As a vegetarian, I plan to raise my child as a vegetarian too. i stopped eating meat 17 years ago and i had my last Coke then as well. in those years, i started back eating eggs and fish, mostly because i dont make the time to make sure i get enough nutrition, and i need to not suffer from starvation because of a combination of food politics and personal neglect. i try even if i don’t get it all perfect. still, the reasons i became vegetarian remain relevant – animals are bred with hormones and other drugs, in cruel and factory conditions and in ways that are a wasteful use of the planet’s resources. philosophically, i’m not against meat eating, though i totally get and support people who are. evolutionarily, i think that humans are omnivores, i just don’t think we should carnivore as we do.
there’s me and then there is stone. i eat vegetables, no meat. he eats meat, no vegetables. i am from muslim family who do not eat pork. he loves pork more than any other meat. we are the Sprats. you can imagine it’s going to be interesting for Zi.
so now that she’s started eating food, the debates have come up. expectedly. stone’s all like ‘wait till she wants to try some bacon! you never go back!’. i’m all like, ‘well, it better be organic, free-range, happy bacon or else its not healthy and my child’s not having it’. this is one of those marital conversations that last for years.
luckily, without my prompting, our pediatrician gave him the same retort when he asked her if its normal to let kids try meat if they want to (meaning he was warming up to some argument that not letting her eat meat is one of my ‘issues’….and i was thankful she instinctively crushed that like a discarded cigarette). luckily too, he’s so unlikely to get himself to some over-priced shop in town that sells meat i’d approve of (which is none really), so through sheer unwillingness on his part to make the extra effort, i know that this whole meat thing is only going to discursively revolve around our kitchen without ever actually landing on Zi’s plate.
in the midst of this, when Zi had dengue and wasn’t eating, I started giving her a little egg for breakfast because I thought that the protein would be good for her. so, of course, i myself went into town to buy her expensive eggs from non-hormone and non-antibiotic filled chickens. but who’s gonna go into town every wednesday to get these eggs – not me (i work), not him (these are my ‘issues’ remember?). so now i’m on the hunt for other sources, what regular folks call eggs from ‘common fowl’, meaning raised in your backyard and fed household stuff, corn and whatever else they scratch up as they run around. you know, chickens raised old-school style.
stone wants to know what the point is. why buy organic-shop eggs, but not everything else i give to Zi? what about the pumpkin, bhaji, apples and the pesticides they’ve been grown with? and lord only knows if she’s eating GMO basmati. i shudder to think about the non slow-food, non locally-grown New Zealand Gouda. he thinks i’m making fuss and hullabaloo without making enough commitment or much difference.
and while i disagree, partly because i think you can’t fight all battles but you can wage some successfully and partly because i’m not going to entirely lose this one, i too wonder how far i’m supposed to go and at what point to stop. and if i’m not going far enough, do my efforts make any difference at all? and, of course, all this is wrapped up with my own notions of what makes me a good or bad mother in relation to not making efforts when i should or letting things slide that i shouldn’t or being apolitical when my consumption counts or making my child’s health enough of a priority.
i’d totally buy everything organic if i could except that the logistics are difficult and the costs are beyond me. lecturers make good income, so i’m not yet having to drive taxi in the night to make ends meet (though its not unknown for university professors to turn to the informal economy to survive hard economic times), but just buying the eggs made me thankful that i had a job. between carrying Zi’s costs, handing out extra money to my mom and her helper and my own helper, paying my bills and saving, i’m not sure i can afford more than eggs. certainly not everything she eats. we grow a bit in our garden, but as with everything else i could do more if only there were 34 hours on the clock, i still wasn’t up in the nights and i didn’t get home from work around 7pm on most days.
i know my position is defensible, but credibility is all in the doing, the doing well, the doing in full. i got the eggs and now i’m paranoid about the pesticides, and wondering if i’m wrong to not spend the money, make the effort, organise the logistics and somehow make it happen weekly. this feels like just adding another responsibility though perhaps its really just recognising a responsibility already there.
this is the personal as political, how the mundane decisions of life highlight society’s systemic arrangements as well as the difference our own choices make. i’m still figuring out this one, linked as it is to animals, agro-capitalism, health, motherhood, the earth, social movements, household negotiations, wages, consumption, the global economy, bee populations, sustainability and, of course, Zi.
i wish old MacDonald had an organic farm. she was really called old MacMoonan and hailed from Santa Cruz. And coincidentally she lived right around the corner from a doing-my-best, wondering-what-to-do working mom like me.