BELIEFS ABOUT FOOD, AND THEIR EVOLUTION
My mother is a really great cook! She uses fresh ingredients and makes things from scratch. Rarely did she open a can or a box during my childhood.
Her parents would kill a chicken, when it was time to eat chicken. And that was just…normal to her, because she grew up with it. When I was little and she’d describe it, I couldn’t even imagine eating a chicken that had previously been running around my yard. As a child I was relieved my parents didn’t do that wringing of the neck thing my mom had so nostalgically described.
In my own childhood chicken memories my mom sliced her own chickens, bought whole from the butcher. I remember too well, the sound of the chicken’s back breaking—apparently a necessary step in the slicing of a chicken. Frankly it was a tad horrifying but…I sure did enjoy my mom’s chicken stew, her chicken soup. She never made anything that was not delicious and that back-cracking sound was not an impediment to my enjoyment.
As an adult, when I saw already-cut-up chickens at the grocery store, it made so much sense to take one further ancestral step away from chicken preparation. I made it well into adulthood never having cracked even one chicken’s back.
Later I stopped buying chicken altogether, for a yoga-teacher reason: I just didn’t feel great about having a dead chicken in the house. Therefore, my daughter had never seen one, though she had eaten chicken soup regularly in restaurants and with friends. When she was five, Lily asked me how to make chicken soup. I told her: first you put a chicken in a pot, cover it mostly up with water, add and onion, carrots, and celery, some spices, and simmer it.
“What do you mean, a chicken?” she asked.
“I mean, a chicken,” I replied.
“A real chicken? Is it a dead chicken?” she asked. I nodded. She was fairly shocked. I found it slightly amusing, but also a reality-check, when she asked, “Where do you get a dead chicken?”
She was surprised to learn that you get them at the grocery store, and asked to see them. She was and still is a tad horrified. Eventually she re-integrated it, because her mother told her it was ok, that people do kill animals and eat them.
Is it ok?—there are various points of view. I was willing to say it’s ok. And she was willing to believe me. If I had told her it was wrong and horrifying, she’d have believed that. That’s how kids get their beliefs. She would in turn validate my belief that it was wrong and horrifying, by believing me. If I told her people who kill chickens are wrong, she’d believe that. Yet my parents grew up with parents who killed chickens for meals. My mother didn’t even consider it a belief; it just was. In this enlightened age I get to choose what beliefs I pass on, about bodies and food—about everything. And my daughter gets to choose which ones to embrace. Beliefs can change and evolve. This can be disconcerting to parents.
After years of enjoying chicken soup, one day out of the blue, as a teenager, Lily decided she was no longer a meat-eater. It just didn’t feel right to her anymore. Though this made my role as cook a bit harder, I was happy to find protein alternatives to support her decision. It’s up to Lily what she wants to teach—and feed--her daughter.