The Holidays are all about family. And shopping. Well, shopping and eating. And family. In any case, for lots of folks the Christmas feast is important, a time to gather and raise each others spirits when all the stores are closed.
And that makes choosing what to eat a big deal. Particularly since everybody’s home, and cooking chores get spread around. If it’s turkey, my wife – who is the undisputed queen of stuffing – gets the honors, and if its prime rib, then dad’s pretty much out of excuses. I mean, a man has got to be staggering incompetent not to be able to shove a roast in the oven and check the thermometer. No, I mean it, to get out of this you have to be really who-emptied-the-Jack Daniels-in-the-eggnog staggering.
Unfortunately, things got ugly this year when we took the menu to the kids for the turkey or beef tie breaker.
‘We’re vegetarian,’ the twins announced, ten and holding hands, and as serious as young girls can be, which is dangerously serious.
‘Now…’, I started, and my wife steered me off with the look.
‘…that’s great’, I smiled. And why not? As long as they eat healthy, what’s wrong with skipping meat?
‘So, you can’t make meat any more’, they decreed. ‘It’s not right.’
Looking back into my childrens’ bright eyes from the undisputed, will eat nearly everything pinnacle of the food chain, I weighed my words carefully.
‘We won’t make you eat any,’ I said.
‘It’s animals. No one should eat animals any more. They have feelings too.’
‘Well, plants can feel’, I offered. ‘That’s what scientists say,’ I said to my wife’s eye roll. ‘And we eat them.’
‘Plants don’t have faces, dad. And they can’t be happy or sad.’
‘Well, you say that. Maybe we just can’t hear them screa- ….’
‘I think that’s great’, their mom said. ‘Why do you want to be vegetarians, girls?’
‘We don’t think people should kill animals and eat them.’
Well, we’re just a few hundred thousand years late for that, I thought. All fine and good, if people decide not to eat meat, in my opinion. But, isn’t it really just about being squeamish? The dawning realization that what we consume was once alive, and that we have to kill something living before we can feed ourselves?
‘Well,’ I said, aiming for philosophical, ‘it’s the circle of life. Like, ‘Lion King’. Completely natural. What do you think Simba ate?’
It was out of my mouth before I realized, from the look on their faces, they may not have previously considered that particular image. As a matter of fact, Disney probably scrubbed every scene with cute dead antelope dangling from lion jaws, for that very reason.
‘Who wants ice cream?’ I said, rubbing my hands.
‘Lions don’t have a choice’, my wife said, and stood up and next to the girls. ‘Do you have something against vegetarians?’
‘Not at all,’ I said, feeling defensive. And when I feel defensive, I get glib. ‘Cows are vegetarians, and I like them just fine. For Christmas dinner, for example.’
‘So, you’d go ahead and serve beef?’ my wife the lioness said. And I stood my ground.
‘Nobody has to eat it who doesn’t want to, that’s fine. We can all respect each others’ personal choice. Happy if the girls just want veggies. But I want to be able to eat prime rib.’
My wife crossed her arms.
‘Girls, your father’s pretty set on this. And, I guess it should be his right to have that beef he looks forward to.’
‘That’s settled then’, she said to me.
And as she turned to go, I could swear I saw her toss the girls a wink.