Our young visitor looked suspiciously at lunch I had just prepared. "I don't eat bits of dead animals" he stated firmly, with a four-year-old's spade-calling directness. I explained that I shared his views, and the meal went well. Lucky, lucky boy to be growing up in the nineties! Never before has it been so easy, so acceptable to be a vegetarian.
Both my parents (and three of my grand-parents) all stopped eating meat in the early years of this century, and gradually worked out my trial and error what to eat instead. (much rice and macaroni by all accounts.) When my brother and I were born, in the early thirties, they faced dire warnings that we were putting our health at risk on a meatless diet. I was the only vegetarian in my school of five hundred. I took sandwiches and suffered agonies of embarrassment and shame at being so unforgivably different from my peers. I even tried to eat meat and fish on one school trip (unsuccessfully; it was revolting) in teenage revolt against this anti-social life-style that had been chosen for me by well-meaning parents.
College was different. Vegetarians were catered for, largely because of the Asian students whose dietary needs were sanctified by religion. And so to the word of work (more sandwiches) and -amazing grace - marriage to another life-vegetarian (courtesy of the London Veg Social Club rambles.)
As our three sons grew up we were fortunate to meet a number of other vegetarian families through the Order of the Cross, and had many happy times together. By the time the boys became teenagers, each in turn decided the only logical course was to be vegan, and stuck to it for varying lengths of time. It is not easy to balance the requirements of compassion and logic against the social pressures of adolescence. Sometimes, they discovered, there is literally nothing that a strict vegan can eat. Hardly the way to make friends and influence people.
I like many of my friends, am vegan at home and vegetarian when out. Assured by many carnivores over the years that they "eat very little meat" I try to refrain from platitudes about eating very little dairy produce.
The Babe- and BSE- assisted times are a-changing, fast. By the time our young visitor is a teenager I would expect every café, canteen and supermarket in the country to have items clearly marked as "suitable for vegans" (Surely there is scope for greater co-operation between Vegetarian and Vegan Societies in this field?) A generation of today's vegetarian teenagers will be raising families who will transform our nation's shopping and eating habits.
Hopefully, I shall continue to cultivate our garden, or more likely sit in my rocking chair by the radiator, remembering past battles, and sharing Isaiah's vision of a time when "they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain."
Alan and Rosie
Joyce and Rosie
Three Little Pigs
DIY Vegetarian Recipes
So What Do Vegetarians Eat?