Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Small Non-Vegan Visitors

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Due to a family wedding, I inherited two small non-vegan visitors for the week, ages five and ten. The five year old loves any food you give him; he even loves Daiya cheese. (“DIE yuh, not diet,” he will tell you.) Older brother is more the typical finicky eater – he wrinkles his nose to everything you offer before even tasting. Armed with the information in Myléne Oullet’s recent article, Some Musings on Hosting, I was ready to imitate meals that were familiar and try to keep the meals relatively kid-friendly.

First up was a homemade vegan pizza.  This was a big hit with the little guy, but was only passable to big brother.  Spaghetti is always a favorite, and no one seems to complain about what is or is not in the sauce. Two meals down, five to go.

I made some homemade vegan sausage, which had been a surprising hit when prepared for other family omnivores, but this time used barbecue sauce and offered Mac ‘N Gees, always popular with little brother.  That meal was not moving off the plates of big brother until I reminded him: no clean plate, no dessert.  He loves homemade vegan ice cream, so with a little salt and pepper, the entire plate appeared to be licked clean in no time. Vegan quesadillas are a regular and those are well received; the recipe I use is vegan-cheese-free, but you can always add a little some to give that gooey feel to the meal.  Tacos are usually well accepted, too – bowls of chopped lettuce, grated veggies, vegan crumbles, salsa, and a little Daiya cheese make this only a little different than what is served at home. The most significant difference, of course, is that these meals are cruelty-free, or as cruelty-free as I know how to make them.

I have heard that when preparing meals for omnivores, add extra salt and fat (Earth Balance Organic?) to mimic familiar tastes from over-processed foods.  Big brother likes raw vegetables, but a pleasant surprise was when little brother discovered lightly cooked broccoli – he ate a triple serving and was asking for more vegetables all week! He asks for Earth Balance by name and loves most anything that has that spread or melted over it.

Breakfasts needed to be made quickly so we could scoot off to school. Orange-banana smoothies, vegan waffles, oatmeal, scones, soy yogurt and fresh fruit kept tummies full enough to last until lunch time.

Lessons Learned In the Feeding  and Care of Young Non-Vegans

Some of what I learned during this week:

• Pizza – best to heat the crust and topping a bit before adding the Daiya cheese – it tends to brown rather quickly. Live and learn. Little brother can eat most of a pizza by himself!  Always make two  - extras will be eaten the next   day or may be frozen.Favorite crust recipes are from Barnard and Webb’s Get Healthy, Go Vegan cookbook, and Goudreau’s Vegan Table. Both are excellent.

• Having the ice cream, which is a special treat for older brother, helped him (along with salt and pepper) get through the meals he found too alien. Barbecue sauce didn’t hurt, either.

• Reading a Dr. Seuss book (Oh Say Can You Say) on tongue twisters (no turning the page until mouths were full) helped make breakfast fun and kept the focus on laughing while encouraging those bites, too. Soon they were eager to get to the table to see if I would make mistakes. Happily, I usually do. Every slip of the tongue unleashed gales of laughter – such easy entertainment!

• Books to the rescue again – each selected a book before bedtime and both seemed to love the reading time equally. It is always a ritual are our house to read before bedtime.  No reading until every tooth has been brushed, baths taken, and jammies worn.  There was no resistance to bedtime.

• Options are good, but not too many. I often made two or more vegetables and they could select what they wanted. Sometimes the choices were surprising. Dessert choices were often fresh sliced apples or persimmons.

I will keep kid-testing more new vegan recipes and continue to enlarge my recipe file. The older boy requested another pizza, despite his seeming disdain. But the biggest success of the week was finding out that big brother, who was taught to step on bugs, now saves them and carefully takes them outdoors. Skitter the Cat actually crawled up on big brother’s lap at one point – a real landmark for her and for him, too. After all, veganism is not about diet — and they are learning the important part.

What’s for Dinner? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Every night, millions of children are called to the dinner table to eat dead animals, their body parts, and their secretions. Most of those children have no idea what has been done to these animals, though older children at least have some idea that animals are killed for food. Some do not think about it, a few are a bothered by it but shut it out of their minds (with much cultural encouragement). If a young child asks why we eat animals, they are quickly set onto another topic.  Everything in the macro-culture reinforces the normalcy of eating animals. There are “Got Milk?” posters in the schools. There are advertisements on television and fast food gimmicks that assault kids regularly.  Even their cartoons are filled with food imagery — Sponge Bob and Crabby Patties are a happy twosome. When I am present and a child asks those questions, I often get that look, warning me not to answer. It is as if really discovering what is on the dinner table is forbidden; we all know but no one is willing to really talk about it. The truth is that all too often, it is who is for dinner, not what.

Denial at the Dinner Table and In the Military Maintains the Status Quo

In the military, where homosexuals have served with honor for decades, it serves the status quo to allow them to serve but to deny recognition of who they are — that homosexuals are honorable members of the armed services — because to admit who they are would challenge members of the public who are uncomfortable with that reality. The animals that are to be killed that day, and the next, and the next, must not be seen; the denial at the dinner table must exist for the status quo to be effective in keeping a lid on reality. What’s for dinner? Don’t ask, don’t tell.

Heterosexism, speciesism, racism, misogyny and racial intolerance all share traits in common:

  1. There is a separation from the designated group of Other.
  2. There is a reduction in value assigned to the designated group of Other.
  3. There is a fear of the designated group of Other or what they represent.
  4. There is disparagement of the designated group of Other that causes compartmentalization.
  5. There is a use of demeaning terms and stereotypes onto the group of Other.

When I was in graduate school, we were shown an entire film that documented the way African Americans were seen in earlier times. It was horribly demeaning, with bizarre caricatures, cartoons, drawings and cruel imagery. It devastated me to know that adults could behave so stupidly and so cruelly to other beings; it impacted me viscerally. That racism met all five criteria, yet it is still quizzical to me that human beings can so exploit other beings and then vilify those very beings. Who has the right to outrage here? Of course, I realize the disparagement allows those who perpetrate crimes of bondage against another group to rationalize their behavior in some way. Yet here we are, once again denying an entire group of citizens their civil rights due to prejudice and misunderstanding, while using them in ways that endanger their very lives as they serve us  in the twenty-first century. And the speciesist talk about animals goes on so continually it is hard not to notice how we refuse to acknowledge the individuality of animals, too — another group denied personhood and disallowed into the moral community.

Fighting to Reboard the Titanic

It is like we are swimming to get back on board the Titanic even as the hull is beginning to disappear in the ocean.  But those parties! Those elegant dining events! We cling to a past this is already lost. I see some of us swimming for dear life to get back on the sinking ship, fearing the loss it represents and unwilling to accept the inevitability of change. Yes, the water might be cold for awhile but getting off the sinking ship is the only way to save our hides. Our “isms” aren’t working very well for us, yet we cling to them for dear life. We desperately need the very personnel in the military that we are expelling, and we are expelling some of the very best. Recent polls show that most Americans want DADT repealed, but some of the Old Guard are too prejudiced to realize what is going on in the world around them; they would not even let it be discussed in Congress. In an era of crass fear-mongering and the destruction it has wrought, it is time to start noticing the downward trend of the ship we once believed in and start looking for alternatives. Reality is a good starting point.

So here we are, refusing to see the animals we exploit, refusing to talk about the reality of their lives, refusing to acknowledge anything that might cause us to have to change from traditional patterns of behavior. Every night, we subject our children to the lies about their food, silent lies that omit the truth. It is past time to allow people to tell the truth. And for the animals, who have no voice, it is imperative that animal advocates tell their truth loud and long. Let’s make Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell be a thing of the past for all of us, both human and nonhuman animals. There are lives that depend upon us for justice.

Idealism Into Action: Vegan Summer Camp for Young Activists

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Youth Empowered Action (YEA) summer camp, a vegan camping experience that empowers youth leadership by developing skills and self-confidence, is planning for an amazing summer program for the lucky youth that are able to attend the camp. Is your son or daughter a passionate advocate for recyling, vegetarianism, or animal rights?  Would you like to help them channel that passion into positive action and empowerment? Or perhaps you just want to see your favorite teen have a positive experience that will increase confidence, give them a chance to meet other young potential leaders and changemakers, and keep them active and healthy.  There are already specialized camps for kids who want to lose weight, play basketball, or want to advance musical skills. But what about the idealist in your life? What about kids who want to make a difference in the world? Where is there for young leaders who want to address global warming, homelessness or homophobia?

Vegan Boy

Monday, February 1st, 2010

My four year old grandson told me, “I am a vegan boy.” He understands a little bit about veganism; I bought him Ruby Roth’s book, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, and I read it to him when asks me to read it.  He told me yesterday that, “my parents eat animal projects.”  I knew he meant products; his mum told him that “the animals feed us.”  (Not willingly, though.) He is trying to make sense of the difference in how I eat and how the rest of his family eats.  Sometimes, he is peeved with me, for not buying him the cheese he wants.  Other times, he is peeved with his parents, because he senses their choices are harming animals. He happily eats vegan food and loves the animals he has come to know, but he eats what is put before him at preschool and at home. I do not proselytize, but I do answer his questions as honestly and briefly as I am able.  I think most children would be appalled at what is done to animals if they knew. He only knows a little but it does have him thinking. It has me thinking, too.


The Cow in the Classroom

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

On the evening of the Fall Festival at my grandson’s preschool, I had volunteered to work to help make the evening a success.  I arrived early as requested and began moving all the little toys and games to the side, disassembling some and preparing space for the games to follow. After getting the room ready, a school official told me that the table on the side of the room was for Chick-Fil-A(TM), who would be arriving soon. When I first heard that a corporate meat-monger would be sharing the space with me, I tried to think how I could make this a positive experience. But as the crew began arriving, complete with sodas and dismembered animal parts, I knew it would never fly. I was angry. Angry that a private preschool would be allowing these corporate shills into the festivities (they were just young kids in actuality).  I was angry that schools let these kinds of folks promote their poisonous product to such very young children and their families, when childhood diabetes and obesity have become epidemic.  I asked if I could swith locations with someone else, letting them know I was vegan and did not want to be in the space with people promoting meat. I was aware that these corporations were infiltrating the public schools, which I consider unethical and ghastly, but to try to hook the kids when they are so tiny, and in a private school at that – disgusting!

smartkidsI was moved to the next room, which was actually part of the same room with a counter in between. I could see the Chick-Fil-A(TM) cow was quite uncomfortable, couldn’t talk, and was having difficulty seeing. The cow began walking the hallways to promote their product- dead chickens.  In my room, meanwhile, the tiny tots were playing with plastic duckies in water and having a great time.  Most of the kids wanted the duckies, but the game was to change them in for candy, The school is a fabulous preschool; they teach the very young children manners, lovely songs, and educate them in so many positive ways. My grandson, who just turned 4, can write his own name, knows all the colors in Spanish and English, says the pledge of allegiance, knows all the days of the weeks and the months of the year.


YEA: Empowerment Camp

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009


There have not been many times if my life that I have wished I was 13 again, but this is one of those times.  After hearing about the empowerment camp that is being held in the Santa Cruz mountains, I felt a growing envy towards the lucky kids that were going to participate. This camp itself is in a beautiful setting; five days in the gorgeous Santa Cruz mountains is enough to make me feel a bit of longing. Add to that the resumes of the staff, the goals of the program, the creativity of YEA and you might understand my sudden yearning for adolescence again.

During August 17-21, the Ben Lomond Quaker Center of the Santa Cruz mountains will be home to youth from age 11 to 15 for a week of leadership skills training.  While most of the young people will be from the San Francisco Bay Area of northern California, kids from all parts of the country are welcome to participate.  Each young person will learn how to become active in leadership, learning how to pursue social justice issues in a positive way, and to help prepare them to be the leaders of tomorrow.


Personality in Paper

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Nicholas, age 9, decided to use his natural creativity this past Father’s Day to make a dog appear almost out of thin air.  I had been saving old newspapers for some time just for such an occasion. We made a messy goo of flour and water paste, tore up the papers into strips, and began to create something that he decided would become a dog. Nicholas had the vision long before I did, because the first day we worked on it, it was a soggy, gooey lump that I had waning faith would be anything recognizable, ever.

On the second day, Nicholas calmly and confidently worked on his dog. We scaled down on the gooey factor and let the strips dry a bit more. We had begun the creation by wadding up some paper into balls for the foundation.  But now a nose was shaping, a sitting posture was becoming visible, and ears and a tail appeared.  It still looked all out of proportion, but Nicholas assured me that, “It IS the thought that counts, isn’t it?”  He was not concerned with painting it or putting eyes on it – no, this was pure art and it needed no adornment.


Vegan Kids Learn to Love Food

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

girlwithfoodHelping children develop good eating habits is an important goal towards their ultimate good health and nutrition.  With childhood diabetes on the rise, very young is a good time to instill healthy habits in those children around us. Keeping meals appetizing and colorful can attract the most rigid palate.  A few tricks can really help kids learn to appreciate new food, vegan food, and healthy food.

First of all, include them in the process. If you are trying out a new recipe, set things up so the younger children can help out.  If they invest in the creation, they are more likely to want to try it out and feel a part of it.  For the very young, call it something intriguing to garner their interest.  Peanut butter toast with brown sugar on it (cut into the right shapes each slice becomes eight or ten) is called “Dirty Toes” at our house – and may even include some “toenails” (banana slices) if we are feeling particularly wicked.  The little ones think it is so much fun to hear what we are eating.  (Tofu was called “toe food” at our house for a long time, so eating “Dirty Toes” was not that big of a stretch.)  We have some small red bowls which are used for snacks such as raisins and celery, or apple slices with peanut butter. (Be sure the children are old enough for bits of food before trying this one.)  Those little bowls usually mean something good is about to be served and they are now considered the harbinger of “treats.”