Thanksgiving was always a big deal at my house growing up. A large turkey as well as a ham was prepared. The mashed potatoes were made with chicken stock and the stuffing was made with pork sausage and apples. There was very little to offer a vegetarian at our Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, my mother had never even encountered a vegetarian let alone feed one. That vegetarian was me.
At the time I had a job at a local salad bar and as part of my benefits I was allowed one meal per shift that I worked. My mother thought this was fantastic because it usually meant that she didn’t have to prepare dinner for me. Serving dinner without a meat protein was not something she knew how to do. The only vegetables we ever ate were usually from a can. She never thought of what to do for Thanksgiving dinner when the salad bar was closed. She went about her normal traditional Thanksgiving feast filled with treats for our carnivorous family. It wasn’t until I walked into the door and said “hello” that my mother even realized the situation.
Her face fell and she dropped her hands to her knees and sighed. “Oh baby! I have no idea what to give you! It all has meat in it!” I assured her that it was okay and that I could eat the salad and some pie. She scoffed at the idea of a wholesome Thanksgiving dinner consisting only of salad and pie, so I agreed to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich along with my salad.
I cringed a little when the turkey was carved and I refused to take part in the cutting and serving of meat, but I had a wonderful meal. The adults were a little tipsy and the little kids all giggled with delight and their own table. I was allowed to sit at the grown up table since I “had a job” and a little because of my mother’s guilt. I enjoyed funny stories about the past and even got to share a few of my own. I was finally an adult at the adult table. It didn’t matter to be that my plate was filled with peanut butter and strawberry jelly on wheat bread and a garden salad. It only mattered that I was a part of the family and spending a joyous occasion with them.