Two years ago, my husband and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary with a trip to the California Wine Country. The details around this trip make a good story in and of themselves, but that is not the focus now. We had three or four days of doing what we wanted, talking without being interrupted, and eating a lot of food and drinking a fair share of wine.
On the weekend that we were in California, my dad and step mother were visiting my step brother and his wife. We were texting back and forth with him when he sends a random text. I wish I could remember the exact words, or had access to it. But that phone fell into a toilet at the Portland airport last year and all evidence is gone.
The gist of the random text indicated that my step brother and his wife were now vegan. Now, I’ll admit that I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but I had heard of it, and after living the last 15 years in the Midwest, it was definitely off the grid. I had been cautioning them to take very good care of themselves because they have accumulated five or six or twenty cats, which is weird enough. But if one of them died, that would leave the other one living alone with all those cats and that might be cause for an intervention.
Anyway, we were lazing away the afternoon at a quaint little restaurant eating squid and drinking wine. I think we were about to order a side of burger with cheese soup. Well, maybe we weren’t but we could have been. We were texting back and forth asking questions, shaking our heads, and enjoying a good laugh out of this. I hadn’t yet sharpened my awareness to pay attention when I start having smug thoughts and getting laughs out of situations like this.
No animals or animal products. I kept asking questions and my dad would answer, appearing uncharacteristically patient. I now know they were trying to absorb the change also. My stepmother and stepbrother are private people. They process things inwardly and give information on a limited need to know basis. My dad and I talk out loud as we process. My stepbrother dated a girl for about 7 years and one day, while visiting home, he is showing me pictures from a recent trip to Guatemala. There are many pictures of a woman, whom appears to be more than a friend. I asked him if Amy had seen these pictures and he said No. I asked what she would think of them and he said he didn’t know. He left and I asked my stepmother about it and she said they broke up. WHAT?!?!?!?
So, this is how we are introduced to major changes in his life. Like becoming a Vegan. Over the past few years, they have lived about three hours from us and they visit whenever my parents visit so they can get a free meal at a nice restaurant so we can enjoy quality family time. My stepbrother has always been a foodie and would eat anything. He introduced us to many restaurants in our town and foods like Kobe beef and carpaccio and sushi and whatever that raw fish that supposedly cooks with lime juice is called.
So the vegan thing was kind of a big deal.
It became a bigger deal the next month when we were planning their Christmas visit and Christmas dinner. My parents come from Mississippi and they drive up from Iowa. My husband and I cook the meals, and try to cater to everyone’s schedules and particularities. This usually comes within a week or two of Thanksgiving, in which we also host my husband’s entire family. We had the youngest kids and very busy lives. I am tired thinking about it.
I was attempting to explain some of this to my aforementioned father, whose lesser qualities include, but are not limited to, impatience and conflict avoidance. Trying to explain that planning for this one meal would take up the better part of two holiday season weeks prompted him to say, “Then we won’t come.”
Not exactly the understanding and help I was looking for. Of course I wanted them to come, so I said of course I could do this and would never want them to cancel.
I put my all into the Christmas dinner. I didn’t cook using butter or put cheese in the salad. No animal secretions. I bought horseradish hummus from Trader Joe’s and found avocados in December and made guacamole. I didn’t cook in chicken broth and I bought a nut based sour cream. I made a salad with a million veggies, roasted portobella mushrooms, had spinach, asparagus, and potatoes without butter. My step brother brought a delicious squash soup.
And my husband made his famous prime rib. You can only get this meat during the holiday season and it has long been a family favorite. He is a chef by trade and meats are his specialty. There was just a little glitch. Everything was ready before the prime rib. So we ate the soup and salad, and saved the veggies to go with the prime rib.
You see what’s coming. After the appetizers and the soup and salad, we were full. Steve had worked so hard and loved doing this for everyone. It was hard to watch. My dad and my stepmother and I all had some of his prime rib, but not because we wanted it. We wanted to honor his effort and his skills and his gift.
But the vegan Christmas dinner was one of the best holiday dinners I have ever had. Yes, it was a lot of work. And I was overwhlemed which made me look crabby about it at first. I felt so good, like my body had just been tended to with such love and care. I didn’t feel full or yucky.
I felt like I had to keep this to myself. For starters, I didn’t want to eat crow pie with a side of apology. And I didn’t want to hurt my husband’s feelings. And it was a lot of work.
I have wanted to make changes for myself and my family in the food arena for awhile. It is very, very hard. It is hard to incorporate children whose favorite foods are neutral colored and a meat and potatoes Midwestern husband. I honestly have no idea how to do it. When I try to make something healthy for myself, I often make something else for them, served with a side of resentment. Cue the ones who will say don’t make something else for them, they can eat what is served or not eat at all. I have one child who is on a medication that suppresses his appetite all day, and has to eat his days worth of calories between 4 and 8 pm. And of course they wont starve if they miss a meal, but I WILL go crazy listening to the moanings and cryings of hungry children for hours.
I have tried really hard the last week with cooking for everyone. After somewhat of a flop Wednesday night, my husband was sick of my food recognized my frustrations and offered to cook chicken parmigiana for dinner Thursday night. Yes, he can move effortlessly through the kitchen with a meat and frozen veggie and pasta. But the chicken parm is special. We picked the last of our tomatoes and he made a homemade tomato sauce that was to die for.
Reading about Lindsey’s cleanse yesterday was intriguing, especially the part about how much better she felt. It was on my mind all day yesterday. As I ate my chicken parm dinner last night, I realized the only thing I could have had if I were to do this cleanse was the tomato sauce and the broccoli (if he would have held the butter). As I watched my children eat their chicken without sauce and their white pasta and white bread melted with mozzarella (and their broccoli, Yea!), I worried about them and felt guilty for them eating this way. At the same time I worry, sometimes when I fix something different, I make a side of pasta just so they will eat something. Ugh!
I am struggling with wrapping this post up in a neat little package. I have no answer, just musings and questions, and trying to share a part of my journey.
I am running to the store to get ingredients for this sweet potato, kale, and black bean salad. And maybe some frozen chicken nuggets for the kids. Sigh.