Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Visiting Relatives

It is late afternoon on Thanksgiving eve. The work day is ending and those casual questions begin. "What are you doing for the holiday tomorrow?" "You're staying home?" " Oh yeah, she's a vegetarian. She doesn't want to be around a dead turkey and all. " "But what about the pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes?" The conversation is safely deflected to my reasons for not eating dairy.

It is early morning Thanksgiving day. Above me, I hear the electronic beeping of my roommate's alarm clock. -- four beeps, then the snooze alarm This is the thirty minute warning. Time to hurry through breakfast and move to the computer room out of the way. Two more sets of beeps and it is no longer time for the snooze alarm.

The floor boards creak betraying movement upstairs. "Where's my sweater? I can't find my socks!" "Are you getting in the shower first?" Ten minutes of water running, then the chaos sweeps downstairs. "Oh there are my shoes. Do you have your aunt's address?" "Where are we going first?" His girlfriend replies, "My mom's having dinner early. We have to be at your parents' by 4:00 and at your aunt's for desert. We'll be a little late for her, but what can we do?" More suddenly than it started, they are gone with the slamming of the door.

That is my cue. I go upstairs and wake the boyfriend. "Aren't you supposed to be at dinner in half an hour? It's an hour drive away." He mumbles something about dinner always being late and disappears into the bathroom. I hear another ten minutes of running water. Within another ten, he's dressed and ready to run out the door. At the last minute he asks, "Are you sure you don't want to come?" I casually reply, "What would I eat? They even put milk in the mashed potatoes." After a quick hug and kiss, he is out the door.

Being Vegan is just my excuse-- it's a good defense for Thanksgiving, a holiday so centered around food. What I'm really dodging are those rough questions: Why don't we ever spend time with my family on holidays? Where are they? Why don't I ever talk about them? In truth, they are the ones who no longer talk to me.

It is late morning, on Thanksgiving Day. The chaos that just swept through my house has barely ended, and the silence is deafening. Harley looks up at me with his big brown dog eyes. I let him out and, while waiting for him, I let my mind slip to what a holiday with my family would be like. My mom would be deep frying a turkey. She told me about those weird little cookers one of the last times we spoke. My sister may even be in town right now with Jack and the boys. I'll never know. I'm actually not even sure how old my nephews are now. The image of zipping off as did Frank and Lisa to a flurry of family events is a pleasant but impossible fantasy. My family didn't "see the need" for me to bring boyfriends around to family events. An impending engagement hadn't changed that.

I let Harley in and begin cooking a vegan feast. This is my day to be experimental. There's no one around to disappoint if my experiment goes wrong. I have made it my vegan holiday even when I was ovolacto. It is my day to be harmless and thankful for this world. So, I always cooked vegan. I think I may just lose myself in these new, complicated recipes so I don't have time to think about how quiet the house is, or wonder where my mom's having dinner, or if Scott's parents are asking him where I am and what he might say.

When dinner is ready, it is a feast that would put any traditional dinner to shame. Barbecued tofu, onion gravy, sage stuffing, mashed potatoes, salad, cranberry sauce, corn, and tofu pumpkin pie. It needs to be shared. I fix Harley a plate, too. Then, why not give a little salad and stuffing to George? I always marvel at how much of what I eat can be shared with an iguana. A quiet dinner and those old black and white movies. There is no one around to laugh at me if I cry at the sad parts. I don't have to rush anywhere, dress in anything but my most comfortable ripped jeans, or live by anyone else's schedule.

It is late evening . I hear a car in the driveway. It is Scott. He rushes in with a burst of cold air to give me a chilly hug. He is bursting with stories to tell about his day with the family. I listen to the stories and a few complaints, realizing that my peace is broken. I hadn't noticed the silence until it was gone. I am even a little disappointed.

I made it through one more year -- at least until Christmas Eve when the questions begin again.

Hannah L.

- n e x t   e s s a y -


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