Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bean Sprouts & Pernil

Secretly I want to convert my family to veganism or at least vegetarianism. Don't tell Husband. I especially want the children to be vegetarians. But secretly. I know not to push the girls for fear of a major backfire and rebellion in the form of frivolous pork eating, bacon binging, hunting. That's my nightmare at least, so I know to handle Maya and Mina's food selection with non-leather kid gloves.

I make their breakfast every morning and their lunches most every day. I make their dinners about 35% of the time while Husband tackles the other nights. Though I don't push the veggie life on them, I do usually prepare veggie meals. I am also pretty adamant about organic produce and whole grain stuff. They don't protest this at all. They also have not noticed that I only buy almond milk now which tastes no differently to them on cereal. HA - another point for my clandestine coup!

Maya announced to me yesterday that she wants to be a vegetarian. My heart nearly exploded. She fairly successfully gave up red meat about 6 months ago with slips now and again like when she didn't realize that pepperoni was red meat. Whoops. But I don't sweat her when that happens. I tell her, "Yo, look how much red meat you HAVEN'T eaten." With yesterday's announcement I asked, "Why, baby?" I want these decisions to be theirs solely. I want them to have a process to their choices. She said, "Well, it's healthier. And I don't know if I feel good about eating animals anymore." I said, without pumping one fist, "Those are great reasons."

It didn't hurt that I brought home a propagandous children's book a couple days ago called Benji Bean Sprout Doesn't Eat Meat. I feel only slightly guilty about placing this nonchalantly on the dining table. The book is about a kid who gets persecuted at school for being a vegan -- the other kids throw food at this kid, peas and carrots no less. It’s ugly. Benji's like, Dad, I can't take it. I wanna eat a hamburger. What kid wants to be the chump at school? Benji's dad is like, Whoa buddy before you eat the death patty (my words, but totally implied in the book), let me show you something. He takes Benji to an animal sanctuary and explains why the animals live there and not at a factory farm being tortured. He guilts Benji out of the burger via live, sad cow eyes. And the book worked like a charm on Maya too. MMwwwaaaa. The book also made her ask me, Do they really cage up a chicken all day long? Calves get ripped from their mothers? And so on. Her own compassion was ignited and grew the more she learned. She also asked me great questions like how old was I when I stopped eating meat (red meat at 13) and when did I become a vegetarian which really was only 2 years in high school. I told Maya that I didn't really learn about the idea of balance in a diet until fairly recently and back in high school I didn't know that an all french fry diet, though vegetarian, was maybe not the best idea. I told Maya that back then I dreamt about chicken until I couldn't take it any more.

"Do you want me to pack string cheese in your lunch still?" I said. She said, "Hmm, no thanks." "No more chicken noodle soup?" "I guess not," she said unremorsefully. "Eggs?" I said. "I don't think I like the taste of them to be honest." And my eyes were rolling to the back of my head as she was describing a VEGAN lifestyle, not just vegetarian.

Her journey officially began today. I warned her about haters. I warned her about our own urge to judge others and feel uppity. I told her to learn to squash that early and accept everyone's personal journey.

After Maya had made her announcement, I looked over at Mina. She was shaking her head like, Shoot, don't look at me. Mina is a complicated eater, among other things. I think she'd be compelled to eat a kitten with melted cheese on it. Her favorite food is beans, which y'know, thank God, but a close second is pork and candy. She'd wrestle Husband for a pork rib. I've seen it. But she'll show random signs of brilliant choices. She'll gobble steamed broccoli. She'll happily eat sprouted grain bread and vegan cookies and flax seed waffles. One day she'll love celery and the next complain that it sucks. She'll beg me for lentil soup two days in a row then won't touch it the week after. She'll say, "Mami, can I have pasta?" And after it's prepared, she'll say, "Hmm, never mind." KINDA INFURIATING.

I will slyly have to continue planting seeds with Mina, be the example and then I’ll probably watch her still choose pernil over a salad. Pernil is roast pork shoulder, Puerto Rican style. Mama Luz, Husband's mother, cooks that poor, darling pig all day until apparently its meat melts on the tongue. I've seen adults fist fight over the last bits. Feh, as long as she has a side of organic broccoli and brown rice, I guess . . . what am I gonna do?

When my mother became a vegan, when I was eight, my diet did not change in the least. I showed interest in her new venture or at least intrigue, but her veganism seemed to be a guarded secret. I believed that she became a vegan only to lose weight and as far as I know, that WAS the main reason because she permanently lost sixty-five pounds. I really didn’t even understand what a vegan was. I ate bologna for lunch or sloppy joes at school. For dinner I ate two hot dogs wrapped in slices of bread and a glass of milk almost every single night. The only thing that temporarily put a halt to this menu was because I developed nitrate poisoning. The poisoning came in the form of food-induced migraines. I would see spots, lose my peripheral vision and then puke my guts out. At school, when I felt light headed, I would hold my hand in front of my face and pray that I could see the hand whole. When the spots came, I would just leave school. A few times, as I waited for the city bus to take me home, I’d puked right on the sidewalk. After I was diagnosed, my mother bought me nitrate-free hot dogs from Trader Joe’s.

And now that I am a mother, it astounds me to think I would only want to save myself with my fresh diet. Why would I keep my revelations only to myself? What’s the point of a healthful, long life if the girls and Husband are not with me, healthy and aging well? So really, not so secretly do I hope they follow my lead. And until they make the decision themselves, I’ll leave a trail of sprouted bread crumbs and organic fruits and veggies on my path.


Anna said...

Well done Maya!

I am slowly moving my almost 3 year old over to a vegan diet, like you not mentioning it to my husband!

So far he's having soya milk on his cereal and has cut right back on milk and milk products, as I do most of the cooking it's not too hard.

Next comes the move to soya yoghurt (I make it so that won't be too hard) and then I need to find something to replace his breakfast drink of milk as he won't drink plain soya milk.

I feel like you do, I hate handing my son cheese and milk when I know how bad it is for him, the environment and the animals, if I'm eating well and excluding these things then I feel that I should look after him the same way. I'm sure he'll still eat cheese when he's out and have the occasional pizza but in the next few months everything he eats at home will be vegan.

bimacs said...

Wow... well said! The vegan lifestyle is so far from my own right now, but I don't have a problem with it at all and could see myself there or at least as a vegetarian. Your words have definitely made me think. It's very admirable that you and anna are trying help your kids live and eat healthier by setting the example and letting them choose for themselves.

Good Luck!

Rebel Girl said...

Hey, I really enjoy posts like these about your thoughtful, conscious parenting style (I enjoy your other posts too!

Still, I need all the help i can get with parenting and you give me a lot of inspiration.

As you know, since my sweetie and I are longtime veggies, we have just raised the little guy (now nearly 4!) with that same diet. It is a part of his identity but lately we've talked more about it as he encounters othrrs at school. Just last night he asked again why we eat the way we do - and this time I hit upon something that even helped me understand: I told him that different people put diferent value on different things. And for us, what we put into our bodies was important - that's why we eat what we eat - organic food, vegetables, whole grains, homemade bread, etc. We value our bodies and we think this is best for our bodies - and the world too.

Anyway, it seemed to make great sense last night -

I'll look for the book!

HollyRhea said...

mmmm, kittens.

I went to a restaurant the other night and ordered a veggie-burger. No big deal, until I asked for bacon on it.

I just like the taste of veggie burgers. But every member of the wait staff stopped by to tell me they were going to notify Bof my actions.

madness rivera said...

Hi Anna - good for you! I think if they acquire a taste when they are that little then they are less likely to reject the "new" tastes later. We just do the best we can.

Bimacs - thanks for the comment! And I love your photos.

RG - hey mama, I love the explanation you gave Mr. Man, but I REALLY wish I could hear him try to explain that to his friends on the playground. I mean, we already know he's deep, but that will blow people away. I love it. Again, we just do the best we can because the peer pressure and the need to explain yourself to them is a very real situation that we can't pretend doesn't exist. I make the girls practice explanations all the time - constant roll playing at our house. "What if someone offers you a cigarette?" "What if some guy is talking to you from a car?" "What if a friend offers you a hot link?"

Heather said...

That is so awesome!! How exciting for you. I have succefully eliminated dairy milk from our household. I went vegatarian a year into our marriage and convinced my hubby of how disgusting milk is and he agreed and now all we drink is soy, I felt so happy. I to hope my kids will choose a healthy, thoughtful way of eating.

acumamakiki said...

What a great post. I don't walk the walk although I KNOW that food is making me feel the way I do and I'm starting to read Healing with Whole Foods to get some control in my life. I adore your posts about your veganism ~ you truly inspire me Madness and have helped me to realize that I don't have to be in a constant battle with food.

Rebel Girl said...

Madness - You know, I tell him he can choose to eat anything he wants - and we'll take it from there. so far, no takers - at least not yet.

True - his playground experiences will grow more challenging as he and his pals grow and their vocabulary builds - right now, it's all cheese pizza or pepperoni pizza.

then, of course, there is just the larger world which conspires - I just glanced at the daily meal plan for an OC elementary school (one that has changed their menu to offer healthy options)- it is healthier know.

That said, I am in week three of all raw all vegan by day (with a generous helping of your fantastic dressing on the noon salad) -- feelin' extra fine.

madness rivera said...

Holly - git your vburgers with bacon, girl. Still better than a hamburger w/ bacon.

Heather - great for you!

acumama - I do think most people see food as bad & not in their control but the fresher I go the more of a friendship I develop with food. It's all a journey, though, and it took me a long time to get to where I am.

RG- AWESOME on the raw thing. I'm so glad it's working for you. I'm on my second month and I don't plan to look back. I too look at the OC school menu and think, it's not terrible. BUT I have a 10 year old mole who reports that it's GROSS. Of course Mina thinks it's DEE-licious! On the rare days I can't make their lunch Mina says, Yah! Bugger.

andrea said...

I'm starting to really understand this conundrum... as vegetarian newbie (and mama), it's difficult to be eating so healthfully and feeling so good while your family continues to consume the not-so-healthy stuff. I'm already feeling guilty about this and wonderfing how I can get ava and ezra to follow suit. small steps, for sure. and reading this inspired me.

go on with your sprouted-bread-crumb-organic-veggie-fruit trail-leaving self. your babies will thank you for it.

madness rivera said...

OH ANDREA! No guilt! Kids are tricky buggers. You only let organic vegan food touch their lips and they grow up to be fur trappers. (Again, my nightmare.) I think as parents we really only feed them good ideas and the ability to think critically and thoughtfully for themselves because they'll always run from throat-cramming philosophies. I think Ezra is tricky, like Mina and we do the best we can and gently steer. But that's a far cry from letting your child poison themself with a hot dog. That takes a lot of ma'fuking hot dogs, btw.

Marigoldie said...

Because we're a two-vegan household, it'll probably be a lot easier if we have kids. I'll tell ya: it's a real treat to be living with a vegan (who cooks).

I'm happy for Maya!

Lynne said...

i so need to hook you up with my daughter. she was vegan for a while, but has been vegetarian for six or seven years, i believe.

la vie en rose said...

i really admire your choices. i've tried a vegetarian lifestyle and i end up giving up after a day or 2. it's so hard to make that kind of change. my dad raises cattle so i was raised eating A LOT of beef. and he would frequently slaughter our own hog so pork was in abundance as well. i've been slowly changing some eating habits but the meat...and the cheese, oh the cheese...i haven't been able to give up compeletly. currently i'm eating meat 1 meal a day which i guess is somewhat of an improvement.

Kathleen said...

"eating a kitten with melted cheese on it" just made my whole weekend.



damn...whew! (wiping my eyes!)

Laume said...

Hi - me again - the meme stealer -
I used to be a vegetarian, most of my young adulthood. I was a real purist about it actually. Then somehow in the course of raising five kids, a divorce, etc. slipped out of it. Our family still ate well, ate weirdly my kids friends said, compared to other families, but not purists. Things like whole grains, tofu, lentils, ethnic everything, and vegetables no one else had even heard of. Then came the most stressful years, right after my last was born. Fast food was the name of the game. It wasn't the food. It was the playgrounds. Where I could send my kids off while I sat, just sat, and had a break.
Now, after my husband has been dealt and survived cancer, and then was told to get his cholesterol levels down, I decided it was time to go back to being a purist again. We're not there, but we're better.
The funny thing is the kids who have flown the nest, mostly make really good food choices, despite themselves. My now oldest is really a purist about things,although not a vegetarian. He won't eat cookies, candy, ice cream, soda, sugared anything, white bread, etc. His wife is a completely Americanized picky eater, so he's "educating" her slowly but surely. The funny thing is, he and another son both tried to REBEL when they left home - bought white bread and white rice and large amounts of red meat. After a while they decided maybe it didn't taste that good after all and maybe it didn't make them feel so good too. I got phone calls from both of them, one after another, saying "Damn you mom! I can't help it. I've got you in my head and I have to eat healthy! It's not fair!" LOL.
The one still at home - 80% of his diet consists of bean and cheese burritos, sodas, and french fries. He's fourteen. Sigh. I gotta start cooking things to entice him.