Caleb asked me the other day about buffalo and I explained that they look like cows, but are larger, have long hair, and a hump on the back of their necks. I then proceeded to walk ass-backward into uncharted territory when I elaborated by saying that buffalo meat was similar to cow meat – beef. Caleb’s eyes began to well up with tears and his voice cracked as he said indignantly, “we don’t eat farm animals, Momma!”
This was not in my manual! I didn’t plan on having this conversation with my five-year-old! I responded with tender footing, “Caleb sweet-pea, there are animals that we visit on the farm for fun, but there are also animals that are raised for food.” The crying ensued and my heart sank while my eyes began to fill up with tears. I tried as sincerely as possible to explain to my future vegetarian that many of us do indeed eat animals for food.
Why I stepped in it again, I have no clue, but I then asked Caleb if he could tell me where cheeseburgers came from and he responded “a cheeseburger is food Momma; it’s not a farm animal!” I said, “Actually Caleb, burgers come from cows” and he cried even more. I was worried that next he’d say “I suppose you’re going to tell me that we eat pigs, sheep, and bunnies too!”, but fortunately for me, I didn’t have to take on the other cute and fuzzy board-book animals just yet. I suggested that we talk about this another time as he was sniffling and wiping his tears. Then Caleb, being his wonderful self asked me for “quiet time,” I assumed so he could compose himself. I love this little sensitive (best possible meaning of the word) boy-child of mine and I wonder how other parents navigate these murky waters when talking about the origins of food. Michael Pollan – where were you when I needed you!?
Under the advisement of a very wise and experienced mother I know, I decided not to take on a meatloaf recipe with Caleb just yet. Talking with our kids about the origins of food is incredibly important, but I’m not prepared to shatter his world entirely. I decided next to take on a simple cookie recipe, and use our baking time as an opportunity to talk about where eggs, butter, and milk come from. I’ll call this a ‘teaching moment’ with baby steps.
To be continued…