Last day of May. The stories will return in 2023, but I’ll continue posting every day, Lord willin’ and the crick don’t rise. Tuesdays are food days, which is why my Tuesday stories are generally food-related.
Like this one.
Oh, I started the story by grabbing a book at random, pointing at a page with my eyes closed, and using the words I was touching.
Good and Sick
by Marian Allen
I tried to get my parents to read Barbara J. King’s PERSONALITIES ON THE PLATE or Roanne Van Voorst’s ONCE UPON A TIME WE ATE ANIMALS, but neither one of them would.
Mom said, “Oh, Johnny, it’s just too sad,” and Dad said, “Like I always say, son: What I don’t know won’t hurt me.”
We couldn’t have a meal without animal products in it. Lucky for me, Mom grew up eating margarine, not butter, so I could fill up on what she called side dishes. I kept pointing out that I was eating the same things they were except for the milk, eggs, and meat, but it just irritated them. Dad and I were pretty much irritated with each other all the time, anyway, but I was making it worse.
He said, “Johnny, will you cut it out? Okay, you’re vegetarian.”
“Vegan,” I corrected, watching his face get redder, like I’d lit a fire under his skin.
“Vegan,” he snarled. “Your mom and I are good and sick of it. If you want to pick at your food, go ahead and pick at your food. But your mother worries.”
That night at dinner, I explained how vegetables have protein, and nuts and stuff like chickpeas (we all ate hummus like it was peanut butter), and the soy milk Dad drank because he’s lactose intolerant, and everything.
Dad said, “Will you just put a lid on it?” but Mom looked relieved.
I bought a book out of the used book bin at the comics/Mana/graphic novel/gaming store, THE TEEN’S VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK by Judy Krizmanic. I figured that would be less scary to the old folks than a vegan cookbook, although I didn’t plan to use it. It was just a prop.
I took it to the table at breakfast.
“Since when do you cook?” Dan asked.
“I just thought I might make supper tonight. Let you eat something different. Let Mom take the night off. I’ll even do the dishes.”
They looked at each other.
Dad said, “No meat?”
“Just this once,” I said. “If you’re still hungry after, you can have a ham sandwich or something.”
He was okay with that, once Mom patted his hand and said, “Oh, let’s try it! It’ll be an adventure!”
Like I said, I didn’t use the cookbook (although, I saw once I looked at it, it was a dynamite cookbook). I raided the refrigerator.
It was summer, and Mom’s a farmer’s market shopper, so I pulled out some cherry tomatoes, kale, green beans, and green onions. I found some sliced green olives left over from some kind of cream cheese spread Mom made when her book club came over. In the pantry, I found some shelf-stable gnocci Mom got once and never opened, some tomato paste, and some red cooking wine (alcohol content pretty much zero).
I cooked the veg in a skillet while I boiled the gnocci, which took about five minutes, then added the gnocci, a little gnocci water, the tomato paste, and a little cooking wine to the veg. I almost forgot to season it, but I remembered Mom bought some Italian herb mix from the little kid next door when his elementary school did a fundraiser, so I blapped some of that in along with some salt and pepper.
“Oh, my,” Mom said when I seated her and Dad at the table like I was a waiter.
Dad kind of gave it the side-eye. “Whaddya call this slop?”
Mom play-slapped his arm and whispered, “Billy!”
“I call it Italian Stir-Fry,” I said, since they love Italian food and Chinese food.
Dan grunted like they do in the Sunday comics, like, “Harumph.”
But they ate it. Dad gave a shame-faced kind of halfway smile when he took seconds.
“That wasn’t half bad,” he said when he pushed his plate away.
“Oh, honey,” Mom said to me, “it was delicious!”
“So, how about it, Dad? Want a ham sandwich to top it off?”
He patted his fat belly. “Maybe later,” he said. “I’m kinda stuffed.”
He didn’t have a ham sandwich later. He forgot all about it.
Over popcorn and reruns of Stranger Things, he said, between episodes, of course, “Now how about you shut up about how you eat and how we eat?”
“Sure,” I said. “How about you eat my cooking one night a week?”
“Not every week. I can make lots of different things.”
At the end of the next episode, he said, “Deal. About the cooking. If it’s okay with your mother.”
She nodded. “I liked being a lady of leisure tonight.”
I figure once a week is better than tension every night, so I call that a win.
MY PROMPTS TODAY: The words “good and sick” and animal behaviorist Barbara J. King’s article on NPR, on flexitarianism, “When More Vegan Meals Are The Goal, What Is The Strategy?”.