"But, Granny, you do know that casseroles have meat in them, don’t you?" Mia, at three years-old, was already quite sure of her ability to advise on many matters. This particular bit of advice was in regard to my search for a large casserole dish at the supermarket.
Mia had just learned that Granny and Grandpa did not eat meat and she had no experience of any casserole that did not contain meat.
When we decided to cut animals out of our diet we rather hoped that the idea of not eating them might appeal to Mia and that she may want to follow our example, without our of course encouraging this. Mia, more basically, was worried that there would be nothing at our house she could eat.
Her mother, my daughter Kate, agreed in principle with the vegetarian ideal but felt it was too difficult to implement, which I understand. I'd tried going veggie a couple of times when my three were little and each time I gave up. It was too time-consuming when there was so much else to do. I was also worried that I might not have the know-how to provide the right nutrients.
I didn’t want to undermine my daughter but, in fact, I needn’t have worried. When Mia asked me why we didn’t eat meat, I said: “Well, do you know that animals have to be killed for us to eat?” She nodded vigorously and waited for some good reasons! I had to laugh. I told her she would understand when she was older and, in the meantime, we would be cooking perfectly delicious meals for her so she needn’t worry.
Perhaps it is easier to be a vegetarian today with better food labelling, more convenience foods and wonderful cookery books. I certainly wonder sometimes why I found it so much more of a challenge years ago.
We don’t eat food that is pretending to be meat. Fake meat pies, burgers and sausages simply make you long for the real thing. There are lots of lovely vegetarian meals that can be knocked up quite fast, including many dishes that small children love, including pasta and pizza - and enjoy helping to make too.
So why did I want to give up on meat? Partly for ethical and partly for health reasons. And as for going vegan - I firmly believe it's the best thing you can do for yourself, for animals and for the planet. But that's a whole other story.