Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vegetarian Book Reviews: Help! My Child Stopped Eating Meat!

I wish I had had a copy of Help! My Child Stopped Eating Meat! to give to my parents when I decided to become a vegetarian at the age of 15.  That was in 1997, and while vegetarianism was neither a novel idea nor completely unheard of in my community, it was still an era in which is was relatively hard to find restaurants that served any vegetarian dishes, my high school cafeteria was completely unequipped to serve a vegetarian, and my dietary choices were regarded by all with a sense of mystification and a touch of hostility.

My parents were nonplussed by my decision, but pretty supportive, and my cooking skills did improve considerably after I made this decision.  However, in terms of getting food to eat in the outside world, I think I spent the first three years I was a vegetarian subsisting on salad and muffins.  As frustrating as vegetarianism can be for me now, as some people still insist on regarding vegetarian eating habits as a personal affront, times have changed considerably.  Today, every grocery store offers vegetarian analogues and most restaurants offer at least one or two non-salad vegetarian dishes.  Books like Fast Food Nation are building sympathy for vegetarianism in places where it might never have existed before.  Clearly, it is a different world from the one in which I attended high school.  Thank God.

Help!... is definitely written for a white, middle-class, audience.  So if you come from a different culture you might or might not be helped by the advice in this book.  I am also not a parent, and thus biased towards the wants and needs of vegetarian teens, and therefore take my opinion with a grain of salt.  However, that said, what is worthwhile about this book is that this is not a book about giving in to your child's every whim, no matter your own feelings.  Instead it is an attempt by the author, Carol J. Adams -- author of the early-Nineties feminist classic The Sexual Politics of Meat -- to understand both sides of the issue and see that teens choosing to embrace vegetarianism are really just trying to engage their world and the issues of their times.  They may or may not stay with vegetarianism, but respecting their choices isn't "indulgent", it's treating them like human beings worthy of notice.

My only major complaint is with the recipe section, which displays a large number of European-style "comfort food" choices that aren't particularly practical or inviting to either decades-old vegetarians like myself or non-vegetarians.  I wish they had thought to include a section on vegetarian flavor theory (which is much different from meat-oriented flavor theory), more pasta dishes, and a little more background on world vegetarianism and how it's reflected in different cultures' styles of cooking.


  1. Nice blog Marybeth. Looking forward to reading more and watching your blog grow.

    Marty's Flying Vegetarian Review