"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.
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?
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