It all came to a head on Friday at 4:15pm. Annie was crying in the highchair, Christopher Robin and Harry were practising extreme wrestling on the trampoline (“I wasn’t biting him, Mummy, I was hugging him with my teeth!”), I was desperately trying to get dinner together and Matilda was looking grave and pensive.
“Mummy,” she announced solemnly, “I’ve decided I want to be a vegetarian.”
Now, I can’t pretend I didn’t see this coming. Earlier in the week, a sign at the butcher’s advertising “wild rabbits” sent a tired and tearful Matilda into hysterics (“you mean people KILL cute little bunny rabbits and then they EAT them? That is just so MEAN!”) and no talk of ‘introduced species’ or ‘feral pests’ or ‘circle of’ bloody ‘life’ would calm her down. The night before saw Matilda wide awake well past her bed time, wracked with guilt after eating a plateful of roast lamb (It was moist and nice and not at all burnt like last time)
So I knew Matilda had been considering vegetarianism. I had already laid down the law that she couldn’t only choose to be vegetarian for some meals just to get out of eating them (like beef stew, which she calls “beef spew”), I just hadn’t anticipated her making this commitment the day before shopping day – an hour before dinnertime – while I was elbow-deep in meatloaf.
So I scratched my head and had a think. I had half a tin of lentils. Surely that had to count for something. Vegetarians are always banging on about lentils. And I had a muffin tin. Maybe I could make a mini- lentil loaf?
As I mixed the lentils with all the stuff I usually put in the meatloaf and added plenty of egg to hold it all together, I was struck with a wonderful vision of myself. I could get really good at this! I could be That Amazing Mother who whips up delicious vegetarian meals effortlessly for her mature, sensitive and intelligent vegetarian daughter. I saw myself floating through organic wholefood markets buying bulk packs of tofu whilst hippies and hipsters alike nodded their approval. What if I’m actually a creative genius in the kitchen, creating small miracles out of chick peas and eggplant? I imagined myself on the cover of a glossy recipe-and-anecdote book, wearing a mildly ironic 1950s-style apron and smiling benevolently at the camera. Of all things, I think putting out a recipe-and-anecdote book is a true sign that you’ve made it as a domestic goddess.
I wish I’d taken a photo of the perfect muffin-shaped little lentil loaf after I took it out of the oven. It was truly a thing of beauty. Matilda exclaimed at how pretty it was and ate it wordlessly whilst I radiated smug all over the kitchen.
The next day, Matilda was making herself a ham roll with extra ham. “I’ve decided not be be a vegetarian,” she said, “that lentil loaf you made yesterday was pretty yuck”
Incidentally, I’d be happy to publish the recipe if anyone is looking to turn their child off vegetarianism.
Maybe I could make a book…