One of my kids has gone vegetarian. Now the rest of the family want meat with everything | Zoe Williams
There’s a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb called Skin in the Game. It’s wrong about many things, featuring an account of Prince Andrew’s place in UK culture that was hilariously misjudged even before we realised what his place truly was, but has a theory about families and their eating habits that used to sound right. When one person restricts their diet – goes vegan or keto or whatever – the whole unit defaults to that restriction. It’s just easier, when three people will eat anything, to build your menu around the one person who will only eat some things. The parable was supposed to illustrate a broader point, that the intolerant minority will always come to triumph over the more tolerant majority.
Let’s not dwell on his mental leap, because one of my kids just went vegetarian and I now know that even the starting block is untrue. For about a fortnight, we all went veggie and nobody noticed. It’s not as if we were living a traditional, Harvester-buffet, meat-centrepiece, side-salad life before all this. I passed off black beans as a luxury food item, squash lasagne as classic Italian cuisine. Besides, meat substitutes have moved on a lot, and now they can make pretty much anything taste like pork so long as it has first been rolled into a ball.
Then came a fateful observation from one of the carnivores: “We haven’t had meat for a while.” After that, it became a relentless clash of pre-eminence, in the classic sibling mould. Every domestic argument from the day child two is born until the day child one leaves home amounts to this: in whose interests has this decision been made? If in theirs, then by definition, not in mine.
We forged on for a couple of weeks, making vegetarian food with frankfurters on the side, but soon the incredibly not-silent majority had had enough of sausages. It’s got to the point where they want to know why the potatoes aren’t cooked in duck fat, and who left the ham out of their smoothie. I didn’t think I could ever be reconciled to a meatless future, where all flesh was synthetic, and actual animals only existed for petting and touristic purposes. After a couple of months of bickering, I now honestly can’t wait.