Thursday, April 25, 2024

Poultry and flaky young vegetarians

by TYLER WILSON/Coeur Voice contributor
| December 5, 2020 1:00 AM

My kids love meat - hamburgers, ham and chicken nuggets, mostly. However, their cravings for flesh tend to spark at least one moral dilemma in our house on Thanksgiving.

This year, my 7-year-old son spent several minutes studying the anatomy of our uncooked turkey while we prepared it for the oven. He seemed to finally connect that this hunk of meat used to be a living, breathing, gobbling turkey.

He turned white (like delicious white meat). It didn’t help when I started to identify the missing body parts.

“Look, son, this is where the neck used to be.”

I think it takes little kids some time to associate the names of meat with real animals, even after multiple explanations. It’s a burger, not a cow. It’s ham, not pig. It’s chicken nuggets, but they’re shaped like dinosaurs.

Our Thanksgiving meal, however, looked like a dead turkey without a head.

In most cases, you can comfort a child concerned about his food with one simple statement: “It’s okay! This turkey died of old age.”

Unfortunately, my son is learning how to read, and he figured out the big, bold words on the packaging said, “young turkey.”

“Well, son, this turkey’s life was tragically cut short after it ran into a burning barn and rescued his entire family. He died a hero. We honor him this day by consuming his lifeforce.”

This incident reminded me of when my oldest daughter had a crisis of conscience involving those Costco rotisserie chickens. She was maybe 5 at the time, and she LOVED devouring that chicken (and at $5, what a savings!). But one day she took a closer look at the chicken before we prepared her plate.

I was very sensitive about the whole thing.

“Look, sweetie, this is where the neck used to be. Don’t worry. This chicken died of old age, and he rescued a whole basket of eggs from a burning building.”

She became a vegetarian that day. It lasted about six or seven days and ended when we bought another Costco rotisserie chicken. If you get a whiff of that bird and all its juicy, delicious white meat, resistance is futile.

This Thanksgiving, my 7-year-old son became a vegetarian for about four hours… pretty much the time between we put the turkey in the oven and when we sliced it up for dinner.

We asked him if he was okay eating what used to be a living, breathing, gobbling turkey.

“It probably died of old age,” he said. It was his first lesson in the power of cognitive dissonance.

I can see any of my four kids becoming serious vegetarians or vegans in the future, and if that happens, I’ll celebrate and support his or her choice and do what I need to do to support their dietary health. Heck, even I feel guilty sometimes looking at that neckless hunk of poultry. Maybe I’ll go vegan right alongside them.

Then I can’t help but hear the voice of Homer Simpson.

Mmmmm… hunk of poultry… (drooling noises).

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Tyler Wilson is a freelance writer and say-at-home dad to four kids, ages 3-9. He is tired, He can be reached at