When I was 15 and taking high school biology, an interesting discovery was made by another student in the class: eggs were cells! How gross!
A friend of mine was discussing organ meats with a girl at a party. He said, “Yeah, I can’t really stomach the idea of eating liver, I’ll just eat the muscle.” She said, “I can’t even eat the muscle! Just the meat part.”
Even my own brother was so shocked by the revelation of animals as food that he became a vegetarian at 6 and has essentially been so the rest of his life.
I’ve always tried to be as honest as possible to my children (with some notable and well debated exceptions) because I feel that they can handle pretty much anything I tell them, provided it is explained well enough to them. I’m not gratuitously honest (I wouldn’t give sex tips to my two year old, of course) and certainly not radically honest, but where ever possible I will explain as well as I can to my children.
The best example, to me, is in my son Cole’s interest in where meat comes from. I’ve never shied away from the idea that meat is dead animal and that humans have to kill animals in order to get meat. He knows that milk and beef come from cows and chickens make food chicken. He’s declared that “Cows are delicious!” before (which is, of course, true). He knows that his grandfather Papi shoots deer with his guns and then eats them. What we hadn’t done before yesterday was actually kill something in the kitchen.
Stacy and I have loved mussels together for as long as we’ve known each other. Mussels were our go to appetizer when we were first dating and still are a favorite to this day. I hadn’t, however, made them for a couple of years until Stacy bought them yesterday. We then decided it would be an interesting activity for our son. We explained that they were alive inside the shell. He helped us pick out the dead ones and clean the living ones. We showed him the beard that helps them stick to boats, which he though was neat. Then came the potentially troublesome part: Cole helped us put them in the hot liquid, which would, of course, cook and kill them.
He took this completely in stride and ended up eating more mussels than I did. He’s been explaining how we made them to anyone who will listen ever since. The funny voice he used to describe them opening up and screaming “Ow! Ow! It’s too hot!” was pretty cute, even if it was also a tad macabre.
Perhaps connecting my child with death like this is a choice people might object to, but, to my thinking, it’s probably also very help for him going forward (he won’t be shocked in Biology class, for one). For most of the history of the human race, death was a constant part of life. Up until recently, every male knew how to kill and to butcher their food. People didn’t turn away from the reality of death like they may today. I felt it was important not to hide the truth about food from him.