The relationship of a grandchild with his grandparents is often, if not determined, at least marked by food. Not so much by what is on the plate - although the smell of asparagus still awakens in some the ghosts of their grandmother's dining room - but rather by the ritual signified on occasion:for many , the Sunday meal is indeed an opportunity to see one's grandparents and to solidify the intergenerational bond. The image of the grandmother who insists on filling the plate of an already sated teenager is a commonplace rooted in popular culture! And this is all the more true for those who see their distant family even less often:family reunions, where you find your cousins, uncles and aunts, and of course grandparents that you don't sees only rarely, are always the occasion for real feasts which, during the holiday season, seem uninterrupted from late morning until bedtime.
And if discord can reign on this occasion, it is more often because of the political opinions of each one or the painful remarks of a heavy uncle, than by the contents of the plates. But on this subject, the vegetarianism of one of the youngest can therefore be a source of conflict – when it does not precisely fuel the political discussions aroused, always ready to ignite on this or that social subject. Because this is not a whim of a difficult child, but an ethical choice, which should be respected and accommodated on the menu. So how do you deal with a grandchild's unexpected vegetarianism? Here are some tips to make this process easier, either way.
Let's start with a little lexical reminder:vegetarianism simply means the withdrawal of meat foods and fish, while veganism does away with any product of animal origin. The second is therefore much more radical, since many of the products that fill the shelves of supermarkets contain more or less significant proportions of milk, butter, cream... It is also much more demanding, since it limits drastically the sources of protein:eggs are for example an excellent source of protein for simple vegetarians, from which vegans (or vegans) must abstain!
The reasons why a person makes this choice are varied. In addition to the ethical argument of animal suffering, there is also that of the ecological impact of intensive farming. Intensive farming produces a lot of greenhouse gases, and consumes a phenomenal amount of water and grain. Finally, others see it as a healthier way to live. Of course, you still have to live with these principles and not just hold them up like a joker. Because not sure that a diet in which avocados replace butter on toast is very good for the planet, and that we reassure you right away, vegans are not spared by junk food . After all, sugar is last reported not produced by animals!
Whatever ultimately inspires your grandchild, it is not up to you to question his motivations — just as one does not question eating habits defined by religious affiliation. All you can do is accompany him on his journey.
We sometimes read in certain articles on the subject invitations to "cook" the child, making him understand that his choice will be difficult to assume with his friends, or even suggesting that in a country like France, unlike some of our neighbors it will not be well accepted. With such an attitude, one wonders why! In any case, this is how not to proceed, especially since these arguments are based on incredible bad faith. Vegetarianism continues to become popular, and seems perfectly in line with the ideals of a society increasingly alienated from its rural and farming origins. Substitutes, on the other hand, are increasingly able to mimic the taste of the products on which they are based.
Imagine that we could make a synthetic stew, which nevertheless had the same taste as one cooked with good products, and with a lower environmental impact. If you refused to eat it, it would only be due to arguments of lack of authenticity. However, there is nothing "authentic" in favoring one whose only difference is to have cost an animal life, and in this case it would be necessary to apply the same rigor in the search for authenticity to most of the meat products found in supermarkets, both resulting more from "laboratory cooking" than from any culinary tradition (cordons bleus are a perfect example). Because if we can discuss the total banishment of meat, there is no doubt that our current consumption is not sustainable in terms of carbon footprint. Each of us should on average reduce our meat consumption to ensure the survival of the planet. A sacrifice that is not so costly given the low taste and nutritional content of the majority of the meat consumed - it is precisely this meat produced intensely and therefore of poor quality that is responsible for this ecological impact - even if it unfortunately implies that the consumption of meat becomes a luxury.
In short, the first piece of advice is therefore not to try to break your grandchild's enthusiasm - and this does not matter if this idea has been put into his head by a friend and seems frivolous to you. Because if there is no shame in refusing to eat meat, his choice seems to be the most sustainable in the long term, and the ecological challenge is indeed the poisoned gift that his generation received from ours! Communication is therefore key, and could even, who knows, lead you to rediscover your relationship to meat. This communication must be two-way:do not hesitate to raise your voice if your grandchild begins to be preachy about your eating habits or those of the rest of his family!
France is a farming country and agricultural products of animal origin therefore occupy a central place in its gastronomy. Grandmother's cooking is therefore, it is true, enormously meaty, especially since it is by definition warm and comforting, qualities associated with dairy products and meat, access to which has become more democratic, but who continue to enjoy a certain aura of prosperity. It is therefore naturally a challenge to adapt to a vegetarian child, and a fortiori vegan.
First of all, be aware that there are alternatives, which seek to substitute both the taste and the nutritional intake of animal products. Soy steaks, tofu sausages... if you don't have to frankly appreciate these foods with a taste more or less close to their models, they at least offer you the possibility of preparing a special portion without radically transforming your menu. To go a little further, many recipes are easily adapted vegetarian by replacing the meat with a product designed for - tofu, based on soy, is the champion of these foods - or by being imaginative, without the rest of the family feeling constrained. On this subject, substitute products are constantly improving, in terms of taste and texture, and suggest a future where they would impeccably imitate (why not surpass!) animal products. Some vegan cheeses wonderfully imitate the texture of grated cheese, for example, even melted. Beware, however, of the composition of these ultra-processed products:a study by the consumer association CLCV of September 2020 which analyzed vegetarian and vegan products sold by large retailers reveals that they are mainly composed of water and not of vegetable protein (only 39% on average), with lots of fats, salts, spices and additives (8 out of 10 products contain at least 1 additive), which makes them at least as bad as cordon bleu industrial nutritionally!
And if you don't really like substitutes, this is an opportunity to expand your repertoire by drawing inspiration from elsewhere. Many delicious recipes do not contain basic animal products, especially in less industrialized countries. Take a look at cooking sites – even mainstream ones now offer a whole range of recipes of the genre – or get your hands on a vegetarian cookbook, and you will see that it is not so rocket science. We must not see vegetarianism as a simple exercise in deprivation:we also open up other horizons.
Finally, an excellent idea is to suggest that your grandchild cook together. This adds an activity to the range of those that can weld your complicity, and allows you to educate yourself on his choice and his new constraints, while giving him a taste for cooking and teaching him a lesson that ultimately underlies his choice of a more ethical diet:what ends up on our plates does not come out of nowhere.