a website for people on special diets due to allergies, intolerances
or lifestyle choice.
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Winter 1999 - 2000

Christmas Dinner and the Sole Vegetarian
How one family compromised to the benefit of all
by Adrienne Russell

Twelve years ago, being a vegetarian was not quite as fashionable as it is now.  Fast food chains did not cater to non-meat eaters at all, and many people would look at you as if you had two heads if you said you didn't eat meat.  Fortunately today it is easier for vegetarians to travel and eat out, and we aren't viewed as suspiciously by meat eaters, or forced to explain our choice not to eat meat quite as often. However, there is still the issue of Christmas dinner, which is traditionally still a meat-eating occasion.

I became a vegetarian at the age of eighteen, after growing up with an aversion to meat. Usually at meal time I would scrutinize the protein portion of the dinner presented to me and often would ask, "what kind of animal did that used to be?" My mother would become exasperated with me as I shredded my chicken and scattered its parts across my plate (in the attempt to make it look like I had eaten more of it). Finally when I gave up eating meat altogether, my mother was concerned about how I would get my protein and iron. Being a nutritionist and educated in the 1950s, she was taught to base every meal around the meat. If you take away the meat, what kind of a meal are you going to have? Fortunately my decision to become vegetarian gave her a chance to learn a new way of approaching dinner at our house. Now my parents and brother are partially vegetarian, eating only fowl and fish. But that still leaves the issue of the Christmas turkey...

Our family still has a turkey every Christmas. We have many extended family members who come to our house for the holidays, and every year my Aunt Sharon turns to me and asks, "Don't you miss eating turkey? Don't you ever feel tempted?" Truthfully, yes, I do sometimes feel tempted - not because I miss the taste of turkey so much, but because I miss being able to partake of the traditional meal in its entirety. However, there is always so much food that I do not go hungry at all. And while everyone is moaning later about how full and sleepy they are, I am usually just pleasantly full with room for dessert!

My family doesn't give me a hard time about being a vegetarian. They have known about my meat "hang-ups" from an early age, and were not surprised when I gave up eating meat. I had a menagerie of pets (rabbits, chicken, gerbils, cats) as a kid and they were aware of how sensitive I was about animals. I extend the same courtesy to them and do not make them feel guilty for eating meat, or try to lecture them on the health benefits or moral aspects of being a vegetarian. I believe being a vegetarian is a personal choice, and I wouldn't shove my beliefs down anyone's throat. I also expect the same treatment from those around me. Christmas at our house is a wonderful experience with good food and wine, good conversation and a relaxed atmosphere. I wouldn't change a thing!

For many years now my mother has usually made me a special entrée for Christmas. One year it was a delicious stuffed zucchini.  Basically it was a zucchini cut in half, with the center scooped out. Then she filled it with stuffing (not from the bird!) and broiled it until golden brown.  It is a quick and easy way to give the vegetarian family member something special for Christmas dinner. It also serves as a vegetable side dish for everyone else at the holiday feast. Another year she made a fantastic Torta Rustica. It is labour-intensive to make, but well worth the effort.

I hope all of you out there in cyber space have a wonderful holiday season, and enjoy your holiday feast!

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Copyright © 1999-2012 Robin L. Russell