This past weekend was Australia Day, a holiday I have decidedly mixed feelings about. I love my new country but hate everything that comes with this day: bogans, race riots, and Sam Kekovich’s goddamn lamb ads. But I sucked it up and despite my better judgment, we went to a neighbour’s barbecue.
Luella had a blast running around with patriotic balloons and riding bikes with the big kids, and truth be told there was a lot less awkward, subtly racist discussion than I expected. But we were basically forced to come out of the vegan closet when getting questioned about why we kept turning down sausages and cole slaw. I’m happy to answer questions from people who want to have a reasonable discussion and might see where I’m coming from. My elderly neighbours with a few VBs in them, are not those people.
Mostly I tried to dodge the topic and just laugh along with the tired jokes. Everything was ok until the ice cream.
Now, though we try to stick to fresh whole foods in our diets, we also enjoy the occasional indulgence. Usually it’s in the form of vegan sorbet from Gelato Blue and we let Luella “share” with us. (Since she’s not quite mastered the spoon, the actual sorbet she eats probably amounts to no more than a tablespoon or two.) Though we never explicitly taught her the word, little miss smarty pants has learned that this is “ice cream”.
Unfortunately she has not learned that the kind we eat is made from coconut milk, whilst the kind that was placed on the table in front of her on Australia Day, is made from cow secretions.
And so, she began excitedly chanting “ice cream, ice cream!” and when I had to say “no” it was the first pang of guilt I had about having to take something off her. I could see the neighbours’ pitying looks. “That poor child, whose mum is depriving her of life’s simple joys…” I’m sure they were all thinking.
My guilt waned pretty quickly when I remembered the Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie sorbet she’d scarfed the day before. And as not to feel left out, I had Jim fetch her a home made ice block from the freezer which seemed to calm the mini tantrum she was now chucking. Of course I got the third degree about what was in them. (“Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and banana” “Just fruit?!” “Just fruit.”) (Ok there were also chia seeds and maca powder but I wasn’t about to start explaining superfoods.)
The next day, still feeling a bit bad, I whipped up a batch of banana ice cream. (3 frozen bananas, 4 dates, two heaping spoonfuls of almond butter, and about 1/3 Cup of almond milk if you’re interested.) Lu loved it and I could give her all she wanted, guilt-free.
But the incident got me to thinking about a few things:
- Being better prepared for situations like this in the future. I knew there were going to be sweets and other off-limits items at the BBQ. While we brought vegan sausage rolls and potato salad, I should have come better prepared with some cakes of our own.
- Being more conscious of the way we talk about foods. Lu can pick up just about every word we say now which means we have to be diligent with the words we use. We should have been calling it “sorbet” instead of “ice cream” and “veggie sausage” instead of “sausage”. Hopefully we’re not too late on this one.
- Choosing our battles. I’ll admit to having given her small bites of non-vegan food items to fend off tantrums. While I’d never knowingly give her meat, a the negligible amount of egg in a bite of banana bread is hardly contributing to factory farming atrocities. The question is whether it’s more important to be consistent. While she’s still quite young I’m not making a big deal. And as she gets older I don’t want to “glamourise” certain foods as being “forbidden”.
- Setting our boundaries. Jim and I have discussed the line we draw: when we’re at home we only have vegan food in the house. When she’s outside our home and has her own money to purchase foods, she can decide for herself. It’s the gray areas that are tricky, like letting her take food offered to her by people who don’t know our diet.
Ultimately I’m more concerned with raising her to understand our values and allowing her to come to her own conclusions than trying to keep her “pure” from animal products. As a parent interested in RIE and other parenting styles that focus on respecting your toddler’s choices, this becomes a bit tougher.
But at least I have banana ice cream for those tough days…. errr… banana sorbet, I mean.