Little Carnivore

6.18.07: Mommy'’s little man likes meat on the menu


An editor recently e-mailed me with a story request: Would I write about living a vegetarian lifestyle? I laughed so hard I nearly choked on my ham and Swiss.

Not that it'’s really so funny. I spent most of my adult life being an almost-vegetarian—I called myself a '“meat minimalist.'” I practiced a lot of yoga, I had kind feelings toward cows, I just naturally gravitated toward grains and beans and tofu and other sources of plant-based proteins with an occasional slab of salmon or turkey sandwich thrown into the mix. I didn'’t make any kind of big declaration about anything—I didn'’t flip out when I learned that something had been prepared using a bit of lard, say, or beef broth. I just stuck to the foods I liked, avoided red meat, and hewed as closely as possible to the old hippie bumper sticker: '“Never Eat Anything With a Face.'”

Then I got pregnant.

Meat was back on the menu. It was delicious. Suddenly, I could look right past a cow'’s big soulful eyes and see a delicious grilled hamburger. I could dig into a pork roast and not think too much about it. Chicken, turkey, beef, bacon, ham—yum, yum, yum. My body seemed to need the stuff, and was easily able to overrule my brain'’s puny objections. (It was pretty easy to see who was really in charge.)

Once I popped the kid out, I started gravitating back to my vegetarian ways—my plan being: Revert to full meat minimalism the minute I stopped breastfeeding. I'’d explained all this to the aforementioned editor, thinking it would make a good story. But I hadn'’t planned on Truman being such a little carnivore.

That'’s right: His favorite food is meat, specifically beef. My mother figured this out, subversively feeding him bits of beef and hot dogs during babysitting duty. Since I don'’t like to cook meat (eating it is one thing, touching it is another!) I at first tried to sate his cravings by feeding him the innards of Taco Bell grilled steak taquitos, which seemed to me a perfectly reasonable solution. He loved it, and would gobble down two at a sitting (while mommy put away two seven-layer burritos). Yay!

But mean old daddy put a stop to this plan, pointing out that there was no telling exactly what is in such fast food beef, and that Taco Bell is surely not the healthiest choice for Truman (or for me). He was right, of course. So off I went to the butcher, who loaded me up with premium organic, grass-fed, hormone-free beef, which he happily cut up into Truman-sized nibblets. I can easily cook them in minutes in a tiny bit of olive oil, with a shake of salt and pepper. The baby loves them, and so do I.

It'’s expensive stuff, but I know it'’s lean and healthy for Truman, who is clearly thriving on the stuff. At 14 months, he'’s positively buff—not an ounce of baby fat on his body (see him in his little car? he'’s even got baby pecs!).

Someday, I'’ll find the time and energy to make separate meals for me and for him—but right now, it'’s easiest to eat what he eats. And that'’s what I do. Since he consumes mostly lean meats, veggies, and lots and lots of fruits (his favorites are kiwis, grapes, and blueberries), I'’d be looking great if I stick to his diet and ONLY his diet. But no, mommy has '“add ons.'” Like Mint Milanos. Like Ben and Jerry'’s. Like Lucky Charms.

When it comes time to subtract, I think I'’ll start with these awful processed foods, so Truman won'’t get into the habit of eating them. Then I'’ll think about subtracting that ham and Swiss. Then I'’ll get back to my editor about that vegetarian story. One step at a time.

Hillari Dowdle is a freelance writer based in Knoxville, Tennessee. Right now, she weighs 146.8 and vows to stay away from the Oreos in the freezer.