I've been reading a lot about carbon footprints recently. Well, not a lot. That implies I have the chance to sit and read the newspapers in places other than on the loo, whilst my sons rampage outside and interrupt every few minutes to ask me to get out the other train set / fetch them a biscuit / help them find the tiny bit of transformer that I know for a fact I threw out in a rage after I stood on it in the dark for the nth time last week...
But I have been reading about carbon footprints a bit. And it's seems as if more and more people are deciding that one way of reducing theirs is to change their diet. Apparantly, if you are concerned about global warming and believe that human activity can impact on how quickly it happens, you may well believe that eating meat every single day of the week is Not A Good Thing. At-least-partial vegetarianism is being touted as the responsible way of eating if you want to be environmentally aware in the kitchen (along with recycling, growing your own compost heap, minimising packaging for your weekly supermarket shop, getting a vegetable box, never throwing any food away unless it's hit puberty and has started to grow a beard, and knitting your own pasta...)
So anyway, not eating meat 3 days in 7. I'm prepared to go with that. As a student and pre-children, I probably only ate meat a couple of days a week in any case, mainly because vegetables take longer to go off and I couldn't be bothered to do anything more than a weekly shop (unless, of course, we are talking about the off-licence). However, nowadays, it's not just me. There are Other Consumers in the household to be taken into account as well. Consumers with Opinions. And these Opinions are especially strong on the matter of fruit and vegetables.
Take Boy #1, for example. Boy #1 has Very Strong Opinions, mainly on the matter of fruit (the devil's food), but also on the matter of some - or is that most? - vegetables. I hate to complain, because after his first birthday we hit 3 years of hell when it was pistols at dawn every time a meal went on the table, so the fact that nowadays his food repetoire includes carrots, broccoli, and brown rice is something of a victory. However, have you ever tried introducing a semi-vegetarian lifestyle when you are unable to include fruit, courgette, any kind of squash, aubergine, tomatoes, onions, parsnip, cauliflower or lentils?
I tell you, even Delia would be bored by the limited opportunites such ingredient restrictions present. And there are only so many times in a week when you can wilfully ignore the 5 year old critic on the other side of the table and use things from the 'no' list in spite of him if you want to retain your sanity and a reasonably shouty-free dinner table.
And then there's Boy #2. Boy #2 has a totally different issue. He will happily chomp down on most foods, thank god, but that doesn't mean it's all plain sailing. For Boy #2 has decided that if his brother is going to be fussy about food, he will be fussy about drink. As in, he's not going to. Now, I'm prepared to deal with food-avoidance. I have managed to keep a calm and reasonable tone when faced with most food-related tantrums, but when my 3 year old son is refusing to have even 3 glasses of water in a day (and no milk or juice or indeed anything else liquid), I get a bit itchy.
Basically, it freaks me out. Minimal food for a couple of days? Fine - I know my children won't waste away in that time-frame. No drink? Well, that will put a child in hospital, and having seen far too many of those over the last few years I will do virtually anything to avoid that.
How does this impact on trying to eat less meat? Well, it doesn't, not directly. But it does add to the stress of mealtimes if you are on the one hand trying to persuade your oldest to at least try the butternut squash on his plate (as if), and on the other trying to persuade your youngest to at least sip the water in the glass in front of him.
So I'm afraid to say that something has to give. And if I can at least remove the onslaught from one side of the table by replacing butternut squash with sausages, so that I can concentrate on cajoling / insisting / threatening Boy #2 with all sorts of withdrawals of tv-watching priviledges if he doesn't finish his glass of water by the end of the meal, then I have only one thing to say.
Would you like some ketchup to go with those chipolatas?