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Vegetarian Journal Cover

Vegetarian Journal


January/February 1997
Volume XVI, Number 1

Note from the Editor: It's Easier to Grow Up Veggie

By Michael Vogel

Senior Editor of the Vegetarian Journal

Recently, my wife, Kim, and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a quiet dinner together at one of our favorite restaurants, a local Thai establishment. A quiet dinner despite being accompanied by our 11-month-old daughter, Cassidy. Cassidy behaves well whenever we go out to eat, but this occasion was a little different. Instead of packing something to bring along for her to eat, we decided to feed her from our own plates.

I didn't order from the spicy end of the entree list as I normally might have. Instead, I chose an entree with tofu and stir-fried vegetables in a rather tame sauce, and Kim did the same. When our food arrived, we placed a few vegetables and pieces of tofu on Cassidy's high chair tray for her to nibble on while we ate. In between bites of our own food, we spooned some rice into her mouth.

Soon, Kim and I were watching Cassidy in rapt amazement. She couldn't eat fast enough. Broccoli, snow peas, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, tofu_she ate swiftly and indiscriminately. Normally, Kim and I would have enough leftovers to wrap up and take home for the next day's lunch. Not this time. Two weeks later, the scene was repeated at an Italian restaurant. Cassidy ate bread, pasta, and broccoli as fast as we could feed it to her. She eats well at home, but take her out to a nice restaurant, and she eats as if there's no tomorrow.

I wasn't like that when I was a kid. After becoming a vegetarian at the age of seven, I dreaded eating away from home. Restaurants, relatives' houses, other kids' houses, and school lunches were all sources of great anxiety for me. Nobody could believe that I didn't eat meat. And there were no vegetarian oases in the midwestern suburban burgs where I was raised. Very few restaurants had any vegetarian options whatsoever. My relatives just figured I was a "fussy" eater. I made excuses to avoid invitations to dinner at friends' houses, and I was a lifetime brown-bagger during the school months.

When I look back on those days, I'm amazed at the reaction that my diet provoked among other people. My parents and siblings grew accustomed to it after a while. My mom was schooled in the 1950s high school home-economics era--which held that meat was the most basic of the then four basic food groups--but she eventually adjusted. The rest of the family never did. Thanksgiving for me was a chorus of "You don't know what you're missing" from various and sundry relatives who didn't believe it possible for a youngster to thrive without eating flesh. Kids at school thought I was weird and saw fit to dub me "veg-o-matic," "cabbage head," and "salad boy." It never bothered me, and after a while I learned to flaunt my vegetarianism like a badge.

I can already see that Cassidy is going to have it easier than I did. Eating out is no problem for her. Tofu, tempeh, and seitan are staples in our house (I was in my twenties when I first had tempeh and seitan). Thanksgiving will be just like any other dinner, there will just be more guests and more food. I'm sure she'll encounter plenty of other vegetarian kids as she gets older. And, information and support are available from a wide array of sources. We here at The Vegetarian Resource Group hope that our new eight-page family insert (which debuts in this issue) will be an invaluable source to all vegetarian families. A lot has changed in the last 30 years, and a lot more will change in the next 30 years.

Michael Vogel

Senior Editor of the Vegetarian Journal

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

Thanks to volunteer Jeanie Freeman for converting this article to HTML

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