, personalities intact to us, having sorted out all their preferences in advance. One of mine would eat plain rice all day with a few apples too. Another is an egg and nut fan and the youngest is the only one who will gnaw meat from a bone and eats vegetables too. Where did they come from?

Christine said...

Frog legs, pigeon, and crickets??? Yikes! I admire your son's sense of culinary adventure (I think I do anyway), but I also emphathize with your efforts to get him to eat balanced meals. My daughter is only 18 months old and her eating habits change from day to day, hour to hour. One day she eats everything ravenously with barely pause for breath, the next day she merely picks up the offending items and ditches them over the side of her high chair. One week she loves kiwis, the next week she hates them. All the while my mood moves in sync with her eating. "She ate so well today -- hooray!" "She won't eat anything today -- ugh."

Well, it's another day here on the east coast -- time to see what kind of mood I'll be in today.

landismom said...



I have to force my daughter to have protein in the morning too, otherwise she is a bear until she eats some. She'd eat bacon every day, if I'd cook it. There's a lot of yogurt , generally.

Anjali said...

While I might not care for eating crickets, it's certainly great that he's willing to try anything. I think 90% of getting kids to eat is getting them in the spirit of eating-- and he's got some great enthusiasm!

Mom101 said...

This is just too funny. It reminds me of the opening chapter in Kitchen Confidential in which Bordain details how he came to eat so many foods--mostly to freak people out. Starting with oysters. Who knows, your son just may grow up to be a world class chef with his own Travel Channel show!

Anonymous said...

heee... that is really fun! "can we eat those??" hehehehehe!! Actually, if you can afford the cost to fly and the ammo, yes you CAN eat lion.

I work with a woman who was born/raised in New York City and now is living here in Dixie. She was heretofore unaware that armidillo, aligator and squirrel are, indeed, ALL EDIBLE animals. She covered her ears and began humming to herself when I began rattlin' off some of pappy's recipes for squirrel stew.

mothergoosemouse said...

You can eat rats-with-wings (my name for them too)? I feel ill.

I've eaten my share of game meats, but surprisingly enough, I haven't yet tried buffalo in the year that we've been out west.

Redneck Nerdboy! said...

That's so funny! Kids are awesome, each in their own way.

My li'l smooth operator Loooooves spinach. I have no idea why, but it's prolly the same reason I loved brussel srouts when I was her age.

So awesome.

Jenn said...

Hey, guess what we had for lunch today - Macaroni and Cheese!!
My oldest son was a strict vegefruitarian until he turned 3, then we introduced McNuggets into his diet.
Now he's 5. Last week he ate a whole hamburger for the first time - woohoo!
Since the hubster and I are carnivores on a huge scale, and use the BBQ more than the oven, this thrilled us to no end.
Finally we can all eat the same thing for dinner - MEAT!!!!

Wacky Mommy said...

heh heh heh. "I want a big chunk of meat!" I would be over the frickin' MOON if someone at my house spoke those words. Today Wacky Boy told me, "Didn't I tell you I don't like mac and cheese anymore?" I couldn't talk. Total panic. Then he cracks up laughing and says, "I was just kidding!"

Sheena said...

OMG! you people have such deep running cultural biases towards naturally occurring sources of protein. I guess the next generation will be no better off in sensitivity relations than our forefathers.


Jill said...

My own 4-year old J is also a strict carnivore. He will not do veggies, but he'll gnaw anything off a bone. I think it is some kind of karmic reaction to me. I went vegetarian when I was 15 (well, ovo-lacto-fisho vegetarian anyway). I've never been able to go back. When people ask me why I just look down at my shoes and mumble something about it being a bad habit I fell into back in my animal-loving communist days. It's a very weird sort of block to have - this whole being a vegetarian for no good reason thing.

Sandy said...

My gosh, just let me know if you want an unpublished paper I did for the Smithsonian (back when I was an anthropology grad student) titled "Entomophagy in Native North America". It's good *lots* of good suggestions for your ds (including cricket suggestions - apparently some are tastier than others).

From another anthropology class I remember reading how the eary Spanish settlers in St. Augustine, FL wouldn't eat "vermin" except when they were starving. And vermin included shrimp and lobster. :-)

Lisa said...

My youngest is 100% a carnivore. We made shrimp for dinner and he kept trying to grab them yelling "MEAT! I want MEAT!"

i think that gene came from Daddy!

Anonymous said...

Our kids are definitely not vegetarians. They are anti-vegetarians. You can see why, I'm sure.