16 September 2014
Small things: Mealtimes and the cycle of life
One of the things that I have been investing significant time in over the past year has been ensuring that the kids are conscious about food. We’ve been talking about where food comes from, we’ve been growing our own veggies, cooking together, and turning our scraps into chook food and compost. But I may have perhaps taken our recent food adventure a step too far …
On Saturday we went to the food markets.
Standard outing for us.
We purchased some fish at the seafood shop.
Same as usual.
But this time Master 3 was really interested in all of the produce. And when he asked if we could, “… buy a sea creature,” I must admit that I thought nothing of it.
So this time, instead of fillets, we bought ourselves a whole fish to take home and cook on the BBQ.
“Shall we have him for dinner?” I asked the kids excitedly.
“YES!” they cheered.
I should have guessed that something was amiss when Miss 2 and I were preparing the dinner.
“Fishy,” she said, pointing to our tasty delight.
“Yes,” I replied. “Fishy.”
And with that she furrowed her brow, narrowed her eyes and got down from the step she was standing on to help me at the bench. Miss 2 is fairly switched on to ‘life and stuff and things’ for such a small being. I’m often convinced that she’s an old soul and that she’s been here before. I’m fairly certain that she knew the fate of this ‘fishy’ without me having to say the words.
Nonetheless, I continued. Some lemon grass, soy sauce, honey, mirin, mint, spring onions, garlic … yum! This was going to be one great tasting meal. How exciting for the kids!!
Some 30 minutes later, and our delicious fish was baked to perfection.
“Who wants some fish?” I called out.
“Me!” the kids replied in unison, running to the table.
I unwrapped the fish and was met with silence.
The kids didn’t move a muscle. They didn’t blink. They didn’t say a word …
“What’s the matter? I asked. And here’s how the conversation with my son went …
Master 3: How he get here?
Me: What do you mean? We bought him at the shop. Remember?
M3 Yes. But how he get out of ocean?
[Bother. Make this sound as harmless as possible].
Me: A fisherman caught him and took him to the shop for us. And we bought him at the shop. Remember? You wanted to buy a sea creature.
M3: But how he get in THERE … [pointing to the foil].
Me: We cooked him up for dinner.
[Insert more silence here. The kind of silence reserved for a three-year-old reflecting on the big issues in life]. Finally …
M3: [sternly] We no eat him.
Me: Yes, we’re going to eat him. It’s a fish. You eat fish. You like eating fish.
M3: This one going to bite me with him teeth [pointing to its mouth].
M: He won’t bite you mate. He’s not alive.
M3: What you mean he not ‘alibe’?
[Eeeek! We haven't had this discussion before. Death and Dying. I haven't thought this through. Sh!t. What do I say?! I'm not prepared. I'm not ready to go here ...].
Me: Well, we cooked him up for dinner. He had a good life buddy.
[Double sh!t. Oh B, that was lame. SO LAME! That was the best you could come up with??].
M3: [tearing up]. That him eye … [pointing to the opaque, steaming hot fish's eye. Yes, maybe I should have removed that before cooking. Some people eat the eyes. I'm fairly sure that the eyes are considered to be a delicacy. I'm guessing I've lost the kids on that food adventure for this evening though …].
And through it all, Miss 2 stood frozen in time. Mouth open. Eyes wide.
I knew at this point that it was over. All bets were off for eating dinner tonight. My faux par. Why did I not think this one through more carefully?
Surely I am not the only crazed woman to try to serve up a whole baked fish to her toddlers – am I?
Do other kids eat whole fish? I’m pretty sure that some of them would eat the eyes …
And how on Earth was I meant to broach the topic of death and dying, and the circle of life over my steaming hot, deliciously smelling fishy? When exactly is the right time to have this conversation??
What about you? I would love to hear your stories about how you broach the topics of food, the cycle of life and other mealtime misadventures with your little ones. Join the conversation in the comments section below. Or why not join this month's Sustainababy Sustainable Family Mealtimes Eco Challenge for your chance to WIN! with Toosh Coosh Mealtime Solutions?
About the author: Bel Doyle is a self-professed former eco assailant turned ecoceptionalTM mum. Bel is stay-at-home Mum to Paddy (3) and Frankie (2). She has spent the past year transforming the life of her family by doing 101 small things to help the environment. You can read more here.