To my horror, he seems to have a pretty matter-of-fact, three-year-old understanding of what meat is. He gets it.
It makes me think of that story in Eating Animals*, where Jonathan Saffron Foer talks about that defining childhood moment when a teenage babysitter asked him, "You know that chicken is chicken, right?"
I'm not sure how I feel about him having this understanding so early. It's an interesting side-effect of raising a vegan kid, that he's ironically not-sheltered from the reality of meat.
He sometimes tests my reaction by adding animal products to his "recipes." He will slowly list the ingredients in his cake, "sugar...flour... and... cow milk," as he coyly watches my reaction. I respond, again, "Could you make mine with soy milk, please." And so soy has become the magic vegan modifier. When I decline the imaginary animal ingredient, he'll hastily add soy, as if duh, that's what he meant all along. The word soy turns anything unpalatable into a mouth watering food stuff. Soy spiders have become a popular ingredient in his cooking.
And he nows claims that, "Soy chicken is my favorite," despite the fact that this is something that we rarely eat and were making a concerted effort to not even say, with the idea that that sort of terminology would be unnecessarily confusing for a kid that had no experience of chicken as a food.
But as Paul is fond of saying, "Parenthood is where your good intentions go to die." (Desmond is watching TV while I write this.) And so when the nice Gardein people offered to send us some of their new fake meat products, I said, heck yeah, my kid will totally eat that.daiya cheese stuffed cutlets to ourselves along with some side dish spaghetti after the kids went to bed. Ah, tasty, oozy nostalgia.
And in case you find yourself in possession of some of that fake chicken or just in need of one of those somewhat instant meals that you can pull together when you don't think you have any food in the house, have some -
Side Dish Spaghetti
This is not the sort of dish that you follow a recipe for. Let's just talk it through.
- spaghetti (This tip recommends a nickel-size serving for your average adult, a dime for a child and a quarter for a big eater. That's if you're gripping the uncooked spaghetti in the ring formed by your thumb and index finger. But with practice, you just know.)
- olive oil or non-dairy butter (About a tablespoon per serving, but just swirl or scoop it in until it looks right. You can add more or less to your own taste. Because you're going to add moisture with the starchy pasta water you have wiggle room on how much oil you add.)
- minced garlic (About a clove per serving, more or less depending on how much you like garlic.)
- nutritional yeast (About 2 teaspoons per serving - this will add some body to the sauce as well as a bit of nutritional heft and that mild cheesy flavor.)
- pasta water (about 1/4 cup per serving, but add more if it seems dry. Conversely, if it's too wet, either add a bit more nutritional yeast, or cook it off.)
- italian parsley (about 2 teaspoons minced per serving - if you don't have this on hand it's not the end of the world. You can make do without, or maybe you have something else green you can replace it with? A handful of shredded baby spinach would work.)
While your spaghetti boils, gently heat a swirl of olive oil or a pat or two of butter in a big skillet (or a small one if this is just for you). Add your garlic and stir it around until it smells delicious. Don't let it brown. Use tongs or one of those big claw-like spaghetti spoons to fish the pasta out of the pot and into the garlicky oil. (If your pasta isn't just al dente at the moment that your garlic is fragrant, take the skillet off the stove and wait for the pasta to catch up.) Scoop some pasta water onto the pasta. (Add a little bit more than you want in the end because the pasta is still going to absorb a bit of water and some will cook off.) Add some nutritional yeast and minced Italian parsley and stir it around. Let the whole thing simmer for a minute until the pasta is toothsome-tender and the flavor bits are clinging to the pasta.
*Did you read it? I really don't like reading about sad animals, but I really do like good writing and Jonathan Saffron Foer, and I think this book is shockingly good. He coaxes you in with warm writing and funny stories and then sneaks in all sorts of important information. It's so well done. What did you think?