Betsy Synnott, Vergennes, VT

Raising children with a humane sensibility

My husband and I are children of the ’70s and ’80s. Hamburger Helper was introduced the year we were born. He grew up in a Boston suburb and I in Lake Placid, NY, but we ate the same as children: cream of anything casseroles, Campbell’s Chunky Beef Soup on rice, and we both had a special fondness for frozen chicken kiev that could be zapped in the microwave. McDonald’s was a regular part of our lives. In the beginning of our relationship it was easy to agree on shopping and cooking because we held the same beliefs about food. That has changed.

As time went on, John’s hobbies became fishing and sports. I started reading Michael Pollan and Barbra Kingsolver, watched food documentaries, and most recently discovered Humaneitarian. I am so grateful that I have a partner that happily shares the chores of shopping and cooking, but we’re finding ourselves in a tricky place. He will see a pack of pork chops on sale in the grocery store and buy it because it’s “a good deal.” On a busy evening he’ll stop at a mini mart and pick up chicken strips for the kids. It wasn’t long ago that those habits wouldn’t have phased me. Now they unsettle me.

My primary goal is to raise my children with beliefs about food that will influence their future lives. In the case of meat, I think I’m on the right track. My 11-year-old thinks McDonald’s is “absolutely disgusting” and my 9-year-old will only eat a hamburger if it is made with grass-fed beef. We’re all looking forward to our Thanksgiving turkey that was raised just a mile down the road by my sons’ baseball coach.

I’m realizing I’m not giving my husband enough credit. I couldn’t have come this far without him letting me take him on this ride. My kids see us talk with farmers at the farmer’s market. They hear us make decisions about what restaurants to go to. (BTW, The Farmhouse in Burlington is our favorite — nearly all their meat is locally sourced. And in Vergennes we love the Antidote, where they serve “13-mile burgers” — the beef comes from within 13 miles of the restaurant.) Just last week, John turned the meat buying responsibility over to me. “You know what you want,” he said. True. I am starting to.

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