From the editor
Saturday, May 01, 2004
Hold the meat, please :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
I love to cook. It's something that lets me keep learning. But I don't like to be taken for granted, nor do I want the title chief cook.
And for the most part, this is understood in the house. All three boys cook.
I was in the kitchen with the stove open when my older boy came bounding down the steps.
"Mom, Dad, I'm going to be a vegan."
A wonderful teenage heat seeking missile. No warning. No set-up. No foreshadowing.
"Do you mean right now?" I say as I put a chicken in the oven. "What's a vegan?" my younger son yells from his post in the other room on the couch.
My older son, speaking with the authority of a teenager, says, "It's like a super vegetarian. You don't eat meat or eggs or cheese or honey."
This, I think, virtually zeroes out my older son's diet. Everything my 14-year-old eats has to do with eggs, cheese or meat. His favorite dish is a little recipe he calls "My eggs:" six eggs, four strips of bacon, three pieces of ham, butter and a half pound each of shredded cheddar and smoked gouda cheese. It's the vegan version of a weapon of mass destruction.
Surprising if you consider this is the son whose first solid foods were lentils and spinach. In his early years, he ate every vegetable I could puree.
It had a strange effect. It was as though he maxed out on vegetables. Once he hit age 5, green on a plate for him evoked the same response as a red flag in front of a bull—time for a fight.
He loves meat. This kid likes his meat seasoned with a little meat—roast beef sandwich with a slab of turkey and a slice of ham on the side.
I smile. It's an amazing thing to watch your children grow and evolve. When they are small, you set down for them what you hope is a solid groundwork.
You try to teach them what you believe. And you hope that one day they will become people who will have the courage that comes with conviction.
I hope my boys learn two basic lessons: Treat others the way you want to be treated and actions mean more than words.
People who take action because they believe strongly in something also believe just as strongly that they can make a difference.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: Indeed it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead said it and I keep it above my desk because I believe it.
I'm not a vegan, nor am I vegetarian. But I have a lot of respect for people who change their lives to make the world better.
If you look to the founding of the Vegan Society in 1944 in London, it was born from a belief that people should be more respectful of life.
Two of the six foundation pillars of The American Vegan Society are: Integrity of thought, word and deed and service to humanity, nature and compassion. These are great ideas.
I am proud of my boy. He can go off in goofy directions as he slouches towards adulthood, so as a parent I live to savor those moments when he rises above it all. I love proof of what I know: This is a good kid who wants to make a difference.
"So," I say, "You know what you can't eat. But what can you eat?"
"I don't know. You'll tell me. You'll be cooking it."
My bubble, the dream of my young man making a difference strains to stay in tact.
"I'm starting at midnight," he continues. "So, up until then, I'm going to gorge myself on meat. Can we order a pepperoni pizza?"
"I take it we're not witnessing a philosophical awakening of your new consciousness here?"
"Geez, Mom, you take everything so seriously."
My other son comes bounding into the kitchen.
(I once sat through a seminar for women trying to learn key management strategies for success. "When you come into a room," this woman taught us, "take up space." Our group looked puzzled, "How do you do that?" Women have to be taught this—boys are born with it. They go nowhere gently. )
The younger boy jumps straight-armed up onto the kitchen counter, ‘If he's going to be a vegan, can I have his meat?"
"I'm going to do this for two weeks," my older boy says. "I'll start at midnight. No, wait, make that four weeks. That's it. I'm going to do this for four weeks. Can we order that pizza, Mom?"
"You do realize that for some people this is a serious life choice that reflects a deep commitment."
"Whatever, Mom. The pizza?"
"So, why are you doing this?" I ask.
"I have to see if I can," he says. "It's a challenge."
I call my dear friend, a counselor who works with teenage boys. "What a perfect guy answer," he tells me. "What do you mean?" I say, trying to glimpse across the great gender divide.
"Guys do things to prove they can do it," he says. "It's common at this age. It's not a bad thing especially if he is choosing food as his challenge."
"So, it's really not about embracing a better world is it?" I say. "Not at all," says my friend. "He's a teenager. But it will still be a good experience for him. He's testing himself and he'll learn along the way. Maybe he'll make his world better."
"Will it be a good experience for me?" I say, going back to the practical. "What will I learn?"
"That depends," he says. "On what?" I say.
"Do you know how to cook tofu?"