Why vegetarian parents MUST raise non-vegetarian kids

When my mum agreed to marry my dad, she said yes to everything he asked for – living with his parents, wearing only salwar-kurtas and sarees and not going to the US to pursue her masters in architecture. She had only one condition of her own: he must stop drinking. She didn’t want the influence of non-vegetarianism, alcohol or smoking on her kids. And he was only a social drinker, so he immediately agreed.

So that’s the kind of household I grew up in, and Amma still looks at me with disdain when I speak about the mayo-filled shawarma I had on Mosque Road during Ramzan, or how good the Long Island ice tea at Plan B is. But some vegetarian parents really do believe that raising non-vegetarian kids will give them a better chance at integrating into a cosmopolitan world. And it’s true – people who eat non-veg have a decided advantage over those who don’t, as I realised on a trip to Goa with my classmates, when I tasted my first forkful of fish curry. So should you start your child on non-vegetarian too? It’ll be a good idea, and I’ll tell you why:

  • Nutrition! This card is played all too often by non-vegetarians. Still, they (we) do have a point. Daals, sprouts, dry fruits and dairy products definitely have protein, just not in as high a concentration as in egg or chicken. And where will your kid get her minerals from if you don’t introduce her to seafood – she’ll have a lower intake of Vitamin B12 and iron overall otherwise. If you don’t like cooking it at home, take her to a restaurant that serves it all.
  1. Which brings me to the next point: you’ll have a greater variety of restaurants to visit. This is always a problem I have while planning weekend lunches with sister and parents. Last Friday, I picked out this amazing voyage themed Mangalorean place (I was tired of Little Italys and North Indian thalis that named themselves Pure Veg), but I had to convince the waiters to give me a table at the far end from the kitchen so that my parents would stop wrinkling their noses. So, open your minds, parents, and your kids can have a better time!
  2. Ease of travel: to prove how good a vegetarian she is, my mother has repeated this story a million times. When she had gone on an architectural field trip in her third year of college, she survived on fruits for two weeks. Why? Because the same spoons were used to serve both the veg and non-veg dishes. Please, please don’t teach your kids to take it so seriously. After all, what’s the point of a holiday in New York if they never get to taste a hotdog with caramelised onions and mustard sauce?
  3. Sharing food in school and college becomes easier. I don’t know about your kids, but I’d always be in constant fear about whether someone with a chicken biryani dabba would put her spoon into my daal khichdi. And my, oh my, if she picked up my water bottle and sipped from it after tasting her chicken, I’d rush to the bathroom and scrub at the rim, muttering “chicken mouth, chicken mouth” under my breath.  

I hope I’ve convinced you enough. If I haven’t, I’m sure you’ll find enough ways to feed your kids idli-dosa-rice-rasam when you’re visiting the Golden Temple in Punjab when they could be feasting on creamy chicken butter masala. So the next time you want to eat out, consider a Barbecue Nation or a Mahesh Lunch Home instead of the usual Shiv Sagar.

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