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Thanksgiving vs vegan

My children have been pescetarian for a year and now they have both told me they are interested in going vegan. This has become very popular here on the Westcoast, particularly with teens who have watched  What the Health on Netflix. The more I try to encourage moderation and gently discuss how manipulative and incorrect the doc/propaganda flick is – the more passionate they become. They don’t want to create more work for me, but they’d love to explore this. I gently invite them to join us for turkey dinner this Thanksgiving for the cultural experience and tradition but I leave it up to them to decide. They say “thank you.” I am left to wonder.MV5BYWU3ZTk1ZDgtNTFlOC00MGRjLWFiZmQtYmI0Y2JjMmI5YTBkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI5MjI4MTc@._V1_UY268_CR12,0,182,268_AL_

I believe both of their other parents are on board with a vegan diet, my husband is not, and of course my family doctor is adamantly against teens risking their health by avoiding all meat products. What the Health doesn’t tell their audience that B12 is only found naturally in meat products. It doesn’t tell us that iron and protein and calcium are easiest to digest through meat. It doesn’t warn that each body will absorb nutrients from plants, legumes and supplements differently. It also says nothing about the risk of pregnant women, pubescents and menopausal women making a drastic elimination of a major food source.

What the Health errors

an article about the virtues of eating meat

In the end, only blood will tell. So, I order blood tests. Until we have some medical proof of what is happening, I will endeavour to out vegan the heartiest vegans for the next six months, then take a blood test again and see if there is a negative result. Despite the fact I don’t agree with veganism and despite the fact this imposes greatly on my own diet, time, and lifestyle, I want to support my children’s quest for health and I respect their compassion for animals and their love for the environment. I won’t assume that I am right. I will let the blood tests tell us all what they will. Easy to write. Hard to do.

“How is that going?” You may ask. Vegan food takes three times as long to prepare. “But you’re such a good cook, Lucia”. Well yes, I pride myself on my skills and now I cannot use 90% of my knowledge. “Food is your love language”. Yes, yes it is. It’s what I thought I did best as a Mom. Now my love is expressed through the blandness of quinoa. Also don’t ask me about how I feel regarding children taking supplements instead of fresh food. Vegan is not as hard if you decide to eat out of cans and bags and buy bizarre soy products formed to look like meat. I know that soy does disastrous things to hormone levels, not to mention what the soy crops are doing to the environment and that it’s almost entirely GMO. I know that nutrients disappear the very moment a vegetable is chopped, let alone stored for days in a plastic bin at Whole Foods – Oooooh so good for the environment.. No. If I am going vegan, I’m going to do it right. I have a huge garden, I make my own bread, I do my own preserves, I sprout my own beans, I press my own almond milk and I soak my own legumes.IMG_5212

For weekday meal planning I decide to do the Thrive Diet, devised by the guy who started Vega. It promises to balance all the necessary nutrients and uses fresh or whole dried ingredients only. Okay. I head to Famous Foods and purchase witchy brew things like nutritional yeast, hemp protein and purple sea weed called dulse. It only costs me $10,000.00

Tonight I am going to prepare lunches, snacks and breakfast for tomorrow so I can focus on Thanksgiving dinner later. I’ve given myself two hours to do so, that should be just fine. I am going to ace this!

Lunch first: greens with tahini dressing over popped amaranth. Sounds…edible. Amaranth is a very small grain, I discover. This is not like popping corn. I’m supposed to melt coconut oil in a pan on medium heat and put a thin layer of amaranth on top and shake the pan covered until it’s all popped, scrape off that layer with a spatula and then do another round. I feel dismay. The recipe calls for a cup of this stuff and I’m telling you, it’s going to take me five hours just to spatula scrape that much. But I try anyway. The amaranth starts to pop. It’s about the size of a fly turd. Before a third of it is done, despite my best efforts, the rest of it burns. I try again. Another spectacular fail. I ask my Fellow to try because he is the popcorn king. Another disaster. F this. So, I try the alternate suggestion of cooking it “like rice”. This results in a grainy glue. Great. I slop it into the salad containers and cover it with greens.

The tahini dressing is so bitter I continue to add agave nectar until it might as well be a peanut butter cookie. I drizzle this scrumptious baby poo over the kale bits and shove it in the fridge. Okay, lunch is done.IMG_5213

Next is prepping the blueberry chocolate granola bars. I opt for strawberries instead, catching the tail end of their second crop. I believe in eating things in season. As I read the ingredients list on the recipe I notice there is no call for chocolate despite the title. Well, that’s false advertising! I guess it’s this spoof stuff called carob powder instead. I feel sorry for tricking the kids. I reach for my carob powder and realize that when I asked Nora to fetch it, she grabbed carrot powder. By this time it is 10pm so I say to myself, “what the health.” The blueberry chocolate bars are now strawberry carrot date and seed paste clumps (which remind me of bear offal). I roll them into balls and shove them in the fridge to harden.  To be honest, they don’t taste that bad.

That night I have a vegan nightmare. I dream that as I am carving the perfect Turkey at Thanksgiving, my son brings a plate of soy bologna to the table. True.

The next morning I get up before everyone else to prep the wild rice yam pancakes for breakfast. There are a million ingredients including sprouted barley flakes and hemp hearts. Lord save me. Try as I might, these are also a culinary disappointment. Grilling these flapjacks is like grilling a pool of vomit. There is no pleasing coagulation, they stick to the pan and don’t firm up. It’s an aesthetic assault. I try baking them on parchment. No good. By this time my boy has to leave for school so he grabs his salad and a bagel and cream cheese and heads out the door. I do not remind him that the cream cheese is not vegan. Instead, I call after him, “Did you grab your balls?” At least this results in a chuckle. I add, “you can have two balls if that’s your preference.”IMG_5210

For the poor suckers left behind, I scrape the pancake goop into bowls and call it vegan porridge. My husband offers grace, “Thank you, Lord, for my wife who is doing her best to cook vegan as a sign of love for her children, despite the fact it takes a very long time and is causing her much frustration and causing me a bit of gastrointestinal discomfort.” My daughter (who hates porridge) swallows it solemnly and then offers some kind encouragement, “I really appreciate you trying Mom. It has a nice flavour and it only made me gag at the end.”

As everyone leaves the house I am stuck with a kitchen full of peelings and appliances covered in mysterious beige slop. My husband peeks his head through before he closes the front door, “I’d like to have an early dinner because I want to leave the house by 8pm.”

“I’m making Thanksgiving turkey tonight…”

“Yeah, I know…?”

“Okay…I’ll have it ready for 6pm.”

I am left with an empty house and a big dinner to prepare for a rushed ingestion. Why am I freaking bothering?! The vegan nightmare floats into my mind again. I can see that slimy pile of pale soy bologna, mocking me. “Why go through all the trouble of making turkey dinner if nobody is going to eat it?” I don’t know. I only know that I refuse to give up years and years of tradition. I refuse to put a slab of shit on a plate instead of a free rang organic bird stuffed with chestnuts and sausage, slathered in gravy, with all the scrumptious colourful beautifully textured vegetables and potatoes and rolls. My pumpkin pie will be topped with whip cream.

Something always has to die for something else to live. This is the truth, people. This turkey had a great life. This turkey had a better life than a wild turkey. This turkey met a more compassionate end than a turkey killed by a fox, that is for damn sure. This turkey never went hungry, unlike 826,000,000 people in the world.

I roast my chestnuts, pumpkins, garlic, onions and sweet potatoes to perfection. I know how this is done. I start my bread and it rises warm and wholesome like a woman’s precious pregnant belly.  I smooth melted butter and herbs over the bird and whisper, “Thank you. Thank you for feeding us well.” I think of the fellows I bought this bird from at the Banana Hut. They serve non-medicated organic free range meat and dinners on Commercial Drive. It’s a son and father operation. “Happy bird happy human.” I agree.IMG_5214

This is the way to live. Moderate. Wholesome. Kind. This is how I was raised. It isn’t just a recipe. This is family. The turkey farmed and slaughtered by my uncle Ed, gramma Bunny would make the pie, Mom would get me to mash the potatoes while she snapped the beans, Auntie Connie would stir the gravy over the stove top…the sage, the butter, the thyme…these flavours came all the way over on the May Flower with my ancestors…yes…my ancestors were on it…quaking.

I know all the recipes by heart. When did i become the grand matron of the kitchen who doesn’t use a recipe book to make pumpkin pie or chestnut sausage stuffing or dinner rolls? This year I roast a garlic and an onion and throw it into the sweet potato and yam puree, topped with roasted pecans and maple.I wipe my apron. Everything is turning out perfectly and on time.

The kids come home from school. One hasn’t eaten the vegan lunch because it was pizza today at school…the other has left the sludgy amaranth entirely alone and I entirely don’t blame him.

 

I have called up a few more people to join us for Thanksgiving, dear friends who happen to be in town and happen to be free.  They also happen to not mind that the kids will eat dinner on the sofa because there is only room for four at the table.

 

I have to admit, this is the best Thanksgiving dinner I have put together. Everything turns out perfectly. The turkey is tender, my Fellow makes a lovely gravy, my green salad is topped with pomegranates and pear. The best part is all the children have a little bit of everything. When I notice the tiny bit of turkey on their plates, the fact that this year they have decided to honour this family tradition, it brings tears to my eyes. Of course I say nothing.

 

After a lively conversation and a great time had my all, I drive our guests home then start in on the soapy warmth of dishes.IMG_5217

I think of the conversation we had last night with the kids, talking through our goals for the year and our frustrations and our hopes and suggestions for our family. There was a big focus on the importance of spending time with friends on the weekends…in Vancouver…instead of on Bowen island…this paradise we are trying to make for them…for us…and I guess that is what parenting is all about. We present our idea of home and our traditions and they will pick and choose what they want to continue with or not. We give gifts and not all of them are taken and this sorting out of what to continue and what to end is a necessary part of their growing up. Wasn’t I the same at this age? Yes. Except I ate everything on my plate.

Whatever they decide to choose for their life, I feel fairly confident they will end up living moderate, wholesome and kind.

 

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4 comments

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  1. Alison

    Oh my, you are such a good mom!

    I had a friend who was a staunch vegetarian and told her kids they were allowed to eat meat once they turned 14, but not a day before. As far as I know, all 3 became happy carnivores as soon as they left the fold. Which is only to say that kids will always pendulum-swing away from you and then (probably) make their way back towards you eventually. Or so says the happily childless observer. Good luck with the ethical/fussy eaters.

    1. Lucia Frangione

      Ooh that poor Mom with dead animals in the fridge …! I feel for her! Thanks Alison, we do our best…give or take some amaranth!

  2. Ren Lunicke

    I am thinking a lot about these family traditions. We all give and take differently and you no doubt picked a few traditions to take and leave behind from the generations before you. No doubt some ancestor could argue with you about the perfection of your replication. I’m chuffed when people say “this” group or “that” group have single-handedly re-defined family-life. Everyone’s been doing it all along. Every single generation.

    As for the food grumbles, I have been mostly vegan for a very very long time and I have NEVER popped amaranth. I also had a family that didn’t appreciate my diet preferences and perhaps that’s what got me cooking for myself. Years later, I eventually adapted a few family recipes to my own liking. My dutch-english mother made this breakfast dish “dutch-babies” which sounds like a dutch “Modest Proposal” but is actually more like a french statement against veganism. Butter, milk, eggs, cheese, oh, and that gluten I’m now allergic to. I recently adapted it successfully, driven by those years when she lovingly made it for me the way her mother did for her. It had been over 10 years since I had it. I believe you when you say your skills don’t feel applicable, but food is a memory that lasts and will stay with them however it changes.

    I wish I could bring your family into my kitchen so it didn’t feel quite so difficult and hostile and unsatisfying. If you are ever in Northland, NZ the invitation remains open.

    Ultimately it’s true what you say “something has to die for something else to live.” After all, ancestors also die to make space for the next generation.

    If your children deepen their feelings of identification with animals, they may realize at some point that plants also have feelings and intrinsic life. Then it becomes impossible to escape without compromising a “no harm” approach. I, personally, am not a plant-focused eater to be morally superior to anyone. I am not outrageously more ethical because of my diet. There are even days and weeks where I’m sure I’m not healthier either. I am responsible for my diet’s impact on me and the world the same way as anyone else. I participate and make choices I can be at peace with, and I know others find peace with theirs. This might be a different moderate view.

    All of us must live with our conscience, and a conscience is worth defending and defining for oneself. If it’s not self-defined, it’s not actually a conscience at all.

    I wish you well on your journey. I’m amused that so many parents who stepped outside the box of expectations are surprised when their children do the same. You’re handling it better than my parents did, and I’m warmed that your children are honouring your efforts as you are honouring them.

    1. Lucia Frangione

      Ah Ren, I do adore you. This is beautifully written, thank you for taking the time to bless me with your thoughts. I particularly am moved by “All of us must live with our conscience, and a conscience is worth defending and defining for oneself. If it’s not self-defined, it’s not actually a conscience at all.” Love to you and your Dutch babies!

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