For a vegan family, we own a surprising number of children's books about eating animals.
I think Rob and Westley had read one of them while I was at an acupuncture appointment yesterday, because when I arrived home Westley was adamant that he would have chicken for lunch.
"Vegan chicken," Rob said firmly. It bothers him when we don't put the veg modifier on animal-named food.
"Sure, no problem, dude." I told Westley. "We'll pick up some vegan chicken at Trader Joe's when we go."
Of course, when we arrived at Trader Joe's, it was Thanksgivinged out like crazy. (Is anyone else completely astounded that Thanksgiving is NINE days away?! How did that happen? [What the hell am I going to make?!]) Westley immediately spotted a giant cardboard turkey.
"Mommy, let's get some turkey!"
"No, honey, we don't eat turkey." My vegan parent reflex went off before it occurred to me that he probably meant a decorative turkey.
Westley didn't miss a beat. "What's it made of?"
"Uh, turkey..." Now the he's-talking-about-decorations connection happened, and I said, "Let's see if we can find some rice bread!" Distraction FTW.
We shopped, all was well, I dropped some "Chicken-less Strips" in the cart, and we headed home for lunch.
Over his plate of strips of allegedly chicken-flavored seitan, tomato slices, toast, and tangerine, Westley could not stop talking about chicken. He was explaining to me that there were chickens (the animal) and "food chicken."
And I had to open my big mouth.
"You know, some people eat the animals."
Westley froze, peering up at me with huge, wide eyes. His mouth gaped a little, and he shook his head quickly back and forth. Both No, I didn't know and That can't be.
I knew I'd fucked up before his expression confirmed it, and I had to say something good, fast.
"But not us," I told him. "We never eat animals."
Westley stared. I went on, a little too fast: "That's what being vegan means - never eating animals. We try to be kind to animals, because that's the most important thing we can do...being kind, and--"
Westley held up a strip of flavored seitan. "Kind chicken!"
Yes. Awesome. Thank you, Mary!
Then Westley furrowed his brow. "What's dis chicken made of?"
"Plants," I told him. It was the first thing that popped into my head. Fortunately, he thought that was extremely funny. "Everything we eat is made of plants," I said, and then repeated, more relaxed this time, "We never eat animals."
And then he asked The Question: "What do we eat?"
I took a deep breath, and tried not to laugh. "Well, we eat apples, and broccoli, and bananas, and beans, and soy milk and almond milk and--"
"Rice, and avocados, and quinoa, and tomatoes, and oranges..."
Westley laughed. "What ELSE!?"
"Spaghetti, and squash, and chocolate, and--"
Image via The Herbivore Clothing Co. Store
And on, and on, and on.