Moms. Seriously. We live in Argentina, and if you know anything about Argentina, you know that it might actually be the meat capital of the world. When you go to a restaurant, what’s on the menu? Meat. When you go to a friend’s house for lunch or dinner, what’s being served? Meat. When you partake in a traditional Asado, Argentines’ favorite thing in the world, what do they serve? JUST Meat. Oh, with a side of grilled cheese. Not the sandwich. Literally, it is cheese on a steel plate that has been set on the grill until gooey perfection. No vegetables. Unless you count the potatoes. So many potatoes.
I think the shear volume of beef and pig that my brother ingested when he came to visit sent him into an acute gout attack (true statement).
And don’t get me wrong in any way, I love the steak and even more so the pork. We had gotten used to eating meat at least once a day, sometimes twice if I happened to make grilled deli meat sandwiches for lunch.
Then one day … that all changed. My youngest, she is four, was with me at the grocery store across the street from our building. The store has a butcher in the back and every day you can get a variety of meats depending on which animals they delivered that morning. I am there every single day. I am so spoiled by city living. I can forget an ingredient, take the elevator down, get said ingredient and be back to cooking within 5 minutes. Seriously, what will I do when I have to be more responsible again or drive to the grocery store?
I give you these small details to illustrate how often we have been in this exact same spot. Daily. But this day was different because it was the day the words that I was saying to the butcher in Spanish clicked in her mind.
Cerdo=pig. Pollo=chicken. Vaca=cow.
Our world came crashing down right there. She started crying, audibly crying, with tears rolling down her face.
At first, I was confused. What could have happened in that split second? A minute ago we were laughing over the stickers in the produce.
Then out it came, “SOMEONE KILLED THOSE ANIMALS ON PURPOSE! I AM NEVER EATING MEAT AGAIN!”
I tried some comforting techniques and had to explain to the butcher what was going on as he was looking very worried (he does not speak English), but she would have none of it. I thought surely by the time we got home and cooked dinner, she would forget and just scoop some food off her plate because she was hungry.
Well, that was a month ago and she has not only eliminated meat, she has gotten firmer in her resolve. Honestly, it has been a challenge but a little fun as well. We have mostly gone meatless as a family, and I am discovering all sorts of new recipes. My kitchen was due for an overhaul because I was stuck in the rut of making the same meals all the time. You know how it is with your weekly rotation of fan favorites. (And whenever my husband just can’t stand it anymore, he has no issue finding a fantastic burger or steak to fill his craving for carne.)
I have received many different types of reactions to the news that my daughter is vegetarian and that it has changed the way that I cook. Mostly, shock and dismay here in the land of beef. One mom even told me that she would just force her daughter to eat it or she would just go to bed hungry. Well, I am not sure you have met my 4-year-old. Honestly, I think she’d starve, and she is already a beanpole, and I don’t want to mess with her being malnourished.
In reality, if I ‘forced’ her to eat meat or just let her starve, what kind of message am I sending? The issue she has with eating meat is that it is a dead animal. She LOVES animals so much so that we have talked about how she would make an excellent zookeeper.
So no, I am not going to make my sweet, concerned, animal-loving child eat meat.
This is the first issue, outside of helping the poor in our area that she has taken a very strong stance. So who am I to tell her that her beliefs are not important? She has a good heart and let’s be real, we could use a little less meat in our life.
That statement may insinuate that I am the type of mom that just cops to whatever her kids want. If you know me in real life, you know this is definitely not the case. However, since I am not a restaurant with a menu of options to choose from for dinner, I refuse to cook two separate meals every single night.
This entire experience has truly surprised me and my husband. We are shocked at how full we feel after vegetarian meals; how great we feel; and how many more vegetables and beans our children are willing to eat without a fight.
We made a deal with our little one when she resolved to respect animal rights that she had to promise she would not fight about what was placed on her plate. If it was not meat, she had to eat it because she needed the nutrition and proteins … and she agreed.
It has been a wonderfully positive thing for our family. It is not without its challenges, but only as the chef in the house. I have spent some more time researching recipes, and cooking takes a bit longer as I get more comfortable with how to properly cook and season beans, etc. However, each week has been easier than the last, and I am loving the fresh kitchen vibe that was desperately needed.
For anyone who may find themselves in a similar situation or just wanting to cut back on the meat intake, I want to share a couple go-to recipes that we have found are big winners in our house.
Here are some options to try. We tweak them just a little with extra spices or hot sauce because that’s how we roll.
If you have any great vegetarian recipes, leave them in the comments for us to try! If we test your recipe in our house, we will post a picture!