I’m a Vegetarian But I’ve Learned to Cook Meat for My Family: Here’s Why
I've been a vegetarian since I was 14 years old, but my husband and kids are complete meat-eaters. As you can imagine, dinnertime is quite the circus in our household: I make buddha bowls but they want steak. I make spaghetti with meatless meatballs but they ask, “Where's the beef?”
You get the idea...
So, around a year ago, when my husband got a big promotion that entailed more frequent travel, I reluctantly decided to learn to cook meat. Up until then, I'd prepare my plant-based dinners and he would whip up steak or chicken for himself and the kids. Then I'd serve my vegetables as side dishes.
It wasn't a perfect system, but it worked for us, until his travel schedule meant that he began racking up frequent flier miles and be away anywhere from a few days to a few weeks each month.
At first, I solved the problem by taking my kids to restaurants where they could order meat-based meals while I could enjoy plant-based options. But I quickly discovered this wasn't the most economical way to go. Shortly afterward, I began purchasing pre-made meals like rotisserie chicken or cooked fish at the grocery store, but I like to know exactly what goes into my food – especially since my son has allergies – so this didn't always seem like the healthiest option either.
Eventually, I put my ego aside and asked my husband for help learning to cook meat and poultry. Needless to say, he was overjoyed to oblige. He'd been begging me to learn to cook meat for years, so he couldn't wait to get me into the kitchen.
I still remember, the first time he taught me how to prepare a chicken, I was totally nauseated. It had been 30 years since I had eaten meat, so manhandling raw poultry was a doozy as a place to start.
Thankfully, my next attempt was less jarring: I cooked the kids' breakfast sausage while my hubby was away in Costa Rica. Since the meat was already pre-cooked, all I had to do was heat them up and serve. Thankfully, my kids happily scarfed down their breakfast, including a big plate of fruit. (I, of course, kept pushing the plant-based options at every turn.)
Score one for mom!
Eventually, as time has passed, I've become more accustomed to cooking meat dishes. I still have a reaction to the smell of hamburgers cooking on the grill. But I've come to terms with the fact that I need to do whatever it takes to keep my kids well-fed and happy. And, in my case, that sometimes means cooking meat.
Both of my parents respected my decision to become a teenaged vegetarian, even though I grew up in a time and place where meatless meals definitely were the exception. My mom helped me learn to prepare healthy meals instead of binging on french fries and pasta, even though my dad wouldn't touch an eggplant with a ten-foot pole.
I hope to emulate that same level of patience and empathy with my own family. Although some people might disagree, and insist that their loved ones go plant-based with them, my decision to start cooking meat wasn't made lightly. That said, I want to give my children the same freedom to make their own dietary choices, just like my mom and dad gave me.