“I saw that Mom. Not cool.”
“Keep your mouth shut kid.”
“How long has this been going on Mom? How long have we been living this lie?”
Number 1 son inherited my flair for the dramatic. I’m proud of it until that head full of crazy is aimed at me. In retaliation, I got all up in his grill, waggling a finger and replied, “If you want to live kid, you will make sure this lie remains in tact. Got it?”
He nodded, bidding a hasty retreat to his pre-teen man-cave while I buried the empty bag reading, “Chicken-less Chicken,” deep in the bottom of the trash.
I’ve danced across the vegetarian line for the majority of my life. My first run at the plant-based life was somewhere around age 8 but as the daughter of a cattle farmer that didn’t go over well. By college I was all in and I have stepped on and off the wagon every since. My main reason has always been that I’m just not a big fan of meat. Unfortunately, my family is…or was.
When we lived in Turkey we seldom ate meat because it was ridiculously pricey and we were ridiculously poor. I learned the magic of legumes from the old Turkish ladies and we didn’t miss it. We kept eating that way for years after we repatriated but as things got busier more meat began creeping into our meals because it was easy. Then…we got old and fat.
In the last few years, my husband, The Turk and I have both entered the geriatric segment of our 40s. These are the years when everything suddenly goes to hell at breakneck speed. While I’ve suffered ass-fattening and random joint crap, he’s developed the man-gut and cholesterol issues. It was time to Nancy Drew my way to nutritional wisdom and turn everything around with food. (Because I’m that kind of hippie.)
“Maybe we should do the Mediterranean Diet. It’s supposed to lower cholesterol.”
“Honey, I am Mediterranean. I am doing Mediterranean Diet all my life. If it was working, then I am not having genetically high cholesterol.”
Touché Turk. So I looked elsewhere. I read the China Study and that led to a series of other books and documentaries that touted the benefits of a plant-based diet. This was perfect. I love plants and we eat more legumes than normal people already. And, if the data were correct, this could allow me to live well beyond 100 so that I may burden my children and cause uproar with their spouses. Perfection.
“Family, we’re going plant-based.”
“No meat?” Number 1 asked.
“No meat, no dairy.”
“No cheethburgerth?” Nugget worried.
“We can have veggie burgers with soy cheese though.” I pasted on a huge grin hoping to sell the six year-old on my ridiculousness.
He crossed his arms, “That ith ridiculouth.”
Number 1 chimed in, “Why are you doing this? Do you hate us?”
“I’m fat and Baba’s old. We have to fix this.”
“So…you and Baba eat plants and we stick with burgers.” Number 1 struck a pose of defiance, “I am growing. I need meat to survive.”
“Me too.” Nugget yelled in solidarity.
“Fine.” I gave up…or so they thought. Instead I decided I would veggify my family against their knowledge. I replaced their meatballs with lentil balls, their ground beef with textured vegetable protein and their chicken with “chicken-less chicken.” And it worked too for a long time.
“Honey, have you felt different lately? Maybe less tired.” I asked.
The Turk wrinkled his forehead, “Actually, yes. I am not drinking coffee all the time. Not tired after lunch. Why? What you do to me?”
“Nothing….nothing at all, just wondering.”
Just when I got the Turk’s cholesterol on the down swing I was exposed.
They found my chickenless chicken, which led to a deeper dig revealing my meatless balls. Another case of spying exposed “tuna-less tuna salad” made with chickpeas. The rouse was up.
Fortunately, when I spun the whole plant-eating thing as a move towards saving the planet, the kids agreed to stay the course. However, a trip to IKEA nearly brought my demise.
“Mom, since we’re out, can I have the meatballs for lunch?” Number 1 asked. Part of the deal was to relinquish my meat rules for the kids when away from home.
I felt cold sweat streaming down my cleavage. This was it. I was going to lose him. His expectations had been humbled due to months void of meat and though I’m a huge fan of lentils, there is no way in hell they compare to actual meat. The IKEA menu offered lentil balls too. I could just say, “No. Don’t kill our world. Eat the meatless balls!” and guilt him but he’s old now and a man of almost 12 should make his own decisions.
I shuddered as he stepped off the wagon. There would be no way to get him back on but I relented. “Ok.”
His fork lingered over the plate as he prepared for greatness. “These are going to be amazing.”
I avoided eye contact, returning to my own meatless balls as he devoured his plate of IKEA balls with a side of lingonberry jam (PS – I feel like a lingonberry is something made up by IKEA.)
When he was done I awaited his proclamation to return to the carnivorous life from henceforth, “Well?”
He shrugged, “Meh.”
My hopes rose, “What?”
“Not that great. Don’t take this the wrong way Mom, but I like your meatless balls better.”
Horns sounded. Confetti fell and I took a victory lap through the storage showroom. (Ok not really but in my head…)
The lesson learned here is that if you scheme and manipulate your family for their own benefit, it will work. Even if they don’t want it to because, obviously, mother knows best.