Last year, as a junior at Howard University, I had the typical college students urge for drastic changewell call it my boho moment. I staged a one-woman boycott against hair weaves and chemical relaxersand while I was at it, I decided to swear off meat, too. I made the requisite declaration to my family. They played along, even gave me a soapbox to stand on at every family gathering. But I dont care (too much) about what they think. I demand to be taken seriously. And this week will be the true test of my commitment.
This will be my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarianexcuse meas a black vegetarian from the Southern United States. As in Texas. As in raised on meat as much as milk. My dad barbecued every weekend. Sunday dinners revolved around collards and green beans with turkey chunks in every forkful, salads and baked potatoes were always sprinkled with bacon. Thanksgiving always included fried turkeys.
This year, Ill be bringing the Tofurky.
Now, Im not nave. I realize that not everybody is receptive to a meat-free diet. Just one year ago, I would have scoffed at my own veggie ways, but now that Im almost one year deep in fruit and vegetable salads, I understand that Im still a black girl in a community where no meat means no good. Ive heard everything from I dont trust people who dont eat meat to thats white people stuff to Im revoking your black card. Im tired of having to defend the lack of pork on my dinner plate. Heres what I wish my family would keep in mind this Thanksgiving when Im passing on the roasted bird:
1. Vegetarianism is the dietary equivalent of Republicanism in the black community. We can all get along, as long as we dont talk about politics, or in my case, about food. Yeah, I know weve been eating meat since the Last Supper, and it aint hurt you before, it aint gon hurt you now. But there are enough reasons for family fightslets not do it over beef or pork.
2. Im no PETA crusader. Dont worry. Im not going to secretly replace your honey-baked ham with some glazed tofu, then jump from the shadows screaming, Ha! I knew youd like it! I wont be passing out brochures with pictures of slaughtered animals plastered everywhere. And I promise not to preach about the need for change in black folks diets. (Even if its true.)
3. Just because I dont eat meat doesnt make me a bourgie foodie. I still want the greens, the macaroni and cheese, the sweet potatoes and the pound cake. Just as long as they werent marinated in ham hocks.
But I know what to expect. In my family, it does not take big or daring changes to get you the side-eye or the sideways comment: I wore black nail polish on my first visit home from college. My aunts response: So youve become a witch now?
Cant wait to hear her analysis of the Tofurky