Militant Vegetarian

by Brian on September 19, 2008

in Jewish Holidays and Culture

When I was growing up in San Francisco Bay Area, there was nothing more politically correct than being a vegetarian. Meat was murder, and all good wannabe hippies (like me) would necessarily consider the eating of meat to be an unforgivable sin.

While I never adopted vegetarianism myself – I admit to my own human frailty: I like my burgers too much – my predisposition to the lifestyle has remained intact. That’s only been furthered by the Jewish take on the matter: Rav Kook, the first chief Rabbi of Israel and a vegetarian himself, believed that the permission to eat meat was only a temporary concession given because, in the time of Noah, people had sunk to such a low level of spirituality it was necessary that they be given an elevated image of themselves as compared to animals.

So why has it been so hard now that my 15-year-old daughter Merav has decided to go the veggie route?

I think the problem is that Merav isn’t just a vegetarian; she’s a militant vegetarian.

At the dinner table, if some of the family is eating meat while she’s chowing down on rice and veggies, she’ll crow “Ecch…I can’t believe you’re eating that stuff.” To which her seventeen-year-old brother will taunt her with “Mmmm…meat…charred chicken flesh…” or similarly inflammatory barbs.

If someone asks her to “please pass the pot roast,” Merav will throw her hands up in the air and announce haughtily “Disgusting. You expect me to touch that plate?”

I’ve been hoping that it’s just a phase; that she’ll eventually mellow out or return to her carnivorous ways. But so far, the militant stance has stood firm.

Eating out has been equally challenging. Our neighborhood has become somewhat of a gourmet gulch…for meat eaters that is. The majority of the eateries that have opened in the last few years seem to be flesh-centric (heavy on the steak, not a lot of quiche). A recent trip down Emek Refaim resulted in four rejected restaurants before we found one suitable for the entire family.

Fine, you say, she can order salmon while the rest of us are getting our meat fix.

Except that, did I mention she’s also an anti-fisheterian?

Now, I have nothing against vegetarian meals. My wife Jody makes a killer lentil-pineapple concoction. And her Indian tofu with vegetables in coconut milk is to die for. Merav is using her new found dietary decision to learn more about how to balance meals and how to replace the protein she previously would have received from carnivorous pursuits.

We’re trying to teach a little tolerance as well – moderation over militarism. After all, if we can embrace her alternative lifestyle, hopefully she will see the value in diversity in other areas too. And as my teenage daughter’s first major act of rebellion, it’s really not such a biggie.

Except for one incident that has had us baffled.

One time, when Jody and Merav were grocery shopping, Jody bought some frozen chicken and turkey necks for soup. There were also several wrapped up slices of luncheon meats – salami, turkey, pastrami – that somehow, mysteriously, “vanished.”

Jody looked for them everywhere. Maybe they got put in the same pack as the frozen meats and were stuck to the side of the chopped hamburger? Or maybe they were accidentally thrown into the back of the pantry with the cereals and juices…well, we’d smell that one sooner or later.

But no, the meat slices were nowhere to be found. Finally, an idea dawned on Jody. She turned to Merav who was unpacking the cucumbers and tomatoes.

“Did you by any chance take the sliced meats off of the checkout counter and put them aside?” Jody asked.

Merav was defiant. “No, of course not!” she replied. “How could you say such a thing?”

But the teensiest of smiles, almost imperceptible if you weren’t looking for it, indicated otherwise. Or at the very least, that she thought it was a good idea.

For next time, that is…

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