“Why do people eat people?”
I blink at the seven-year old in my small reading group for a moment, trying to process what she’s asking. After a moment I get it. “People don’t eat people, Sam.” Not sane ones anyway. “Peter Rabbit’s father was a rabbit. Mr. McGregor’s wife cooked a rabbit not a person.”
“Oh!” She says, then blinks at me and tilts her head to the side. I know Samantha very well and know that her head tilt is leading up to a follow-up thought. I immediately question my choice for book of the week, wondering what on earth her innocent little mind is cooking up. “People actually eat rabbits?” That’s disgusting!”
Now the teacher in me knows that if I give her more than a one word answer my whole lesson is going to hell but I can’t help myself. “Yes, many people eat rabbits and deer. Some cultures love to eat goat. Even I have had bear meat once.” My entire reading group looks at me aghast, as if I’m some kind of monster that might eat them if they displease me. And I’m okay with this. “The reason you don’t see that kind of meat in the supermarket is because most Americans don’t like to eat animals that they think are cute. That’s why we don’t eat cats, or dogs, or ponies.”
“But what about Chicken McNuggets?” Samantha asks.
“What about them, honey?”
“Chicken McNuggets come from baby chicks. Andthey’re cute.”
Oh Samantha. I can’t help myself. I burst out laughing and not the haha giggles but the undignified snorting, loud cackling laugh that makes everyone else in the room turn to look at me. When I compose myself enough to speak I say, “Samantha, sweetheart. Chicken McNuggets don’t come from baby chicks.”
“Yes they do,” she says adamantly, then takes her finger and makes the shape of a nugget. “See? The nugget comes right from the middle of the chick.”
The other two kids in my group all nod their heads in agreement and look at me as if I’m the dumb one who has no idea how nuggets are made. I think about telling them the truth but all I could see in my mind is the chicken nugget factory where the fluffy yellow baby chicks go in on a conveyor belt and come out as a fried fast food snack. “How do they get the nugget out of the chicken?”
Samantha shrugs. “A cookie cutter.”
“Ah,” I say. Should I have told them where nuggets really come from? Maybe. But they are seven and still very sweet and the image of a chicken nugget factory is almost sweet in a sick twisted kind of way.
This week I have a few questions for you. Have you ever been part of a book club? And do you really just talk about the book or do other topics arise?
Did you ever have a weird misconception when you were a kid, like Samantha? I used to think Spaghetti grew on trees in Italy. ( I used to imagine fields of beautiful spaghetti trees basking in the Tuscan sun.) I also used to think you caught chicken pox from eating chicken and that a monster would come out and eat all children that were awake past ten o’clock. (Thank you, mom, for that one!) So let me hear all your embarrassing, sweet, silly childlike thoughts. Or any thoughts you have at all. All are welcome.