What for Dinner? In Our Family, It's Complicated

What for Dinner? In Our Family, It’s Complicated

In high school, I decided I would never eat pig again. Though to be fair, this decision was made at the tail-end of dissecting the tail-end of a fetal pig in biology class. The combination of that chemical smell with the feel of the scalpel cutting through preserved flesh – well, I stand by my decision.

For the next fifteen years or so, my eating habits stayed pretty omnivorous. I even made occasional exceptions for bacon. (Again, I stand by this decision.)

When my husband and I met, we were living in New York, the epicenter of all things epicurean. We enjoyed eating our way through tasting menus, devouring burgers and tearing apart steaming focaccia bread. Neither of us ever really thought about where our food came from, beyond whether the burrito was from Chipotle or the local burrito shop.

When we moved to Portland, a food destination in its own right, I was still firmly on the side of welcome dinner guest – no dietary restrictions here. But then I watched the movie “Food, Inc.” Or at least I tried to watch it. I had to leave the room about halfway through. It was then that I decided if I couldn’t stand to see where my food was coming from, I shouldn’t be eating it. I stopped eating most meat then—fish, swimming free, not in cages—was still on the table. I assumed the phase would last a few months. That was six years ago (though chicken has made an occasional reappearance).

A few years later, during my third pregnancy, I developed a sudden and severe gluten intolerance. I know giving up gluten sounds cliché, but for me this was not a “Let’s see if my skin clears and my energy improves” decision. This was a “Do I have colon cancer, what the hell is going on?” decision. As a life-long devotee to bread, pasta, cookies and basically all food worth eating, this was an intolerance that was not easily accepted. And believe me, I tried to reintroduce it after the baby was born (no luck) and again after I stopped breastfeeding (still no pie for me).

My husband remains omnivorous. Because I do most of the cooking in our house (by which I mean, all of it), the extent of his and my children’s ominvorousness is in my hands. Now, gluten is a no-brainer for me. Why would I deprive the people I love most of the nectar of the gods? Because none of them have shown any signs of intolerance, I will happily make them gluten-filled deliciousness.  Though, admittedly, I am less happy not to get to share.

For meat, though, that has been more of a struggle. I don’t think there is anything wrong with eating meat generally. We have the teeth we do because we are meant to eat everything. What I do have a problem with is how so much of that meat has been treated before it ends up on our tables.

I am lucky to live in a city that has many options for buying humanely-treated meat. Because I also do most of the shopping (see previous parenthetical), I am able to make relatively sure that the meat I serve to my family was not treated in the same way as those animals on “Food, Inc.” I do stop short of asking for their pictures, names, and short bios before purchasing, though.

Usually, I will cook meat two or three times a week for my family, although generally only my husband and my oldest son will eat it—hot dogs being the great equalizer. My husband, smart man that he is, has never complained about the frequency that we eat meat. And of course, he is free to buy a hamburger sandwiched between two hamburger patties for lunch if he wants it.

Sometimes I wish I had never watched the movie. Especially now that I can’t stomach gluten, I often feel like I’m circling through the same foods over and over again – but luckily chocolate is one of them, so I can’t complain too much. The dinner-making process also often resembles a restaurant’s kitchen, as I try to time three different meals to be ready at the same time.

While it would be nice to all eat the same thing, for now I am aiming to all eat at the same time. And if we share stories about our days over pork (husband and oldest), pasta (two youngest) and gluten-free waffles with peanut butter (me), so be it.