The boys’ school in Basel offers hot lunch. When we reviewed a sample menu, veal seemed to show up 2-3 times a week. Jessica is against veal: She says it is cruel, it tastes bad and the name offends her aesthetics. I don’t disagree except about the taste: Those thin little medallions are soft velvety loveliness. Blanketed in lemon butter or Marsala sauce, and, well, culinary perfection.
But I haven’t eaten veal since my youth because, well, people say the boxing and execution of those tiny baby cows is cruel. But I think signing the boys up for the lunch will help them assimilate into local culture, and, of course, get me off the hook from packing lunch every night. Jessica thinks that forcing our boys to confront a tray with hot veal and gravy (apparently with no alternatives) is cruel to both the children and the poor little cows.
But what if it is part of the local way of life, as it apparently is in Switzerland. Isn’t traveling about putting aside your usual approaches to life to embrace local customs? Is it rude to turn down something you wouldn’t normally encounter — say an ant-filled stomach sack of rotting river cat fish offered as a sign of friendship by an Amazonian tribe? Butchered dog in Hanoi as a host gesture of welcome? Veal for the boys to blend in with the lip-smacking pleasures of the other kids? If we reject veal so early on, are we resisting truly experiencing the culture?