Renegade Vegetarian

One of the many ways in which I have failed my parents is becoming a vegetarian. Mom took it personally and my Dad still goads me by inviting me to dinner and having a ham. I am an adult and don’t see why my dietary choices seem to cause such a calamity when I visit. (Photo by SimplyBeka)

Up until about 10 years ago, mom still tried to sneak meat into me any way that she could. The last time, I almost threw-up on her couch when I realized what I was eating. It was Christmas and she made my grandmother’s baked beans, with brown sugar and pork, it turns out.

She offered me the beans and I took a bite. I noticed something odd and stringy with the texture. The first thing I thought was, “Did the cat get into this?” (She had a long-hair cat that shed incredible amounts of hair.)

“Ma,” I said. “Something isn’t right with these beans.”

She looked at me and I saw deception in her eyes. “What do you mean?” Her face held all of this tension. In the way she was holding her mouth, with clenched jaws, I knew she was either trying not to laugh or trying not to cry.

My eyes met hers. She knew I was on to her.

“I-I‘m sorry,” she stammered. “I thought I picked all the meat out.” She held out her hand for my plate.

Even my childhood neighbors were in on the anti-vegetarian crusade. Once they were trying to feed me and I passed on the meat. “Oh, “ said Carrie, the oldest daughter, “That’s right, you are vegetarian, You just HAVE to be different, don’t you?”

I’ve thought about that statement for a long time and the adolescent cruelty of it. But in truth, I still have to defend my dietary choices, even with grown-ups who should certainly know better.

I became a vegetarian, early on, simply because I didn’t like meat. Somewhere along the line, I also made a clear connection between my love of animals and not eating meat, to wanting to live my life lightly on this planet, and not wanting to support the cruelty of factory farming. I was not recruited in any movement. I was all this before I even knew there was a term for it.

Ironically, it was my mother who taught me to be kind to animals and even to plants. Once, I pulled the arms off of a cactus and it bled thick white stuff—I was punished because I hurt the plant, which, after all was a “feeling being.”

And to this day, when I tell Mom that I am sick with a cold, or the flu, or whatever, the first thing she says is. “You just need a hamburger.”


Baked Beans with Pork

This is my mom’s grandmother’s recipe. Her grandmother, Annie Snowwhite, always used baby lima beans, which call for soaking over night. Mom used to soak those beans and make everything from scratch. After she started working, she discovered canned beans. “They are still good, thought not quite as delicious
as those baby lima beans.” Any kind of beans good for baking will do. These beans are also delicious without the meat.

4 pork chops

1 large onion

2 bell peppers

4 strips of bacon

1/4 cup molasses

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

2 cans of baked beans, drained

Brown pork chops in the skillet with the onion and green pepper. Place drained beans in roasting pan. Add pork, onions, and green peppers to the beans and place in the oven. Place cut bacon strips on the top. Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes, or until bacon is done.

2 thoughts on “Renegade Vegetarian

  1. Elizabeth Massie says:

    I really enjoyed this essay. My daughter is a vegetarian (she is 33 now, has been a veggie gal for about 8 years). She wasn’t recruited, either; her reasons for it are much the same as yours – she doesn’t want to eat creatures that have been killed for the purpose of consumption. Though I doubt she’d let herself starve to death if bacon were the only food option. Anyway, I’ve found it’s really not hard to have yummy family dinners without meat (I have learned to make a super veggie chili, and when we have pasta I make two pots of sauce…one without beef or sausage, one with. There are plenty of tasty goodies in it either way.) I like your statement: “I am an adult and don’t see why my dietary choices seem to cause such a calamity when I visit.” Amen. I avoid cheeses, and my family has never pestered me because of it, or tried to sneak it in on me.

  2. Mollie Cox Bryan says:

    Thanks, Beth. Way to be a supportive Mama! The good news is I think Mom has finally given up. Dad probably never will. He likes to ruffle my feathers. Now, my stepmother always makes sure I have enough vegetarian food to eat. Funny, isn’t it?

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