Earlier in the month, I was fortunate to be able to travel with my parents to Indiana. It is where I was born and lived for eighteen years before we moved to Tennessee.
My grandparents were the reason for the visit. My mom travels several times a year to visit, check on them in-person, and all those other good things a daughter is supposed to do.
I hadn’t been up there in about thirteen years. WAY to long. But that’s a story for another day.
A few days before the trip, my mom and I were getting things ready, and she says to me, “Now, just be prepared; they are not going to understand how you eat.” Even after all these years, my mom doesn’t fully understand this.
My roots are Southern. Both sides of my family hail from the South. You eat meat, and you eat vegetables usually seasoned with meat. The end. Country living and farming is in my history from way back. I am the odd duck out of the whole bunch.
Anyway, back to my grandparents. I thought long and hard how I was going to handle this whole meal situation. Food is my grandfather’s love language. While you are eating lunch, you talk about what you are going to eat for dinner. He’s nothing if not a planner. You also do not claim to not be hungry and not eat at all.
On the day we left, I told my parents, “Let’s not even bring up my diet. I can usually find something anywhere.”
There are a few exceptions, but, for the most part, there’s at minimum a side salad or a potato product at most restaurants. And if it’s fries, you hope they aren’t cooked with chicken tenders or something equally meaty. I won’t even get into how not all french fries are not vegetarian- friendly. Worse case scenario, I’d get the best option, and if I were hungry later, I could eat when we would return to the RV* in the evenings.
In case you are not familiar, I am a gluten-free, egg-free vegetarian. First two are due to legit intolerance, the latter is by choice.
Day one: Pizza is ordered to be delivered. I am slightly panicked. Gluten and meat. A little gluten I can get through, but meat is something else. Even if I picked it off, there are remnants.
If you are so inclined, you can read why that may be a problem for vegetarians from sciencenordic.com. Everyone is different, but I am one of the ones who has issues.
We make it through lunch without any raised eyebrows.
That evening, it is decided we will eat at MCL. This cafeteria-style dining is a win-win for everyone.
We all get in line, and it just so happens my grandfather is in line behind me. I scoot past the salads. At the meat station, I say I’m going to have all vegetables. Once he realizes I didn’t choose a piece of fried chicken or the evening’s special of liver and onions, it clicks with him. “You are one of those vegetarians!”
I nearly bust out laughing because this deacon of his Baptist church has said this as if I declared I was a Methodist**. He was serious. It is a memory I will hold dear forever.
The rest of the trip went off without a hitch. I may have been teased once or twice for my bowl of leaves, but otherwise, everyone was sweet to take me into consideration. I don’t think there were any choices made that I didn’t find something substantial to eat.
Over the course of nine days, there were many more laughs and good times. It was definitely something I will always be grateful to have experienced.
And if I learned anything, if you are still close to your family, but you live some distance apart, it is important you find a way to visit as often as you can. You wouldn’t believe what a difference thirteen years makes.
*This was the first time [I remember] staying in an RV. It was delightful, and now I want my own.
**There is an OLD joke among the Baptists. On Sundays, the preacher may something like, “We need to hurry up and beat the Methodists to the steak house.” I’ve heard that all my life. Then I married a Methodist, and well, apparently they were trying to get ahead of the Baptists.
**Also, I don’t mean any disrespect for any religion.