My wife is a vegetarian. My two sons are chicken nugget-tarians. Me? I eat dead animals.
I don’t like to think of it that way but I’ve had to have a number of conversations with my kids lately about what I’m eating and how my food came to be on my plate. As any good father would do, I initially ignored their questions and told them to go clean their rooms. Like any good kids would do my sons ignored my demand and continued to ask questions about my dinner:
“Is that a dead animal dad?”
“How did it die?”
“Why do you eat animals and mom doesn’t?”
“How do you get your face to turn so red daddy?”
Again, like any good father would do, I took my dinner away from the table and ate in front of the TV which was turned up very, very loud. This tactic worked momentarily until I realized that we were watching a nature show about hunters and then the questions began again (only louder so that they could be heard over the gun shots and screams – real or imagined – of the animals getting shot):
“Is that what happened to the animal you are eating dad?”
“Do you shoot animals daddy?”
“I don’t see any vegetables being shot dad?”
“Why did you just throw your dinner away?”
I suddenly knew what the animals being shot at on TV felt like; and I didn’t like it but, again, much like the animals I had no place to run to get away from the questions flying through the air – sooner or later I was going to get hit (by my wife most likely). Telling my sons that I would answer their questions after I took out the garbage, I proceeded to sit outside for a while in hopes that they would forget about my promise.
Holding on to this false hope with an iron grip I sat on our deck and watched as the birds flew in the sky, the squirrels ran up the trees and the neighbor’s dog pooped on our lawn and realized something: I hate our neighbor’s dog. I also realized that I was hungry because I had only managed to take two bites of my steak before tossing it into the garbage. With these two realizations in mind I began wondering what this lawn-pooping dog would taste like with a little BBQ sauce. I’m kidding. Mostly.
What I couldn’t joke about though was the fact that I was going to have to tell my kids something about where meat comes from and why I eat it. As any good father would do in this situation, I left the deck went inside, grabbed a beer and told my kids I’d answer their questions after I came back in from taking out the recycling. Safe outside once again, I watched as the neighbor’s dog pooped on our lawn and wondered how much the neighbor’s would really miss their dog if it were to “run away”.
As tempting as it was to make this lawn-pooping mongrel disappear the truth is that I have never killed an animal in my nearly 40 years of life and I’m not sure I actually could. I’ve never hunted, I’ve never been fishing and the only time I shot at a living creature was when I was out in the country with my dad and we came across a rattlesnake that forced me to shoot at in self-defense. I think myself or my dad did in fact kill the snake but its cause of death was a heart attack rather than an actual gun shot wound. Save the occasional rogue rattlesnake I would not want to kill anything – it’s way too messy and I’m sure I would never be able to eat said creature once I saw the random bits of parts and gore that are attached to the parts that I would eat. Given this, it would make more sense for me to join my wife in being a vegetarian but I tried that once and failed miserably at it.
I had just turned 22 and for no reason in particular I decided to become a vegetarian. Nobody, including myself, understood why but I had made up mind and I was going to stick to it. And I did – for seven whole months. There was a lot of temptation to eat meat over those long and arduous seven months but I stayed strong until I came face to face with a cheeseburger that I couldn’t resist and I haven’t turned my back on meat since.
A shout from inside my house broke my reverie of cheeseburgers and, as I walked back inside, I knew what I needed to say to my kids.
“You know boys, your chicken nuggets are made out of dead birds.”
As I pulled out a rack of lamb from the fridge and threw it on the grill I knew that, based on the lack of questions emitting from my sons, that I had done the right thing, as any good father would have in that situation. I also knew that I would be dodging questions again that night, only my wife’s would not miss their mark.