Sunday, September 6, 2009

"come on home any old time"

Last night’s dinner…Dad’s birthday meal: T-Bone Steak, mushrooms, corn on the cob, fingerling potatoes, grilled zucchini, deviled eggs, mozzarella and tomato salad, and Bananas Foster.

Last night’s song…"Ain't No Trouble To Me" Guy Clark

Cooking with my Dad.

This weekend I had a highly anticipated fall off the wagon. First, a little personal background. About 3 ½ years ago, I decided to stop eating meat. I mainly did this because my husband had decided to give it up about a year prior, my mom had given it up about 6 months before, and because a lot of my friends were vegetarian. I also hated handling raw meat, so I was already cooking exclusively vegetarian. What I told those that asked was simply that it was a way to be healthier and have more control over what I was eating, which is true, but I’m fairly certain looking back that it also had to do with wanting to fit in with my loved ones.

There is one loved one, however, that this decision distinctly separated me from. I grew up in 2 proper Texas homes in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. In both my mom and step dad’s home and my dad and step mom’s home, we ate pot roast on Sundays, complete with mashed potatoes, fried okra, and cantaloupe. Even after my step-dad gave up meat 11 years ago (he was way ahead of the curve, apparently), my mom continued to cook us meat. This essentially meant cooking 2 meals a night, which is a hell of a dedication to the meat eating lifestyle. Whatever we were eating, though, both sets of parents were dedicated to home cooking and family dinners. I’m so grateful to them for feeding me right when I was a kid.

So announcing to my dad that I wasn't going to eat a hamburger with him for the first time was really hard. In the list of difficult things I’ve had to talk to my dad about, it falls somewhere between getting a ‘D’ in college Latin my first semester at UT (which was easier to tell him about) and explaining why I broke curfew when I was 15 and out with my first boyfriend- and his dad (which was harder and scarier than breaking the veg news.) I equate it most closely with telling him I had pierced my nose during my second year of college. I waited until I was about 2 miles from his house and called him and begged him to not be mad at me. I had gone 3 months without telling him.

But here’s the great thing about my Dad…the things I’ve worried about have never made him mad. And that’s because he’s a really good dad. We’ve grown close in my adult life, and while he probably would have preferred for me to not become a dirty liberal with a nose ring and a finicky diet, he’s always been completely fine with it. (P.S.- the nose ring is now defunct- I took it out about 1 month after telling him because it always hurt. In the battle of comfort versus cute, comfort won.)

Ok, back to food. First, I still (inaccurately) call myself a vegetarian 3 ½ years later. But my reasoning behind eating primarily vegetarian has evolved. This isnt’t the right time to go into it, since I mainly mean this post to be dedicated to family and the importance of tradition. The soap box will come later. I’ll just say that if you haven’t already done so, please read Omnivore’s Dilemma. Michael Pollan somehow simultaneously made me more resolved about eating vegetarian and also convinced me to eat meat again. Pollan preaches the message of awareness and sustainability. And everything I learn teaches me that meat practices in the US are badly broken. So the only way I’m ok with meat is to get meat that is out of the system—raised and slaughtered by people I know or (when it's available) hunted.

For my dad’s birthday, I bought him meat from a steer raised by a dear family friend of ours. My mom (the other ‘vegetarian’) bought the rest of the cow and actually went to meet him before he was processed. So my family had some real connection to this creature. My dad asked if I’d share a steak with him for his birthday and since this guy fell under my meat-eating guidelines, I agreed.

Our happy and healthy cow, several weeks before he was processed.

My sweet husband (who, for the record, is a REAL vegetarian- no fish or nothin’) was very supportive of the whole process. Plus, he had a lot of tasty and fresh things to eat, too. My meal was delicious and extremely enjoyable. I savored each bite and did my best to emit gratitude. Gratitude for the life of the steer, for my family, for good food and the privilege of sharing it with others.

I chose this song because it is mine and my dad's song. This song was the father/daughter dance at our wedding, and my dad still quotes it to me all the time. I grew up on Texas food and Texas music. God bless Guy Clark. He tells great stories, and on top of it all has a deep affection for food. I'm not sure if there's ever been a food love song better than "Homegrown Tomatoes". So in the spirit of gratitude and tradition, I'll just thank Guy, too.

Enjoy this long weekend. Eat good food, drink good beer, and seek out good people. And don't forget to say "thank you."


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