our wee omnivore’s dilemma

Not a wee dilemma; rather, a wee omnivore. With gratitude—and apologies—to Michael Pollan*…

Early last fall, The Kidling became keenly aware of the fact that her meat is derived from (previously) living creatures. The Family is technically omnivorous, but we are functionally closer to herbivores. The Mama does the cooking, and I love vegetables and can really take or leave a hunk of meat. That said, I do prepare it at least once a week, so The Kidling’s new insight made for an interesting few months at the dinner table. In spite of The Kidling’s voracious appetite, she is a rotten little booger at the dinner table. Not, mind you, the breakfast, lunch, or snack table. Go figure. Dinner time is a textbook power struggle. She does everything but eat. Her typical dinner routine is:

  1. Happily fulfill dinnertime chore of putting napkins on the table;
  2. Sit down;
  3. Yell, “I have to go potty” and run toward the toilet;
  4. Return to the kitchen 5 minutes later with pants down, saying “I haven’t washed my hands yet, but I want to tell you [insert random story here]”;
  5. With pants still down, microstep back to the toilet to wash hands;
  6. Run back to the table;
  7. Talk;
  8. Play with her food;
  9. Sing;
  10. Talk;
  11. Sing some more;
  12. Take one bite;
  13. Repeat Steps 7-12 two dozen times.

Dinner is exhausting, to say the least.  It should come as no surprise, then, that the evening The Kidling realized she was complicit in the death of an innocent creature began thusly:

The Mama: Eat your turkey, Sweetie.
The Kidling: What? This is turkey? What’s that?
The Mama: Like the bird. Turkey.
The Kidling: I bet he isn’t happy about that.
The Mama: No, I don’t think he is, dear.
The Kidling: Did you hunt it?
The Mama: No.
The Kidling: Why?
The Mama: Well, everyone does what they do best. It is most efficient that way. A farmer raised it.
The Kidling: Did they cut his head off?
The Mama: Yes.
The Kidling: Oh. (extended silence)
The Dada: So, I’m doing a load of laundry! Lights! (The Mama and The Dada engage in a spirited discussion of the laundry. Blankets! Towels! It worked. Conversation officially changed.)

Versions of this exchange took place every time meat dared appear on the table. The Kidling’s comments ranged from, “What animal is this” to the sad-voiced  “What animal are we going to eat tonight” to the ubiquitous (audible sigh) I bet he isn’t very happy about that” to the horrifying and hilarious evening on which we had steak: “I feel bad about that. (very long pause) But it is yummy.” I should add that we respect The Kidling’s autonomy, and never make her eat anything she doesn’t want to consume. Except broccoli.


*Whilst adding this hyperlink, I discovered that none other than the amazing Maira Kalman has recently illustrated Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. I am head over heels for Maira Kalman’s work, and own her charmingly illustrated edition of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. I should add that, in my fantasy world, Ms. Kalman illustrates the real book version of kidlingville. I even tweeted about it once. The Mama can dream, no?


About The Mamahttp://kidlingville.comProfessional talker, editor, emailer, problem solver, adjunct lecturer, blogger, and mother to the brilliantly absurd Kidling.

14 thoughts on “our wee omnivore’s dilemma

  1. Christine,
    Lord Evil Poppy will only eat other people’s souls… I feel for you… Let’s start a club… You can name it, as you’re good with words… Parents who have kids which do all but eat at the table… A support group… And perhaps, what to do with barely touched food with traces of spit…
    Le Clown

    • Le Clown,

      Support group=brilliance. I must contemplate the name. It needs to be really, really good.

      Now, as for the food barely-touched, spit-garnished food. Eat it. Duh. Or if Poppy was right and it isn’t especially yummy, compost. Ta-da!


  2. Erm, perhaps you could go with the same line that Christians have been using for thousands of years. Mr. Turkey was happy to lose his head so that poultry eaters could obtain protein necessary for proper growth and development. He sacrificed himself so that The Kidling could live a long and healthy life here on Earth. And if she doesn’t eat every bit of that turkey leg, then Mr. Turkey died in vain and is crying tears in Heaven. You could also tell her that Mr. Turkey died a natural death and that we’re just eating his body because the Earth is not large enough to bury all the animals that die of completely natural causes every day. After all, you don’t actually KNOW that his head was chopped off while he was still alive. You weren’t there, right? You’re making an assumption and you know what happens when you assume. I really think that you need to give Mr. Turkey the benefit of the doubt and let him live – immortal – and roasted on The Kidling’s plate. Yeah, I’m not buying it either.

    • Oh CCL, you never disappoint. Did you really just read the post and come up with this response, like, right away? Or did you secretly read it this morning and spend the entire day composing this ditty?

      I must say, as brilliant as aspects of this are, you clearly are not a mama to a human being (cats don’t really count. I mean, they do count, but… well… just stay with me for a second here). How do I know this? Natural causes. No parent would ever give a child information that might lead to said child consuming carrion in the not-too-distant future. Ick. But thanks anyway.

      Cheers to you, oh clever one!

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  4. My sister went through a similar dilemma with her son when he was about two or three years-old. He picked up a piece of chicken, made a little “bock, bock” noise, put it back down on his plate, and never ate meat again.

    I think it’s sweet and amazing that a child that young can be so empathetic towards animals. But from a parenting standpoint, it’s a real pain in the ass come dinner time 🙂

    • I think I might die if Alice started to moo and bock while eating meat. Good god, however did they contain themselves?!

      Yes, the empathy thing is mind-boggling. The Dada and I decided to allow her to make her own decisions regaring whether or not she eats the animal-derived items put on her plate, and we are always certain to include something she does like and will eat. I don’t want my tiny little quasi-vegetarian to go hungry.

      Sheesh. Parenting is hard.

      And hey, thanks for stopping by! Come again!

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