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What did we do wrong? Both kids are vegetarians!

  • s

It's really a hassle when they get home from college -- a nighmare sometimes. Hubby is an avowed meat/potato head and I'm kinda too. We can't be the only family w/this dilemma...cooking two dinners...and focusing on that rather than the visit and visitors!! What does the wise mommy do?

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  1. In all honesty? Don't cook two dinners. Be honest. Point out that while they might be vegetarians, you and your husband are not. In addition, it is a lot of extra work for you to prepare separate meals. You do not wish to spend all your time in the kitchen--you would much rather spend time with them. They are more than old enough to understand and are certainly old enough now to cook for themselves.

    As a possible compromise, if they agree to cook, you and your husband will try their vegetarian dishes.

    Or, you cook for you and your husband and they cook for themselves.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Colleen

      Strongly agree. Their dietary choices are their own, but they should not expect anybody to ever make any extra effort on their behalf. Under any circumstances. If they don't want the meat, let them eat the potatoes...

    2. j

      Hi, veggie gal here. Both my sister and I are vegetarians raised by two meat loving parents.
      My mother doesn't cook two meals when we are home. We make our own stuff, and I like it better that way anyway.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jaimegirl1799

        Ditto my Brother and Sister in Law. They cook their own food. I was also a vegetarian at one point and I never expected my parents to cook special meals for me. I didn't even use the meal plan in college and chose to cook for myself 90% of the time even when at school.

      2. For a while we had a similar thing in our house. I agree totally with the previous posters--it is your house after all. My mom would try things that you could mostly make altogether, but just hold the meat on some of it, or force the veggie to pick around the meat. Chilli she made in this fashion (with cornbread on top...mmm...); spaghetti and meatballs, lasagne.

        WOuld be great if you could turn this to your advantage--get them to do the cooking! To be a veggie they would have had to learn some cooking competence (the pallid offerings of university catering would force anyone into the kitchen)... think of it as them learning their own way around the kitchen.

        1. I have a few friends that are vegatarians and when they come to dinner I cook what ever I want to for a main course. I try to have something like beans and rice for sides or scalloped something with cheese. The veg heads can make the sides the main dish. I almost always serve salad, side veggie, and dessert. So, they get plenty to eat. One time I was serving a boiled beef with sauce, so I nuked a boca burger for the non-meat eater. She seemed happy with it and put the sauce on it. Once, I was serving a beef soup, so I just opened a can of tomato soup for the non-meat eater. It might be easiest to just buy some boca burgers, canned veggie chili, stuff like that to have on hand. There all easy to serve. You would all be able to sit down together.
          Let them cook a vegetarian meal for you one night. I'm a meat eater, but every once in awhile a can go without it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: em
            Bride of the Juggler

            I second getting some frozen veggie burgers. I only eat kosher meat, so when I go to my in-laws they get these and I'm very happy at their barbecues eating my veggie burger and lots of sides.

            Also, if you can find Quorn Cutlets, these are frozen vegetarian patties that you can treat just like chicken breasts, and make another easy microwavable main course for the veggie-inclined.

          2. It sounds like you raised two children who are at the very least health-minded, socially conscious and/or strongly moral (depending on their reasons for avoiding meat). Be proud of that even though it's not the path you and your husband have chosen. You've already gotten some great suggestions of what to do about dinner, but I'd also add that it might be a fun challenge for you and a very touching gesture for your kids if you cooked an entirely vegetarian meal one night that they come home. Have them help out in the kitchen or leave it to them, and choose foods that are naturally vegetarian anyway (risotto, pasta, Indian or Ethiopian dishes). Another idea is preparing a bunch of pizza crusts and having everyone build his or her own pie--the veggies won't feel left out and the omnis get their flesh fix.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Grace

              I have to disagree with the idea that vegetarianism implies being "health-minded, socially conscious and/or strongly moral". These traits can be found in MANY non-vegetarians as well as those who limit their diet. The choice to not eat meat does not automatically signify a higher moral plane.

              1. re: SuzyInChains

                First of all, your logic is off. If X, then Y does not mean if not X, then not Y. I will agree wholeheartedly that many omnivores are also health-minded, socially conscious and/or strongly moral. Second, when did I say anything about a higher moral plane? There are many reasons for becoming a vegetarian (many of which have nothing to do with morality or ethics), but few of them are bad reasons. All I meant to suggest was that the original poster and her husband did nothing "wrong" by raising children who eventually decided, for whatever reason, to give up meat.

                1. re: Grace


                  My (possibly flawed) interpretation of the logic in your post was:

                  children are vegetarians
                  they are are at the very least health-minded, socially conscious and/or strongly moral.

                  I didn't see anything in the original post judging the moral or ethical implications of vegetarianism, just the fact that the parents eat meat and the kids don't. I apologize if I misinterpreted your post to mean that these traits are somehow connected to not eating meat, and parents should have special pride in children who choose this dietary lifestyle.

                  1. re: SuzyInChains

                    Then I apologize for misinterpreting your interpretation. I thought you reading my post as saying IF NOT vegetarian, THEN NOT health-minded, socially conscious and/or strongly moral. ("I have to disagree with the idea that vegetarianism implies being "health-minded, socially conscious and/or strongly moral". These traits can be found in MANY non-vegetarians as well as those who limit their diet.")

                    The title of the original post seems to me a clear judgment of vegetarianism. Likely it was just tongue-in-cheek and the poster doesn't really believe she's failed as a parent because her children are vegetarians, but I do believe that if any conclusion can be drawn from their choice, it likely is a positive one. As I mentioned above, there are many more good reasons to become vegetarian than bad.

                    1. re: Grace

                      I would disagree. I feel with the lack of reason (Religion/health/whatever) these kids have taken to vegetarianism because it's (Cool/trendy/peer pressure/whatever) and that is wrong. They should be their own person. If being their own person means that they just don't like meat, fine. But the OP seems to imply something other than that.


                2. re: SuzyInChains

                  I don't think the original post was intended to disparage non-vegetarians but rather to recognize that one who grows up in a carnivorous household and later chooses to be vegetarian has made a CHOICE that requires some work and readjustment. That choice is probably/usually based on health, social/ecological/philosophical believes, or religion. Much less often, it's based on a desire annoy ... though rebellion often plays its part ... and one persons rebellion is another persons nuisance.

                  It's a fallacy for you to assume that acknowledging the roots of this choice says anything about people who don't make the choice other than ... they didn't choose to be vegetarian.


                  1. re: SuzyInChains

                    My sister sometimes reads this site so I am using an alias but...my brother-in-law is a vegetarian with one of the worst diets I've ever encountered. He doesn't eat flesh of any kind, which is fine, but he also hates vegetables. So that's a bit of a conundrum. I'm guessing they eat dairy laden food at least 5 times a week and the occasional grains and perhaps a potato curry here and there. It's beyond vexing to try to plan a healthy meal around him!

                  2. re: Grace

                    "It sounds like you raised two children who are at the very least health-minded, socially conscious and/or strongly moral (depending on their reasons for avoiding meat). Be proud of that even though it's not the path you and your husband have chosen."

                    Given the topic "What did we do wrong? Both kids are vegetarians!", the above quoted response does indeed imply that the attributes that you cite are somehow connected to the vegetarianism. Much more can be said through implication by choice of words and phrases than by a simple straight-forward statement. The quotation above does indeed imply a high moral ground based on vegetarianism.

                    Perhaps you didn't mean it as such, but your choice of words certainly permits such a logical interpretation.

                  3. I was a vegetarian in college. What did Mom do wrong? She spent 10 years telling me I had to eat meat to get protein. I proved her wrong, and moved into a vegetarian co-op, where I only had to cook once a week, and others did it for me the other days. That made it easy to be a vegetarian.

                    When I graduated and moved home for a year Mom's idea of compromise was to cook chicken. That left me either eating chicken, or cooking for myself everyday, and I thus ended my vegetarian career.

                    I suggest the compromises others have suggested for school breaks, but if they move back home for a long period, even an entire summer, let them cook for themselves if they don't like what you want to cook for yourself.

                    1. I have to say, I object to the attitude "it's my house, and in my house we eat meat" and "make them pick around it"! That's terrible! Are they vegetarians for ethical reasons, or health reasons, or are some of you thinking that they are simply doing it to be annoying? (By the way, I'm not a veg, but my brother has been since he was 13, and is now in his mid-40's) Fine, make them cook dinner. Pizza is a good idea, what about lasagne? You don't have to put meat in it for it to be yummy. There are lots of pasta things you can do. Surely you can do without meat on occassion? I agree that making 2 meals would be ridiculous, I'm sure they don't expect that. I guess it all depends on whether you guys like vegetables, pasta, beans, etc. It's not at difficult as you think! As you say, Mummy, you want to focus on the visit, and enjoy one anothers' company, not have this as a stumbling block. Good luck, and have fun together!

                      1. I am the only one in my family (including extended family) who does not eat red meat. Everyone else is pretty much strictly meat and potatoes. For family gatherings I'll bring my own main dish (plus enough to share) or just eat sides. I've never left a family gathering feeling hungry! I think your kids can do the same.

                        Having to cook two meals isn't fair to you. I agree with the previous posters, let your kids cook for themselves (they should be offering to do this anyway regardless of their diets! I hope you are not also doing their laundry while they are home) or find a compromise. Do keep in mind that it could be fun for you to discover new, meatless foods. Not all vegetarian food is gross or weird.

                        1. We were all raised as omnivores. My bro became a veggie as an adult. My dad still loves meat. I just love food in general and can swing either way on a "when in Rome..." basis.

                          Dealing with us all really doesn't phase either me or mom that much when my bro. and his partner visit.

                          Any good Italian or meditaranean cookbook will have more than enough hearty, flavorful dishes to make a wonderful meal for a vegetarean with dishes that will also accompany a meat course beautifully. Pastas, risottos, salads with beans or grains, winter vegetables braised in wine and herbs, quiche-like baked things with veg. and cheese. Asian as well, though I'm not much of an asian cook.

                          In my family, the inconvenience has been close to zero, while the broadening of our kitchen horizons has been a huge benefit.

                          Unless your repetoire is a rigid repetition of hunk-o'-flesh in the middle of the plate, something green on one side, potato on the other, then it really shouldn't be that much of an inconvenience to please everyone. Dad can have his meat in a stand-alone format (sandwich, roast, sausage, burger, etc.), and no one has to dissect their meal or go hungry.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: mrbarolo

                            Would you make the risotto with vegetable stock to make it vegetarian? To me, it's not a risotto if its not made with "brodo."

                            1. re: Megiac

                              I'm an omnivore, but I've made plenty of vegetarian risottos. They all tasted darn fine!

                              1. re: Megiac

                                A parmesan rind and mushrooms in a vegetable stock will add quite a bit a flavor that won't duplicate a meat based sauce, but will be quite tasty none the less.

                            2. c

                              I was a vegetarian for six years. My parents made it very difficult on me to spend any time at home by making a big deal out of the whole thing. They took my rejection of meat to be a rejection of them, and it was very difficult to go home. I ended up going home less. Of course, I wasn't rejecting them; vegetarianism is good for the environment and probably your health as well to eat less meat, and, considering the way animals are raised in this country, vegetarianism can be a serious ethical decision. Even though I wasn't able to stick to the veggie diet in the long run, I am glad I did it for a while, because I learned not to rely heavily on meat. I still generally eat meat only on the weekends, and only organic meat at that. If we all did that, the country would be better off.

                              So first, I would say that you should look on this as an opportunity, not a problem. Otherwise, you risk creating conflicts between you and your children. There are lots of wonderful traditional meatless dishes - soups, grain/legume combinations, etc. You can make a simple meat dish for yourself if you really feel that a meal isn't complete without meat, but make the meatless side substantial. You (or your children, of course) can also make a couple big vegetarian dishes, like sweet potato gratin or vegtable lasagne, and freeze individual portions, so they can eat these when you want beef stew. Lots of things are easily put together without the meat, which can be added at the table, like big, serious salads that you can top with grilled chicken breasts and so on. And side dishes should be kept free of chicken broth, but that's not hard, just substitute veggie broth. Really, almost nothing suffers from that substitution.

                              Of course, you should encourage your children to cook; there's no need for you to be doing all the cooking for a group of adults anyway, even if they were eating everything you are. I would highly recommend Jeanne Lemlin's Quick Vegetarian Pleasures - no exotic ingredients, lots of good things that even a beginning cook can pull together easily. I suggest the Spring Pea Soup with Mint, Baked Tomatoes Stuffed with Coucous and Feta, and the Lentil Salad. Those sound good, right?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: curiousbaker

                                Yes, DO get this cookbook (recommended by curiousbaker) even if you have no intention of "converting." It was the very first vegetarian cookbook I ever purchased. That was about 15 years ago and it's still my favorite!

                              2. Ive struggled with this for a few years with a vegan daughter. We generally do eat a lot of food that is veggie friendly, but it takes more effort to make strict vegan dishes (no butter, cheese, fish sauce, pancetta, etc). I make an effort sometimes; other times, I just try to make sure I have something around that she can eat. These are complex parenting situations, and I am trying not to a big deal out of it one way or the other in order to maintain love and harmony in the relationship.

                                1. w
                                  wow i'm a dog

                                  you haven't done anything wrong! as a vegetarian going vegan, it has to do with me, not my parents, not my family (who, by the way, were butchers on my mom's side). i've been a vegetarian since 1992 and my family has *just now* started making me special dishes. it is for that reason that i am reticent to tell them that i'm going vegan. i'm sure they will have the same reaction as you, which isn't fun to deal with. it actually makes it harder for everyone when there is stress about the food.

                                  i believe it's very easy to cook vegetarian. there are so many alternative "meats" out there that you needn't feel worried or fret about what to fix (my personal fave is yves veggie ground round). you can substitute vegetable broth/stock for chicken/beef/fish stock and it will work just as well. there are mayo subs, egg subs, milk subs. all much healthier, with no cholesterol. obvious choice: salads. people always ask me, "is that all your having?" well, i like salad and yes, it fills me up. salads are my friends. also, tofu is great. you can make pretty much anything out of it - smoothies, pudding, entrées, of course.

                                  check out a whole foods or other market near you to check out the vegetarian options. i think you'll be surprised and relieved to find so many things for your children to eat.

                                  if you are thinking of a specific meal, please feel free to write/post and and i'd be happy to brainstorm with you. and of course, ask your children for input. what do they like to eat? what are their favorite "new" foods? where do you get those? an open dialogue is a great way to learn more.

                                  good luck! and please know that their choice is a healthy one.

                                  * vegetarians outlive meat eaters by 3 to 6 years.
                                  * “vegetarians have the best diet...they have a fraction of our heart attack rate and they have only 40 percent of our cancer rate. on average, they outlive other people by about six years now.” - william castelli, md framingham heart study
                                  * substantially reduce your fat intake.
                                  * reduce your chance of a heart attack by 35%.
                                  * become 4 times less likely to develop breast cancer.
                                  * outlive meat-eaters by about six years.

                                  * spare 1 acre of trees per year that would have been cleared for grazing.
                                  * replace the 2500 gallons it takes to produce 1 pound of meat with the 25 gallons it takes to produce 1 pound of wheat.

                                  --the hungry
                                  * provide more acres to grow food for the hungry as 20 vegetarians can be fed on the amount of land needed to feed 1 person consuming a meat-based diet.

                                  --animals in agriculture
                                  * reduce the number of animals killed for meat per hour in u.s. which is currently 500,000
                                  * save an average of 83 lives a year

                                  more info:

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: wow i'm a dog
                                    Mme. Verdurin

                                    "Salads and tofu", plus dishes called "yves veggie ground round". Yep, that's why there aren't more vegetarians around.

                                    I say, try Italian (Marcella Hazan!) Much of Italian cooking (esp. pasta dishes, but many others) is vegetarian-friendly, and no need to stick to those anemic-sounding salads and tofu "meat replacements".

                                    1. re: Mme. Verdurin
                                      wow i'm a dog

                                      the goal of my post was to provide objective feedback to a question, not to garner a judgment call of what i find tasty. i find tofu tasty. i find salads tasty. and yes, i do find italian tasty. but i may find some foods that you find tasty not tasty. and that's ok by me. just trying to have a pleasant post here.

                                      and actually, there are quite a lot of vegetarians around: at least 12 million in the us alone. methinks someone likes tofu, salads, meat alternatives and yes, italian food without meat.

                                      1. re: wow i'm a dog

                                        Surprise, I'm a vegetarian myself. But I strongly dislike much of the verbal activism and sense of moral superiority that many vegetarians toss around. Also, I am chagrined when people recommend salads and tofu as "easy" alternatives for people who are not vegetarians themselves - this is vegetarian food ca. 1975, there are many more choices today. Vegetarianism doesn't have to be about restriction and denial and a sort of puritanical emphasis on health at the expense of taste, the replacing-meals-with-salads, replacing-meat-with-tofu philosophy; that's exactly what makes it so unappealing to those remaining carnivores.

                                        1. re: The Madame
                                          wow i'm a dog

                                          it looks like my pallette enjoys the c. '75 foods then. so be it. it has nothing to do with anything else; it's just what i happen to like. by eating what i like, i certainly don't feel restricted in the slightest. i'd be most interested to read some of your choices so we can i can find out what c. 2k4 alternatives there are out there that you find tasty. please share!

                                          1. re: wow i'm a dog
                                            Mme. Verdurin

                                            My favorite cookbook is The Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. I'm a huge pasta fan and there are so many great pasta recipes in that book, as well as countless vegetable recipes. Risottos! Roasted, grilled vegetables and mushrooms! Polenta! Cheese!!!! (Roasted vegetables au gratin, with balsamic marinade...)

                                            These are the kinds of foods that my non-veg friends inhale without even realizing they're "eating vegetarian." They are so rich and satisfying.

                                            1. re: Mme. Verdurin

                                              Who's the one with the sense of moral superiority here? I read nothing but caring and thoughtful suggestions from wow i'm a dog--i thank her for that post. As Bill Q said: let's not step on others. The Madame is proud of her Italian risotto, polenta, & cheese. Well good for you, but some of us actually prefer tofu, and tofu/bean curd/soy has sustained Asian cultures for centuries. If tofu is not for you, then fine, but don't go belittling it for others. All MY non-vegetarian friends "inhale without even realizing they're eating vegetarian" when we dine on tofu pad thai, tofu tom yum, eggplant & tofu w/ chili garlic & basil, green papaya salad with tofu & fish sauce (or vegetarian sauce), tofu summer rolls with peanut sauce, curried tofu with lemongrass, crispy fried tofu with shaved bonito & sesame seed & sauce... i can go on and on, but i'm making myself too hungry...

                                              1. re: lemonginger

                                                I've been reading the thread with interest and thought I'd just chime in with my two cents.

                                                First, I don't think Mme Verdurin's last post was meant to belittle tofu. I think she was just making a point that these Italian dishes can be hearty and yummy w/o having any meat, and some of her meat-eating friends don't even realize there's no meat.

                                                Being a meat-eater who dated a vegetarian for 3 years, I have some experience w/ this dilemma/debate. I also recently gave up meat for a month to see what it would be like.

                                                I agree w/ someone's earlier post that these tofu, soy-sub products and salad can give an unappetizing slant on vegetarianism to people use to eating meat.

                                                "The Madame is proud of her Italian risotto, polenta, & cheese. Well good for you, but some of us actually prefer tofu, and tofu/bean curd/soy has sustained Asian cultures for centuries."

                                                Yes, this is true, but these cultures (Buddhists excluded) also have subsisted on a lot of meat and/or fish. Being Chinese, I should know. We eat things that even hearty American steak lovers wouldn't touch. (I would also probably argue that rice has sustained the culture more than tofu, although it would be close.)

                                                I've always been of the mind that foods taste better when they're not pretending to be something else. But that's my own opinion. What does irk me is when veggie restaurants sometimes try to remake ethnic dishes that are traditionally meat based and try to pass it off w/ some meat substitutes.

                                                In otherwords, my taste buds would be more satisfied w/ a cheese enchilada at a real Mexican restaurant than a soy-inspired remake at a veggie cafe.

                                                And, I'm sorry, but carob, applesauce, and margarine does not a real brownie make. But hey, some people can be happy with that, I guess. Although even my vegetarian ex (who would like to be vegan) can't stand vegan baked goods. He also doesn't like raw-tasting veggies, having been brought up on Indian food...

                                                All that being said, many ethnic cuisines do offer great tasting vegetarian dishes. Indian food is a great option since most Indians are vegetarian, and the dishes have a lot of flavor. Unfortunately, they don't tend to be the most healthy options sometimes...but it sure does taste good.

                                                1. re: lemonginger

                                                  Guys (not just you, lemongigner), we're all here in our spare time to swap chow tips and info for fun, so it's best if we all work to avoid huff, rhetoric, and idealogical "issues". The Internet is rife with angry debate, and we aim to be a refuge from all that.

                                                  Please keep chips off shoulders and refrain from baiting or taking bait. There's no need for ruffled feathers or hurt feelings, we're here for food and it's supposed to be fun. If you don't feel like you're enjoying or learning from a thread, there are LOTS of other topics to enjoy on Chowhound. Please resist urge to lash back at provocation, real or imagined.

                                                2. re: Mme. Verdurin

                                                  I'm with you. So many traditional meals of many cuisines are veggetarian, people just don't think about it. Lots of times I start to order something in a restaurant and my husband (the nutrition nazi) has to point out that I'm not ordering any protein.

                                                  I used to go out to this great restaurant with my bike friends after a ride. They happily ate burritos, grilled cheese sandwiches, asian noodles and other pastas, hummos, etc. (ooh, and beer) Then, one day, somebody noticed it was a vegetarian restaurant. After that it was hard to get them there. But my point is, it shouldn't be hard to cook for a mixed crowd if you just stop and think about what dishes are traditionally veg.

                                      2. The wise mommy lets her kids cook on alternate nights. The kids can prepare enough veggie dishes to tide them over on mommy meat and potato nights, and Mom can make extra meat on her nights to get her fix on the veggie nights.

                                        Don't obsess about them getting enough protein. Let them prepare a lot of their own meals and worry about the nutritional balance. And remember, actual protein deficiency is very rare in the US.

                                        There are some terrible "vegetarian" foods, mostly those that try to pretend they have meat. But the best veggie dishes don't pretend to be meat and stand on their own as excellent dishes. Think of it as that fun Thanksgiving, where Grandma cooked the turkey into shoe leather, but the side dishes were so good that no one missed the bird.

                                        1. Buy yourself and your kids a good vegetarian cookbook (see below) and prepare some vegetarian options at least two or three times a week. This hurts no one, and the rest of the time the vegetarians can dine on leftovers (of above) plus meatless side dishes. It is a compromise - and family is all about compromise.

                                          A mixed veg/non-veg family shouldn't be a really big deal. We are mainly carnivores, but so many of my friends and my kids friends are vegetarians that I am always prepared to throw together another option at a moment's notice. Make a big veg. lasagne and cut it into portions in the freezer. Make a big pot of veg. chili. Veg pasta sauce. Veg shepherd's pie is decent. Buy some veggie burgers to throw on the grill. Have a can or two of vegetable broth in the pantry so that you can make a soup with a meatless base. If you make a stir fry, add the meat last - removing a meatless portion before you do.

                                          And...if I may be so bold...buy a copy of my book, The Clueless Vegetarian by Evelyn Raab (published by Key Porter BOoks in Canada, Firefly books in the US). It was written for new vegetarians whose cooking skills are still a bit wobbly. Also perfect for families dealing with the mixed eater problem.

                                          Most importantly, look at this an an opportunity to expand your own horizons. No one is telling you to become a vegetarian, but it's important to respect your kids choices. You may even learn to love some vegetarian dishes yourself. We don't need to eat meat every day.

                                          1. c

                                            Letting them cook is great, but if you want to give them a night off, make something you and your husband will like and serve with mashed potatoes. Take off your kids' portions and throw in some fried onions and diced good cheese. Plain rice can be a meal with a little bit of roasted pepper and an egg stirred in while it's very, very hot. Vegetarian hearty soups are easy to make and you can augment them as you go for several meals. Ex: day 1, big pot of potato leek soup made with veg stock or milk instead of chicken broth. Devide up and store in daily portions. Day two, add a little pureed cooked vegetable to some of it. Day three, throw in some lentils, carrots, cumin, turmeric and coriander and ginger. Day three, roasted mushrooms and shallots.
                                            I just started eating sustainably/humanely raised meat every couple weeks again after six years of being vegetarian in a beef-and-baked-or-mashed-potato home. I learned how to cook quite thoroughly, and my parents also learned a lot about cooking as well as eating healthfully for both themselves and the environment. Also, you don't have to make your kida a seven-course meal. A great grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup with a simple salad (also easy to make a vegetarian version that is very, very satisfying) is one of my favorite meals. Vegetarianism isn't all about brown rice and bland tofu, nor do you have to eat all that "interesting" stuff in those cookbooks that suggest you use a little bit of soy sauce instead of butter, or whatever. "A perfectly authentic vegetarian version of that well-beloved French classic substituting liquid yeast for the cheese, honey for the cream, tempeh for the duck fat and miso-flavored soy bacon for the sausage!"
                                            Sheesh. I spent years trying to make that stuff edible. I think one of the keys to good vegetarian food is to stick near the source--vegetables--or the home cuisine. Tofu does not belong in lasagna and it never will. Ditto cassoulet. No wonder some people wonder what they've done wrong in raising vegetarian children. My parents did for a good while. They were also eating red meat four or five nights a week, plus meaty lunches, turkey and chicken in between. They now have lower grocery bills, as well as respective cholesterol scores, and blood pressures (as well as contributing toward a more sustainable planet and, I like to think, better karma) and eat little or no meat four or five days a week (not just nights! Days!).
                                            Vegetarianism is not disease you've allowed them to catch, nor are they punishing you for something you've done badly as a parent. They are bearing out the lessons you taught them about being true to themselves, being kind to others, and thinking about the future. Good job!

                                            1. Thank you all for the ideas, recipes, advice and most of all, kind words. This was brought on while musing over our last holiday dinner where they were served the not-oft-seen combo of spinach lasagne and mashed potatoes (argh!).

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: sara

                                                Amazing -- that was the offering at our holiday table as well. Probably not for the last time!

                                              2. Just watch your step.....we have some friends who became vegetarian when their teenage children did, because it was just easier to cook one meal and the kids won out 3 to 2 ....15 years later the kids are back to eating meat, and the folks are still vegetarians!

                                                1. The best options seem to be the "top something," "assemble something," or "substitute ingredient" methods. Some of these ideas have probably been mentioned already, but here goes:

                                                  1. Baked Potato. Top them with all kinds of different things ... including bacon or chili for the meat eaters ... or veggie chilli for the non meat eaters.

                                                  2. Cans of soup with a starch side. Can't get much easier. Beef vegetable to lentil, whatever you desire.

                                                  3. Stir-fry. Rice and vegetables are acceptable to all ... throw in beef and chicken if you so desire ... the only extra labor is another pot/pan to wash.

                                                  3. Burrito, taco, fajita. Some chips, some guacamole, assorted grillable vegetables and meat for those that want it.

                                                  4. College age vegetarians never gripe about store bought hummus, baba gannouj (sorry for the spelling), feta, and pita. Make a meal out of it by grilling some eggplant or meat.

                                                  5. Kebabs. Buy some simple bottled marinade or whip up your own.

                                                  6. Stews of any sort ... just substitute seitan, tempeh, boca/veggie/garden burgers, or firm tofu for the vegetarians. Same goes for grilling or barbecuing.

                                                  7. Buy some crusty rolls and make barbecue sandwiches ... mom and dad get pork or beef, kids get sloppy seitan. Grill some onions, peppars, and tomatoes for on top ... maybe some corn or asparagus as a side.

                                                  With a little advanced planning, following the substitute/top/assemble method should allow you to keep additional work to a minimum. I should know since I was one of those kids that came home one summer eschewing meat. In my case it was even worse since I was temporarily vegan. Just be thankful they're not doing some funky macrobiotic, whole raw foods, ayurvedic thing.

                                                  Of course, none of this will help if you're planning pot roast or leg of lamb, but that's when those cans of soup come in handy.



                                                  1. I know I am chiming in late here but I knew a few college kids who became vegetarians because the meat offerings in the college cafeterias were pretty disgusting and they preferred to eat a more healthy diet. Any compromise, premade/assembled dish that you buy or make will most likely be very appreciated by your kids.

                                                    1. I put my own parents through this many moons ago (now I'm back to eating everything for a range of reasons).

                                                      My Mom handled this wonderfully by taking me grocery shopping as soon as I got home. We purchased whatever I wanted to eat and cook for myself.

                                                      We also made a lot of meals together that could be customized with a meat eating side. When having eggplant parmigian or any kind of pasta, italian sausage would be served as a side for my father. A Morrocan vegetable stew was also a favorite served with couscous and honeyed chicken on the side.

                                                      For holidays if I wasn't in a big cooking mood or we were going to another relatives I'd pick up a nine bean loaf or something else that could be microwaved. I'd still have access to all the sides.

                                                      My parents learned to love couscous, hummus and pressed tofu and I learned to cook - not a bad deal for anyone.

                                                      Good luck!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: linza

                                                        Sounds like your family handled it the way I'd like to try! Thanks to all for advice, recipes, etc. And those of you in that dog fight down below, stop it!!

                                                      2. v

                                                        I became a vegetarian 30 years ago at the ripe age of 14. My mother took it as a slap or dismissal of her culinary gifts, which was far from the mark. I was scarred from attending a Rocky Mountain Oyster feast and my young brain had difficulty with the concept and meat just became a thing I would be happier not ingesting.

                                                        While my mother had great difficulty with what she considered a ‘stage I would grow out of,’ I will credit her with sticking to her guns. She basically told me I could cook for myself from then on. And so I did.

                                                        Thirty years later the wealth of products available makes it falling-off-a-log easy to become and maintain a vegetarian lifestyle with no need to feel cheated. For years I didn’t eat Oreos because they had lard. Now it seems hydrolyzed vegetable protein has been circling my system and is worse than lard ever was, but few of us knew that until recently.

                                                        I will recommend a one a day vitamin for vegetarians, especially if they are just starting out. That way, if like me they exist on salads and cheese sandwiches as I did for years, at least many of the minimum daily requirements are still met.

                                                        While not an easy road I recommend the path my mother took in NOT cooking different meals to accommodate me. Thanks to her I make the best veggie chili and pasta primavera I and my friends can find anywhere. Oh, and just to be clear – I am still a vegetarian who eats fish once maybe twice a year. So I suppose I have to be called a pesce vegetarian.

                                                        1. I've seen a variety of responses, but it seems the unifying theme is when the hosting meat-eaters respect the decisions of the vegetarians (even if they don't agree) and the two try to work out a compromise that takes into concern the physical and emotional health of the other, then the parties involved are happy.

                                                          Feed them emotionally and the physical food on the table won't matter nearly as much.

                                                          1. There is so much good ethnic vegetarian food out there that I don't see the problem. If you have to have meat, throw some grilled shrimp/chicken/steak/whatever on top of the vegetarian dish. We like meat, but happily eat vegetarian several days a week because it tastes so good.

                                                            1. Straight answer: cooking for veggies can be a lot of fun, if you enjoy trying new things and stretching your repertoire a bit. Vegans are a bunch more difficult - I just let'em eat salad or whatever - but if you can use dairy and/or eggs it's amazing what splendid things you can whip up. We don't often entertain ONLY vegetarians; they usually come with a group of omnivores, so we just prepare an omnivorous meal with enough options for a non-meat person to have a decent dinner. It *IS* a lot easier when it's a big feast, like a family holiday meal, but even a two- or three-course supper can present a grain or other starch, a green or greens, and maybe something to round it out like a broiled tomato.

                                                              Seriousness aside (sorta), as to "where you went wrong", you have to expect this from kids when they go independent on you. If you're a Biblical Inerrantist Christian, expect them to embrace Buddhism or Unitarianism. If you're a bleeding-heart liberal, expect them to start a chapter of YAF, or come home quoting Ayn Rand. This is not the place to go into how and why I know this...

                                                              1. What to do?

                                                                Love them ... learn what they have to teach (with allowances for their callow youth) ... teach them what you still can (including not expecting "vegetarian purity" away from their chosen vegetarian milieu ... and sit down with them to see w what meals you and they can agree on.

                                                                And when I say "learn from them" - any activity (like coking and meal planning) done within constraints can be a learning experience, a chance to build skills you might not otherwise have developed and explore things you might not otherwise have investigated.

                                                                1. You did nothing wrong...be happy you have 2 kids who realize they can eat great meals and not contribute to pain and suffering 3x a day!

                                                                  Look at it as an opportunity to broaden your culinary skills!

                                                                  Good kids!

                                                                  1. I'm the only veg in a family of omnivores, but it's never been a problem. Probably a lot of food you already eat is vegetarian - lots of pastas, rice dishes, stews and stir-fries are veg.

                                                                    You can easily compromise by serving the meat "on the side". That way, you and your husband can havethe food you want, and your kids can too - and you all get to share a meal.

                                                                    1. Hmm, you'd rather they did hard drugs or gorged on junk food?

                                                                      Yes, they are adults and should be able to cook for themselves. But without becoming vegetarian, if you are "meat and potato heads" it would be far better from both a gastronomic and health standpoint to get a lot more greens and other nutritious foods in your diet.

                                                                      A cookbook I like is Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian cooking for everyone" - lots of good foods to add to your repertoire; nothing weird or faddish. I'm also fond of Anna Thomas's vegetarian epicure site; her early books, while still VERY tasty food, are too rich in cheese etc; she revised that approach in the "New Vegetarian Epicure" www.vegetarianepicure.com

                                                                      I'm not vegetarian, but I'd find it infinitely easier to never eat meat than to have to endure hunk of meat + potato every night.

                                                                      1. did they become vegetarians for health reasons, ethical reasons, or just to annoy you?

                                                                        1. My husband, 2 kids and I have very different tastes in food. I've spent the past 23 years exploring how I, as the family cook, can make everyone happy. It's been a challenge, but an interesting culinary experience. I don't assume that anyone is espousing a preference simply to "ring my chimes." This is my family, and a wonderful part of my interaction with them is to cook for them. I leave the drama out of it.

                                                                          1. I was a vegetarian for 8 years, from the time I was 13 until I was 21. My parents were understanding and occasionally accommodating, but it's also how I got my legs in the kitchen. Give them a cookbook and cook with them!

                                                                            1. I've been a vegetarian since I was 5-years-old along with my older sister. My mother brought me to the doctor, who told her it was just a phase. HA! As a child I often cooked for myself but due to lack of culinary expertise and a disdain for most actual vegetables(I was still a kid), I ate a lot of mac&cheese. I am now in my 17th year as a vegetarian and it's not a diet any more it's a lifestyle. I am now progressing towards veganism, again to my parents disdain.

                                                                              My parents are omnivores and my mom has been on a low-fat diet for 20+ years as part of a study for hospital research and now a life-choice. I joined them for dinner last night. It was very casual, she made a small piece of chicken(for herself and my father), a lentil dish consisting of many types of two types of lentils, onions, garlic and diced carrots, lightly steam green beans, and mashed potatoes made with soy milk and a small amount of non-hydrogenated margarine.

                                                                              I don't think it's unfair to ask your children to cook for themselves, but I also don't think that you need to cook two meals as long as you only include meat in one dish. Remember, meat is not the focus of the meal in the meat-free world. A group of side dishes make perfectly good meals as long as they are well-balanced nutritionally and not just boiled potatoes and canned peas.

                                                                              I would also like to note that it is not unusual for your children to become vegetarians in their college years. Don't let the nay-sayers just let you think it's because of peer-pressure. One study found that children of high intelligence go on to be vegetarians later in life! So, be proud of your smart, healthy children and guide them to learn to make some a variety of complete vegetarian dishes so you can take the night off. If you want to make it easy just have a veggie burger night or veggie tacos, just replace the ground beef w/ Yves Mexican Veggie ground round.


                                                                              The benefits of forsaking meat

                                                                              * A vegetarian diet tends to be lower in fat, higher in fibre and vitamins

                                                                              * Vegetarian diets are associated with lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and less obesity

                                                                              * Vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease, less diabetes and may have less risk of cancer and dementia

                                                                              * The Vegetarian Society, claimed to be the oldest in the world, was founded in Ramsgate, Kent, in 1847. Mahatma Ghandi, George Bernard Shaw and Linda McCartney were members

                                                                              * 'Vegetarian' is derived from the Latin vegetus, meaning 'lively' and was intended to be suggestive of the English 'vegetable'

                                                                              1. Almost 4 years into the discussion...
                                                                                I'd ask them what their "dietary limits" are re: cheese, dairy, eggs, etc. and work around those. I'd invite them to cook a meal or two of their choosing. I wouldn't be critical of their choice or offend them, because they're not only guests in our house, they're my children and welcome to eat whatever they feel they need to eat.
                                                                                But we eat semi-vegetarian occasionally (if you don't count all the yummy cheese on the vegi lasagna and similar dishes) and I doubt my daughters would ever be militant vegetarians. (Right now, they're 8 and 12 and will eat anything and everything). But they'll have to accept my dietary requirements, too, because I take my position at top of the food chain very seriously.
                                                                                I know all the health benefits, but I also know an elderly gentleman of 93 who eats a piece of bread fried in bacon grease for breakfast and a pint of ice cream every night for a snack and he can still probably whip my butt.

                                                                                1. They're in college they should be able to cook for themselves. (If they live off-campus at school and had to start shopping for and preparing their own food they probably realized how gross meat is.) Good for them for going veggie! Let your husband cook for himself or for himself and you. My sister and I went vegetarian (I had eliminated nearly all red meat when I lived off campus my senior year in college for the reason mentioned above) soon after my father's heart attack at age 52. Our parents thought we were crazy. We went veg originally for health reasons, and then all the other reasons made sense. BTW my father had his fatal heart attack at 66. He was raised on a farm where they used lard, he also smoked, and was in the military when they gave them salt tablets. His brother also died early of heart issues. My brothers are both still omnivores. My husband has been vegan for 30+ years and I have been for 15+ years, so it's not just a phase we're going through.

                                                                                  1. Have a seance and evoke the spirit of Juila Child.

                                                                                    Make them responsible for cooking family dinners,

                                                                                    1. I have not eaten meat in 9 years, and came into this phase of my life at the ripe old age of 29. It was not a college thing for me, and was gradual over a few years, and a while coming. I was raised in a meat and potatoes family with some variety, and happily ate meat myself for several years.

                                                                                      When i first made this move and was very much in the learning curve myself, my family was also perplexed as to how to feed me or "what do you have in place of the meat?" . I also got some lectures as to "that's what animals were put on earth for" sort of thing, but they understand and respect my choice. Vegetarian dishes and substitute meats have found their way into several family members diets, but are not a main part of the diet.

                                                                                      Happily when i go home to visit, I am cooked for, and i also cook myself. I am not a pain in the butt, but my family want to care and provide meals for me so i do not get meat forced on me. I don't get home alot so i get spoiled a little. I most definitly do NOT get the "my way or the highway" rule thrown at me, nor does my family go meat free while i'm visiting. I'm pleased to say my mother and father have adapted some of my local favorites to make them veggie, and given that they are damn fine cooks, this stuff tastes pretty good meat-free. I also have a sister with food allergies, people with diabetes in the family, and a fellow strict vegetarian in my extended family. Everyone gets to eat happily, even if it's just from the side dishes.

                                                                                      What another poster said, love them. Your kids will remember and respect you for considering their choices and cooking with and for them, and being interested in what they are doing. You in turn, will come to find whether they are eating healthy balanced meals, or living off french fries. I know i sure feel appreciated, loved and respected when anyone in my family cooks something that i can eat.

                                                                                      On the note of vegetarianism/veganism being the most healthy choice....I have had people say to me..."oh you must live off salads"..no ..I don't. In my early days not eating meat, i thought peanut butter would keep me going...and then i educated myself. A problem, as i've heard, with teenage vegetarians, is that they will live off fries, or worse yet, use it to hide a problem such as anorexia. I do agree that there are great health benefits to be had, and i see these, provided i happen to be eating right at the time and not going through a phase of living off bread. A vegetarian off the wagon, is no different than a meat eater off the wagon. I'm pleased to say my cholesterol, iron etc etc, levels are great. Right now however, i'm not at my ideal weight. All in all however, i feel great about the choice i made. And i don't miss meat or crave it one bit. Which can be difficult for the steak cravers to identify with. And that's ok !!

                                                                                      I digress. .....to answer the OP...don't look at your kid's visit's as "nightmares"...educate yourselves.....cook with your children...respect their choices. Love em to bits and it'll all fall into place !!!

                                                                                      1. Be thankful they're not vegan and forcing tofu on you. I can tell you 50 recipes for a terrific veggie chili. But not one with tofu (TPV will work fine in many, though). Chili is a great place to start for a family/communal veggie meal - and there are veggie versions that will make canrivores totally satistfied.. A nice butternut squash chili with lentils or bulgar can be manna from heaven.

                                                                                        I have a book titled Vegan Italiano'. The beauty of this book is that it stays true to Italian cooking - in other words, lots of delicious dishes and no tofu or fake meat substitutes. I'd strongly recommend finding that book or something similar to cook dishes you both can enjoy. Then you can make yourself a veal chop in a separate pan ;-)

                                                                                        As far as tofu goes, IMO it's fine in Asian dishes where it's been part of the culture for centuries. Not so much for other cuisines. If you like foods from traditionally Buddhist or other veggie cultures, again, those will be good places to start on learning how to appropriately use tofu - you'll learn about the cuisines and cultures of other lands as well. Just skip the silly Americanized gratuitous use of tofu where it doesn't belong and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the number of delicious options available to you.

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                          We're vegan and only eat tofu once or twice a year. We won't touch TVP. These are good if you can find them. Some of the WFM in this area carry them, others don't. http://www.sunshineburger.com/index2....

                                                                                          1. re: lgss

                                                                                            I'm sorry to tell you that Sunshine Burgers is no more. At least, they have closed the Ellenville location and sold out to one of the "big guys." I know this because I work across the street from their (former) location! This just took place last week - I think St Patrick's Day was the day they emptied the building and sold off the equipment. :-( Their burgers are delicious, and I'm an omnivore!

                                                                                            1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                                              What a bummer. We better stock up.

                                                                                            2. re: lgss

                                                                                              lgss - I understand the TPV thing. On its own it's, well... it is what it is. But, used judiciously in something like a pot of chili, I find it adds a desirable texture without imparting any offensive flavors, and, unlike a lot of tofu, there's not much risk of it sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching. Fools a lot of meat eaters into thinking it's ground turkey or something similar.

                                                                                            3. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                              Panini Guy, I very much agree with you about misused tofu - I use tofu in stir-fries and Asian soups, but tofu in lasagne makes me want to ...

                                                                                              Poor people in Italy and elsewhere in the Mediterranean basin ate very little meat out of necessity. You will also find Lenten dishes where there is no meat or cheese - some include fish, but not all, obviously.