World Vegetarian Day: Smriti Prasadam-Halls on T-Veg - her vegetarian children's book
Published on: 30 September 2015 Author: Smriti Prasadam-Halls
To mark World Vegetarian Day, as part of World Vegetarian Week, author and mum Smriti Prasadam-Halls writes about her vegetarian children's book, T-Veg, the story of a carrot-crunching dinosaur.
Smriti talks about why Reginald the T-Rex is a vegetarian and her experiences of getting her children to eat and love eating fruit and veg.
The T-Rex hero of my latest picture book, T-Veg, is a proud vegetarian, and he sticks to his greens, come hell or high water.
I loved the idea of writing a book about a T-Rex who wouldn't eat meat. I loved the idea of showing children that, rather than this being a shortcoming or oddity, it could ultimately be a source of super strength - both inner and outer.
I wanted to present fruit and vegetables in a wholly celebratory way. And with Katherina Manolessou's luscious, zingy artwork on every page, I'm not sure fictional fruit and veg has ever been so appetising!
'I don't like vegetables'
Eating well is increasingly embraced as part of a modern, superfood style diet but, as a parent of three, I know that there can be huge struggles around getting good food - whether in vogue or not - into our kids, especially their all-important 5-a-day.
I'm always curious when, as happens from time to time, one of my children's friends will announce, 'I don't eat vegetables'. I can think of thirty types off the top of my head - which do they mean?
So, one of my aims when writing T-Veg, was to NAME glorious fruits and delicious vegetables in the text itself - some of them familiar, some of them not so familiar perhaps, and allow children the opportunity to distinguish between different types, rather than tossing everything in together.
There's an abundance of cookbooks on the market that encourage new parents to concoct sauces and dishes using a mixture of healthy, fabulous vegetables, whizzed around the blender so that children don't know they're eating veg. I appreciate that this can be a good idea, however, I'm keen to encourage children to KNOW what they're eating, to recognise it, to name it, to respect it and hopefully - in the fullness of time - to LOVE it.
In this book I wanted to demonstrate the empowering qualities of the food that T-Veg loves. In fact - SPOILER ALERT - they are key to the story. When catastrophe hits, T-Veg is able to come to the rescue precisely BECAUSE of what he eats.
Getting children to eat veg
Children respond to tangible examples - telling them they need to 'be healthy' can feel a bit dull sometimes, but encouraging them to eat fruit and vegetables because they're delicious and because it will help them to be speedy and strong is both MUCH more exciting... and true. Also, if my children are anything to go by, anything that makes you remotely resemble a super powerful T-Rex, can only be a good thing.
T-Veg tumbled onto the page very easily, and I expect that's because we've a lot in common. Although I'm not vegetarian, I DO understand entirely what it's like to feel different and what it's like when your friends are confused by what you eat.
You see, in the '70s, when I was five years old, the spicy Indian food I ate at home was NOT on the mainstream menu. You were more likely to get packet mashed potato, tinned spam and dollops of sticky semolina for your school dinner than any dish involving chili, ginger, garlic, coriander, turmeric... or any spice for that matter.
To my friends, that stuff was WEIRD! We're constantly told that we are what we eat... so if people criticise you for what you eat, it can feel very personal. That's how it is for T-Veg in the story... but he valiantly stands his ground.
So, while this is a book which celebrates fruit and veg, at its heart it's also a book that celebrates the tiny acts of bravery that children often make on a daily basis; the small daily battles they win. Whether that's sticking up for what they eat... what they wear... how they look... ways they behave... in every case, it takes a special type of courage to stand up for yourself.
And so, T-Veg and I would like to wish everyone - vegetarian or not - a HAPPY WORLD VEGETARIAN DAY! ...And I hope you'll join me in clinking a glass of banana-berry shake to T-Veg, the dinosaur who dares to be different.
T-Veg Illustrations by Katherina Manolessou