The Tragic Optimist

this I eat

(I’ve had this title and topic for a post in mind for a long time, so I was kind of amused when I saw my friend wrote a post with a similar title on a completely different topic).

Zoe was eating chicken yesterday and offered me a piece.  “No thank you, mom doesn’t eat chicken.”  And then I was suddenly aware that soon – preferably before Zoe hits the “why?” stage, I’m going to have to come up with a simple explanation for what and why I eat.  Luckily, she’s at the pre-why stage, where she just quietly accepts what we tell her and files it away for further contemplation later.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been a vegetarian for more than half my life now.  What started as a teen-aged idealistic desire to feed the world has morphed to an environmental / health / desire to be more conscious about what I eat.  And that’s led me to be much less dogmatic about my choices.  I try to eat food that is more whole than processed, more organic than conventional, more vegetarian than meat, more local than imported.  But I still eat fish (though I try to follow this seafood advice from the Environmental Defense Fund).  I’m still lazy sometimes and make boxed mac and cheese.  I still love my mangoes and I’m not giving them up just because there are no native-Minnesotan mango groves.  I’m fully aware that my eating habits are not totally consistent, and to be honest I don’t care.  Because I also believe that food is one of life’s great pleasures, something to be celebrated and shared.  Not just a way to get calories and nutrients into your body.

mmm, tomato soup - as comforting on the inside as on the outside

mmm, tomato soup - as comforting on the inside as on the outside

That’s one of the reasons I haven’t pushed for Zoe to be vegetarian.  She pretty much eats vegetarian when I’m cooking – I won’t cook something that I refuse eat, it doesn’t seem fair to the people that have to eat it that the cook didn’t taste it – but she gets meat at daycare and we’ll often get a rotisserie chicken for Chris and Zoe.  I want Zoe to be adventurous in her eating, I want her to know about lots of different foods, and discover the joys of a well-cooked steak and really good fried chicken, oh and bacon.  I want her to decide for herself what her eating habits are after knowing about the variety of foods out there.  To that end, we’ve taken a fairly laid back approach to eating with her.  We offer her every thing that we eat, and encourage her to try it, but we don’t force anything on her.  And if she doesn’t want to eat what we’re having, her fall back comfort food is plain yogurt mixed with apple sauce (yeah, it’s strange), or pre-made organic tomato soup and string cheese.   But she has also happily eaten Mexican, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Polish and German.   Perhaps unsurprisingly, she isn’t a huge fan of most meats, though she loves chicken and any kind of sausage.

Maybe I should have titled this “this she eats.”



  1. i have totally thought about this too! I was wondering if I will end up feeding Twinkle beef and pork? I don’t really believe in forcing any of my beliefs on her, but I just don’t cook it ever?! haha keith will get a steak when we go out, but when we eat at home, espeacially when I am cooking, we don’t eat red meat, so I guess she won’t have it too often.

    i believe in food being an experience too. I love to try new flavors and new resturants, thats my most fav thing, eating at a new place! food can be such a amazing thing! but i too often eat mac and cheese, chicken nuggets etc.

  2. Eve

    My son is essentially a vegetarian by virtue of being 2 1/2 years old…I don’t think you’ll have to worry much about her for awhile anyway.

    But look out, the ‘pickies’ didn’t hit us until he turned about 2, and then our ‘we’re so proud he’ll eat anything child’ started requesting ‘Cheerios, Bananas and Cookies ONLY’ for most meals!

  3. Alicia, that’s pretty much exactly what we do, though Chris cooks fairly regularly – and he’ll always cook something that veggie-compatible, but he does get her some meat sometimes. I’ve loved your restaurant reviews on your page, I bet you’ll pass that love to twinkle, too.

    Eve, cheerios and bananas are staples in Zoe’s diet, too – except of course when she goes through her “no bananas!” phase – which always seems to hit the day after we buy a big bunch of bananas. Sigh. She definitely has her picky moments, that’s for sure. I have no doubt we have more fun ahead.

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