by AVI VINCE
I have been vegan for just over one year. Prior to that, I was a chicken and fish eater for 14 years. Prior to that, my diet consisted of red meat and potatoes.
When my husband tells people that his wife is vegan they immediately get an image in their head. Long dreadlocks. Tattoo sleeves on both arms. Piercings everywhere. They are utterly shocked to find that I am so straighty-one-eighty that it is bordering on nerdy. Okay, not bordering, I am an actual nerd. Apparently, I am the first nerd they have met who leads an alternative lifestyle without the stereotypical alternative look.
In addition to my stereotypes, I always get two questions about my veganism. Often with an expression of utter bewilderment that I voluntarily chose to go down this path.
First question, why did I choose to be vegan?
I have never liked eating meat of any kind. The only reason I was eating chicken and fish was because research and people (family) told me I would be sickly if I didn’t. I often only ate it when it was covered in sauces or deep fried that it didn’t taste like what it original was.
I also found out that all my efforts at trying to be animal friendly through free range and organic weren’t a guarantee to the animal living happily ever after. I can’t stand animal cruelty and it was an easy switch. Yes, I still get cravings for chocolate (diary) and yes, I still cave and eat chocolate. But other than that, I am vegan and love it. I have never been healthier.
Second question, would I force my children to eat vegan?
This question is usually said with so much horror spread over their face that I often want to say that I will feed my children raw red meat to prevent them from calling Child Protection Services. Point to note here, I have no children, I am not pregnant and I am not trying to get pregnant.
My real answer to the second question is “I’m not sure, probably” while wondering why everyone uses the word force in this question like I am going to lead my family as the head dictator.
Realistically speaking, my children are most likely going to eat whatever I cook them. And I cook what I eat. So they will probably eat far more vegies, fruit and grains than any other kids. And I wouldn’t do this simply for my beliefs in being a vegan. My mum loves meat and potatoes. It isn’t classified a meal without meat in it. And so when I was younger, I ate what I was given. Did I mention my mum hated vegies? So as a result, I wasn’t given a huge amount of vegies, except potatoes.
Even with all the meat eating, I was still the strange child who asked for “more rice, no just rice, not meat thanks”. Or pile on all the salads at the buffet, wasting space for my main meal as it was referred to. I did this as far back as I can remember. I only ate meat when it was given to me and when I was instructed to finish everything on my plate.
Did thousands of meals of meat and dairy make me a meat lover? No.
If people think I would be forcing my eating habits on my children, then my mum is guilty of forcing her eating habits on me. (It didn’t work.)
If people think that I would be deliberately starving my children of essential nutrients, then my mum is guilty of not providing a variety of vitamins found in vegies on my plate.
If my child screamed from the back seat that they wanted McDonalds burgers, I would probably say no. Not because McDonalds burgers have red meat in it, but because it is high in fat and incredibly unhealthy.
If my child asked for meat, I would give it to them. Let them try it out. I probably wouldn’t cook it, again not because I am against meat, but because I would probably cook it so badly they wouldn’t want it ever again (hey, there’s an idea). Their dad, my husband, would probably cook them up a steak (did I mention he is a meat and potato eater?).
If my child asked me why I didn’t eat meat, I would tell them the truth. Regardless of whether my child eats meat, I am going to teach them to respect animals like my dad taught me through countless Sunday afternoon hours watching National Geographic documentaries. (My dad eats meat.)
I was and am the only person in my family and circle of friends who is vegan. I don’t even have a fellow vegetarian buddy to back me up.
It was entirely my choice, and I would support my child to be a meat and potato eater, or a stricter vegan than I am or whatever diet comes up in the future.
I have decided that as a good future mother my only concern would be the health and nutrition of my child which I would monitor regardless of what they ate (meat eaters suffer nutrition deficiencies too).
One final note, my eldest niece (4 years old) gets fed meat and potatoes (and loves it) and when I have taken her out to lunch and asked her what she would like, giving her full range of the food court, she simply replies “Just some carrots and broccoli please.”
So the real question is not how mothers force feed their children certain diets, but rather what would you do if your child chose to eat differently to you?