Friday, March 19, 2010


My son is a vegetarian. We took him to the farmers market in Toulouse and there he got a good look at whole pigs hanging from the butcher's hook, cow tongues lolling in the meat case, and entire tetes de veau. He was horripilated. Then he watched a woman eat a whole bloody plate of steak tartare (with a raw egg broken over it) at the Brasserie Lipp in Paris. That was it. He said: "No more meat for me!" and after only six months of occasional bacon-eating, he has stuck to his philosophical guns for over half his life--from age seven to now, age fourteen.
I'm not a vegetarian, but at home we eat vegetarian--all of us--because it simplifies the cooking and leads to smoother relations all round. The only difficulties arise when we go to big family holiday dinners, like all of them, that feature meat. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Easter, and the usual summer barbeque season. Of course, the whole extended family has become a minefield of specialized diets--diabetics, low-fatters, South Beachers, low-cholesterolics, and then the myriad and various personal dislikes to be factored in. Deciding on one menu everyone might like is almost impossible, or as the Italian say, quasi-stratosferico. I am frequently begged to reassure my mother, my aunts, whoever, that my son will eat, and even more, will enjoy some cheesy casserole they believe he should like. I say yes. I don't know if he will, the track record is spotty, but better to deal with the fall-out when it arrives, rather than waste tons of time wringing our hands about it for days and days before the event. If he doesn't like something, they feel I betrayed them. They look at me as if I deliberately misled them, as if I encouraged him to be a vegetarian just to upset their menu plans.
Not me. I keep a secret stash of prosciutto in the fridge, carefully hidden in camoflaging wrapper and no one's found it there yet.

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