Illustration by Jan Igoe
When I think of those gentle folk who dine exclusively on plants, I picture delicate woodland nymphs whispering to the ferns and spreading peace to all living creatures. What I don’t picture is Chuck’s sister: Mollie, the vegan vigilante.
As a recovering omnivore born into a family of bacon addicts, Mollie somehow survived 50 cheeseburger-filled years before realizing the error of her ways. Now, she’s on a mission to tofu-tize everyone she knows, starting with her big brother.
My neighbor is a fairly adventurous guy. Chuck has been on safari, fished for sharks from a kayak, fought a war and tried pole dancing in his wife’s yoga pants. The more likely something is to maim him, the more likely he is to participate. But all that went out the window when Mollie came over to cook his birthday dinner. While it’s customary to serve the birthday boy’s favorite dish, Mollie whipped up her meatless rendition. She didn’t think Chuck would notice.
First, she offered a gift to distract him. It was a lovely, illustrated children’s book: Santa’s First Vegan Christmas. (I guess Santa didn’t get that hefty on lentils.)
We all wondered where Santa went wrong, since he never ate a reindeer and you can’t pull a sled with broccoli. But Chuck knew better than to ask and seemed grateful he didn’t get socks.
For appetizers, Mollie served a cauliflower-ginger-peanut concoction that was supposed to look like spicy chicken wings. But, trust me, Danny DeVito could pass for George Clooney before this stuff would pass as wings. Chuck didn’t object, but his hand kept disappearing under the table, where the dog was choking.
The next course was chickpeas masquerading as turkey. I like chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, but it’s important to accept them for what they are, which is not poultry. Vegans must get confused by the “chick” part and totally ignore the “pea.”
Chuck was nibbling every forkful in slow motion, like he was hoping the world would be merciful enough to end before dessert hit the table. But it wasn’t. A black-bean, faux-chocolate cake with avocado frosting was coming for him.
That’s when Mollie proudly popped the question: “Did you know this dinner was meatless? Nothing on your plates had a face or a mother.”
Everybody managed a rigid smile and nod, because we feared the truth might incite a sermon.
It’s funny. All of us like salads. We’ve all cut way back on meat and have nothing against garbanzos or any vegetable that died for our dinner. But why do they have to wear disguises and have secret identities, like they’re in witness protection? You don’t see Chuck dressing a pork chop up as an asparagus spear. Let’s stick those naked veggies on a plate and admit what they are. If you like tofu, eat tofu. Just stop telling me it’s turkey.
As much as I admire the vegan quest to make this a kinder, gentler planet, dessert should be off limits. Chocolate is a deal breaker. It’s sacred and stands alone among guilty pleasures. Chocolate has the natural power to make you lick your fingers and sneak them in the frosting when nobody’s looking. It would be wrong to mess with that.
Assuming we can agree to keep the avocados in the salad, vegans and omnivores can peacefully coexist, even on birthdays. Just let us have our cake. And let Santa eat it, too.
Jan A. Igoe is as close to vegan as pizza allows. Enlightened daily by her vegan daughter, she’s inching closer every day. Only butter and cheese stand in the way. Write her at HumorMe@SCLiving.coop.