Every December we get together with my husband’s brothers and sister to celebrate Christmas. None of us live close to each other, and since we all have grown children with spouses and partners of their own, we choose a date early in the season, so as many of those children and their significant others can come as possible. As much as there is comfort in rituals like our holiday gathering, I find that this is the only time there is stress in my life over the vegetarian thing. Let me share a little family gossip. My sister-in-law just doesn't get it. Mind you, I’ve been on their family scene over thirty years. I think that should entitle me to some status as a member of the family. Instead, I still feel like an outsider. My kids were all raised vegetarian, and my husband came over to “the dark side”, as my sister-in-law puts it. He did this when my youngest could barely talk.
My sister in law found that tidbit out at another family holiday, about 25 years ago. Grandmom had this really strange looking thing in the oven. My daughter, Keely, insisted on knowing what that thing was. Grandmom told her it was a ham. Keely wanted to know what a ham was. My husband was in the living room going through a major inquisition by his sister, who had just found out that he didn’t eat meat any more. My toddler was running around trying to find out what a ham was. I was frantically hovering between the kitchen and the living room. My sister in law heatedly ended the inquisition by telling my husband he’d joined a cult when he married me. Wow. I’m quietly freaking out, my toddler is being the queen of persistence about the thing in the oven called a ham, and I end up blurting, “Keely it’s a dead pig!" Well, you can imagine what transpired next. My daughter bursts into tears and proceeded to run screaming through the house that Grandmom had a dead pig in the oven. Her sisters, who were playing with their cousins, were shocked into silence over the whole debacle. My husband, not one for extended family scenes, quietly loaded us all into the car. Things haven’t changed much.
There isn’t much discussion about it anymore, but there are little snide innuendoes about our dietary habits. She’ll contact everyone over social media, asking for thoughts on the menu for our holiday meal, offering her ideas. We don’t do traditional, since the date is usually on the heels of Thanksgiving. This year all of her suggestions were completely meat-centric. For some reason, she doesn’t like a good old fashioned potluck which brings a plethora of choices to the table. In case you’re wondering why I just don’t host the celebration at my house and override the menu, she insists that every gathering be at her house now, so it’s difficult to quash her propositions. You see, I have dogs, so I’ve been nudged out of hosting, since she has grandchildren. Did you know dogs don’t like grandchildren? Me neither! Usually I just keep my mouth shut and bring a big pot of something that everyone can enjoy. Once I got really annoyed and pulled out a handful of graphic literature about the horrors of factory farming etc, and plopped it in the middle of the dining room table.
I’ve grown up since then, and have come to the conclusion that this really isn’t in the best interest of peace and family communication, even if I was being verbally attacked. My new strategy is to woo the family with vegan deliciousness. It’s been working quite well. This Tempeh Sloppy Joe recipe was one I came up with the last time we got together, and it was a huge hit. I hope it woos you, too. I also hope that my story helps you remember that you are not alone. Happy Holidays!
TEMPEH SLOPPY JOES
- 1 tblsp. buttery spread or grape seed oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 medium green pepper, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups Baby Bella Mushrooms, diced
- 1 package tempeh, steamed 10 minutes, then crumbled
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 3/4 cup natural catsup
- 1/2 beer, or water
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. dry mustard
- 2 T coconut palm or brown sugar
- 1/8 tsp. celery seed
- 1 tblsp. apple cider vinegar
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Heat buttery spread or grape seed oil over medium heat.
- Add onion, pepper, garlic and sea salt and sauté about 3-4 minutes, until onion becomes translucent.
- Add mushrooms and tempeh and cook until mushrooms begin to soften.
- Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
- Cook until liquid is reduced and desired consistency is reached, about 10 minutes.
- Serve on toasted Ezekiel buns.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.