I’ll be a vegan for Thanksgiving: Food, memories, and grieving the loss of taste

I am someone who loves to eat. I come from Polish/German cattle farmers who made at least three kinds of meat for breakfast (I am not exaggerating). In a past life, even though I have lived with food allergies for years, it would have been nothing for me to eat an entire package of Hagen Daaz for dinner (with extra syrup and sprinkles), followed by a late-night run for a “fourth meal” at Taco Bell. And when I was pregnant… Oh the glory of so much (nearly) uninhibited eating! It was a fertile celebration of abundance — in my belly!

But these days I am in something of a food desert. And no, it’s nothing like tasty dessert.

Regular readers know that I became a vegan earlier this year, because of health reasons. It was an accident, I assure you. But like most accidents, it couldn’t be avoided. The time had come, it seems, to pay the piper for all those years of hard eating. (Oh dark-chocolate Twix, what have you done to me?!)

And now, some eight months later, the winter holidays — and all the glorious, delicious foods they bring — are waltzing through the calendar. In fact, this year I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner for family visiting from out-of-town. Oh, the irony!

But the thing is, since I am not a vegan for the love of being a vegan, I can’t stomach the idea (no pun intended) of putting my loved ones through a very vegan Thanksgiving. So, I’m going to make turkey and some trimmings — with some vegan stuff on the side. Is that crazy? Probably. Is it going to be more pleasant for everyone? Definitely.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve found some vegan recipes I like. And it’s not like I hate being vegan. You can have many delicious, tasty foods that are vegan. In fact, I regularly stop by Whole Foods for their vegan chocolate chip cookies. (I put out a bowl of them instead of birthday cake at my party this year. Nobody even knew they were vegan until I told them!) So, it can be done.

But unfortunately, for me I have several food allergies ON TOP OF being vegan because of health issues. I’m allergic to many common vegan ingredients, including soy and nuts. (I eat a lot of beans.) So, sometimes I just get mad that my body is so dysfunctional that even now that I’ve left my bad eating ways behind and live a healthy lifestyle… the world of food is still woefully lost to me.

I suppose there is some kind of Buddhist lesson in all this; it is our attachment to things that bring us sorrow. But even Buddha, who nearly starved himself to death in the beginning of his journey to enlightenment, eventually had an epiphany that moderation was a better path. I am not starving. And I know that eventually I will be better equipped with better recipes, when it comes to the holidays.

But part of me is just sad. I miss the carefree, savory delights of a life unrestricted. I miss delicious.

Yes, I know this is a very First World problem. In fact, there are people right here in the Las Vegas valley who are going to go hungry this Thanksgiving. And I am not trying to be the jerk who turns a blind eye to that plight. (I encourage everyone who is able to donate to a food program to end hunger!)

But I am also human. So this year I grieve the losses: Pumpkin pie with whipped cream, mashed potatoes (with real butter and cream) and gravy, egg nog, chocolate-orange candies, peppermint mocha coffee, buttered rolls, fruit cake (yes, really), cheese, Christmas cookies…

I’ll be okay, of course. It’s only food, after all. And I realize that all this rumination about food is just some silliness that I’ll get over.

But in the meantime, when you’re unbuttoning your pants with a belly full of yummy food, have an extra bite of pie for me!


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