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Currently showing: Food security > Diet/alternatives

10 Dec 13 13:41

"Well it doesn't make sense to have Thanksgiving dinner without the turkey so I just won't cook."

Her arms were akimbo, standing in the middle of the kitchen. Lips pursed. Eyes meeting mine.

Mirror images.

Here was my mom, irritated and aghast, yet again, at my culinary transgression - vegetarianism. I'd had an off and on relationship with cooked animal carcass during my childhood, but had slowly shunned red meat, then white meat, then seafood from my diet as an adult.

"And I don't know what to cook for you anyway. You've always been just plain..."

Squeamish. A full-blooded US Southern woman squeamish about meat.

Yes. We exist.

Ribs swimming in dad's secret barbecue sauce, grilled T-bone steaks, crispy bacon with savory drippings, and of course, turkey basted in succulent juice - these are some of the South's favorite things. So to forego the meaty blessings of the table is - to some perhaps - equal to turning your back on something that goes deeper than cuisine. Could Thanksgiving dinner be Thanksgiving dinner without the turkey?



"Moooooom, yes."

"Child, please."

It was standoff, one that I couldn't wrap my arms around (too weak from not eating meat, you know... I kid, I kid). We all know the benefits of cutting down on meat consumption, both for our bodies and our planet. We've read the research and listened to the news reports.

We're intelligent enough to know better, right?

But here was this 78-year-old woman in her kitchen looking at a woman that she knew she'd given birth to 43 years ago.

Who didn't eat meat.

Who had left the town.

Who had left the state.

Who had left the country.

Who sometimes spoke a language that she didn't understand.

Who had left her culture.

Who was this woman?

She was someone who, perhaps, needed to put the benefits of not eating meat to the side.

Who, perhaps, needed to give this 78-year-old-woman a chance to get to know her daughter again, to see the (hopefully) intelligent, beautiful woman that she'd developed into, without having to drown out her shrill barkings about the dangers of animal flesh.

Who, maybe, just maybe, needed to give her mother the chance to cook that very special dinner she'd perfected over the years.

For just one day.

I woke up on 28 November around 10am (late-night TV will get you every time) to the sound of shuffling house shoes and clanging pans. And the hum of the oven.

With the turkey inside.

Mom made a batch of her famous dressing and four sweet potato pies. I contributed steamed kale with red onions and garlic.

And we ate. Mom had her fill of turkey. I took a couple of bites.

And we gave thanks.

There's a time to be political and stand your ground. But there's also a time when someone you love needs not a speech on a special day, but a small signal that when you left your country, you didn't leave your culture behind.

P.S. In the pic...the meat is under the jellied cranberry jiggly thingy.

Category: Food security: Diet/alternatives, Other


Jennifer Rodney - 16 Dec 2013, 1:03 p.m.

Rashunda, thanks so much for sharing your holiday experience in such a beautiful way. I think the point you make is an important one. For all the issues we are exploring here on Open Minds - from moving towards more sustainable energy sources to figuring out how to support an ageing population to feeding the world in a more efficient manor, there is never any one single fix-all solution. An important part of moving forward on these topics is finding a way to do so together. I think the "my way or the high way" approach can be divisive. We have to be willing to meet people where they are, to understand their situations and perspectives. I believe doing so can be empowering and lead to collaborative, grounded solutions. But food especially is a sensitive issue and getting to common ground across culture and generations can take time. Hopefully finding a way to honor the culinary heritage you grew up with this Thanksgiving has given your mom a chance to realize that vegetarianism isn't such a scary thing!

Rashunda Tramble - 17 Dec 2013, 2:56 p.m.

Thanks Jennifer. I had to exercise my mindfulness muscle I guess. It's easy to preachy, but when it gets down to it, you're right: we have to be willing to meet people where they are. And who knows, we may even find out we're wrong (*Rash shudders*):-)).

Alicia Montoya - 8 Jan 2014, 10:29 a.m.

Oh, I hear ya! When I went vegan for 9 months a couple of years ago and visited my parents, it wasn't that my folks (who are both Spanish) didn't understand (they didn't. At all! But that was expected as even salads in Spain have tuna!). I was surprised that they seemed to feel... threatened.

It's odd as my folks have traveled wide and lived outside of Spain for decades. However, food is as Jennifer says, especially sensitive. It carries our culture, our values, our motherland and reaches us on such a deep, instinctive level...

I find it easy to talk with people about using less energy or buying less packaging or traveling more sustainably... But when you go near food, watch the teeth and nails come out of even the meekest of your friends, family or colleagues!

It's true that food IS such a big part of our culture. Thing is, for me my culture is the world! The coolest thing about going vegan was discovering Indian, Persian, Lebanese and other types of cooking that will knock your socks off with their explosion of flavors, colors and spices, all without a gram of animal products in them! Having eaten meat with every meal before going vegan, I swear I didn't miss meat once!

So my folks and I did meet in the middle. I took them to a couple of veg-friendly places and they took me to a place where they do the best roast goat in Spain. And I ate with them. And they ate with me. Sometimes you gotta be less strict and share food with people, no matter what it is!

Rashunda Tramble - 8 Jan 2014, 12:23 p.m.

Roasted goat? You win.:-)

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