When I was seven years old (1977ish), my daddy started reading these great big health books, one of them was You are What you Eat, and we became vegetarians and health nuts overnight. My mom was pregnant with my brother so he was born into our new lifestyle and he easily adapted. He ate cheerios with soy milk, sprinkled with carob powder. I couldn’t stand it. Honeycomb cereal and Frosted Flakes were a sweet memory and my palate couldn’t adjust to the plain stuff.
The way my daddy talked me out of eating meat was telling me where everything really came from. To this day when I crack an egg, I recall the baby chick that was never born. In later years when we started eating eggs again - I didn’t - and when I had to wash the egg pan I would get nauseous.
My parents were part of a co-op. Once a month we were the Farmer’s Market shoppers and we got to bring home this big raggedy truck that would hold crates of fruits and vegetables. We would get up at the crack of dawn to be at the Farmer’s Market when it opened.
Daddy bartered for the best deals and we would leave with some of everything: eggplant, apples, oranges, coconut, peaches, collard greens, pineapples, grapes, spinach, squash - a variety of whatever was in season. I recall my mom having a Rutabaga once and not knowing what to do with it.
All four of us were in the front seat as daddy drove the backfiring truck back to the co-op center. We had to then sort everything and put them into paper bags for everyone who participated. When co-op was over, we had to go home and put everything away.
Lunch for me and my brother may have been peanut butter and jelly on my mom’s homemade bread. The bread had to be sliced, the peanut butter had to be stirred, the jelly was in chunks and the sandwich had to be choked down. My parents may have had Tofurkey, tomato, mushrooms and sprout sandwiches. The following beverage may have been Herbal Iced Tea flavored with honey that had to be decrystalized first - there were no microwaves. My brother would have had soy milk made from water and soy powder mixed with carob - chocolate milk.
There were dinners mom made that were excellent; like the spaghetti sauce that took all day to cook. There were some failed attempts like Rutabaga or the meal that daddy won’t let her forget. Was it Spinach Pie or Spinach Quiche? I just remembered it was followed by Squash Pie for dessert.
You know what I love about the story I just told? It’s about family being together. We were all together on a Saturday. No one had to work, no one was playing sports, there wasn’t anything on television, no one was on the computer, we ate the same meals, at the same time, at the kitchen table, no one called or texted while we ate, and we talked.
As I wrote this post, I heard Stevie Wonder singing and playing the keyboards; the base rocking the house from daddy’s huge speakers. I smelled sandalwood incense burning. I heard my mom talking on the telephone, envisioning the coiled cord stretched across the kitchen. I heard kids playing outside. I smelled baking bread, and spaghetti sauce simmering.
Here’s the thing... It was hard being a vegetarian and a health nut. But I wouldn’t trade that time in my life for anything. I wish I could go back there with my family. I would have to pack our own food but otherwise it would be a wonderful 20th century vacation.