Monday, July 02, 2007

Another Vegetarian is Born

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I have a scene in my latest manuscript that I’ve worried about. In it, a five-year-old boy realizes that the turkey they’ve eaten at Thanksgiving comes from an actual turkey. This may sound strange to you, but I still remember finding out that the chicken we ate for dinner was the same thing as the chickens in my picture books. Talk about an unpleasant surprise. I blame this childhood trauma on Disney for making all of those talking cartoon animals. Sesame Street also shares the blame. Muppet chickens are unappetizingly cute.

My older kids have all gone through the same thing—that day of recognition, along with the accompanying outrage that meat is actually animals. This was always followed by weeks of them playing guess-which-animal-we’re-eating-tonight. It’s enough to discourage anyone from cooking. And it was nice, really, to tell them I didn’t know where hot dogs came from.

But the problem was, I couldn’t really remember how old the kids were when these events happened. Were they five, four, three perhaps? Five seemed so old to not know that chicken is chicken, fish is indeed fish, and yes Thanksgiving dinner used to say, “gobble gobble” just like in the picture books. And don’t ask me to explain chicken eggs, because I just don’t want to.

My editor, the bow-tied one, doesn’t have children. He probably won’t believe that a five year old doesn’t know what meat is.

I wanted to ask my five year old if she knew, but then again, I didn’t really.

Last night we had a chicken and rice dish. (See, I can cook some things without nearly destroying my kitchen in the process.) As we ate, my middle daughter forked through her food, examining it. She is convinced we are trying to slip something evil into her dinner and so she must be vigilant searching through it.

“What is this black thing?” she asked me.

“That’s a part of a mushroom from the cream of mushroom soup,” I told her.

“Hmmmm,” she said disapprovingly. Only she could even find a mushroom piece in the cream of mushroom soup. It ought to be called essence-of-mushroom soup or perhaps just thinking-about-but-not-really-using-mushrooms soup. I mean really, they must include about a half a stem in each can.

Since middle daughter still seemed unhappy about actually receiving something besides the ‘cream of’ part of the soup, I added, “Mushrooms are in mushroom soup.”

My five-year old held up a piece of chicken on her fork. “Where does this come from?”

“It’s chicken,” I told her.

“But where does it come from?”

“It’s chicken. It comes from a chicken,” I said.

Middle daughter leaned across the table and added, “Don’t worry. It wanted to die.”

Sometimes older sisters don’t really make things better.

“This is a chicken!” my younger daughter proclaimed indignantly. “Gross! I’m not eating it!”

So apparently five is about the right age.

We had pizza tonight, but I dodged the pepperoni question. It’s probably for the best. I’m not actually sure where pepperoni comes from.


Anonymous said...

Hello, I have read one of your books and have anjoyed it so much. I just wanted to say that this post is so funny. Its great! :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah... I still remember when that happened to me. I refuse to eat meat that bears any resemblence to what it once was. Ignorance is bliss.

Annette Lyon said...

My second daughter had the same crisis at the same age--4 1/2 probably. She thought she was making a joke at dinner. "We're eating chicken, Mom. Get it? Chicken? Like the ANIMAL?! HAAAA!" And I had to break it to her that uh, yeah, sweetie, like the animal. Her little jaw hung open, and she stared at her little chicken nugget in horror. Probably scarred her for life.

Janette Rallison said...

Yeah, I think I'd change to Tofu, but so far they dont' make Tofu Helper so I would't know how to cook it.

Heather Moore said...

I'm waiting for my youngest to make the connection. Once in awhile, my kids older enjoy talking about whether they are eating a cow, a pig or a chicken. Anything to get under their mom's skin.

Annette Lyon said...

By the way Janette, I gave you an award on my blog today. It's no Newberry, but it's fun. Come check it out. :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

No one knows where pepperoni comes from. It's part of the mystery.

Unknown said...

I really did laugh out loud at this one--and the others below. Thanks for the chuckle, Janette. I'm adding you to my favorite's list to visit often for a therapeutic dose.

Our family went through the animal thing, too. For ages they were convinced all chickens came from the store, frozen in a bare, pink lump. Took a while for me to convince them they weren't manufactured that way, that they once had feathers and lived. Then I wished I hadn't bothered because at least two of them turned against meat for a while. But they'd have found out one day, right?

Janette Rallison said...

I keep telling myself that all meat is grown on trees--I'm too much of a soft touch to eat it otherwise. I mean, I'm the woman who has five stray cats.

My oldest daughter did go vegitarian for a little while--until her hair started falling out. Then she went back to eating meat.

Chillygator said...

Hi Janette! I just started reading your blog and this made me laugh. If it helps for feel better my sister refuses to eat chicken (the only meat she will eat) without pulling it all apart to make sure there are no pink spots (if there are the whole thing is deemed inedible) and my mom still has to puree the mushrooms from the Cream of Mushroom soup in the bender before cooking with it so my sister won't know she's eating them. Did I mention my sister will be 26 soon? (life did get even with her. Her son only eats applesauce, raisins and crackers. Wide variety there) I don't mean to brag, but I can spot the tiniest of onions in anything. It's a gift (o: Maybe it's also why my mom doesn't cook for us unless we have guests.