There's An Alien at my Table
by Sherrie L. Davis
"It was then, that my sweet grandmother, a long time animal assassin, passed me the sausage...
According to my mother, Rosemary Ann Davis, the world revolves around the art of making and consuming food. To earn my mother's love you ate her culinary works of art, and flattered her with praises such as, “Those were fine potatoes, Mom”; or, “Yum, the meatloaf tastes superb, may I have another helping, please?”
The strife between mother and daughter began at the ripe age of 4, when, of course like most obstinate children, I knew everything. One day with my hands on my hips and pigtails flying, I boldly announced, “Mother, I will only eat cheese.” Needless to say, she quickly deemed that I could not be her favorite child; and my brothers, always the amenable eaters of food, easily stepped into the limelight.
My picky food choices and our table squabbles continued well into my teen years when a truce ensued with the introduction of - the boyfriend. My first significant other, a blond named Brandon, helped ease the tension between mother and daughter, for he loved to eat pretty much anything and he quickly learned the way into Mom's heart – “Rose, I adore your cooking; your lasagna is delicious.” Mom would beam, and surely think; perhaps this boy can influence my odd, over-particular daughter.
However, there is a reason first loves are called 'firsts,' and during my college years I decided it would be best to 'date around.' Over the course of the next few years different boys visited our dinner table, and pretty much all of them struck out with Mom. I'm not sure if she was upset over my break-up with Brandon, or because my short-lived loves had the audacity to say such things as, “No thanks, Mrs. Davis, I don't do casserole.”
Those years I also had another life-changing epiphany – eating meat was just plain gross. I mean killing sweet innocent cows, pink pigs, and fuzzy chicks, in order to fill our already bulging American bellies, was absolutely, positively revolting. And I committed my life to being a vegetarian.
During a weekend home from college I decided to spring my recent commitment on my extremely old-fashioned family. Unfortunately, they have come from a long line of cow killers. Their responses were far from positive.
I took my place at the dinner table, noting my options – turkey, sausage, potatoes covered in gravy, sauerkraut with sausages on top, a vegetable, – thank God! - and a loaf of bread. Not exactly vegetarian heaven, but I would make do.
“So, I am a vegetarian now.” Why beat around the bush? I thought.
My father crinkled his brow – “That some special group at college?”
“A what?” my mother asked.
This was going to be even more complex than originally thought.
“No, a vegetarian is a person who doesn't eat meat. He or she only eats pretty much fruits and vegetables,” I explained.
The bowl of potatoes Mom was passing stopped in mid-air. “Why would you do such a thing?” Mom asked, with a pained look on her face, as if I had just announced I supported euthanasia.
“Well,” I began, “I feel that it is wrong to eat animals when we live in a time when we can save them by choosing other dietary supplements. I don't believe that animals were simply put here for our consumption, and we should all make an effort in respecting their welfare.”
“Huh? Animal respect?” my father's voice questioned, as his eyes squinted at me, communicating, “Who are you? What did you do with my child?”
It was then, that my sweet grandmother, a long time animal assassin, passed me the sausage saying, “Well, surely you'll still eat this?”
I stuffed bread in my mouth and kept quiet.
The food war raged on as I continued to grow and change. With college behind me and my future looming before me, I decided to start my career and continue learning about the world by moving to Asia. Naturally, my family was concerned, and yet they realized that they had no choice but to let me make my own decisions.
I learned a lot during my time abroad, and I even learned how to cook. Asia is a feast for vegetarians – bean curd soup, potato cauliflower curry, red pepper cabbage, rice rolls filled with corn and carrots, and the list continues. And I loved them all. It occurred to me that perhaps my newfound knowledge might build a bridge of understanding for my family and me.
When I came home, I decided to share my culinary discoveries with my family. My mother, since she is always in the kitchen, was the first guinea pig.
“So Mom,” I began sweetly, “I really think you'll like vegetable curry; it's nutritious and tasty and good for you and did I say, nutritious?…” My ramble continued.
Mom just stood back, allowing me to use her kitchen. When finally, I scooped up a portion and handed it to her. Please like it, I thought.
“Try it.” I smiled.
She forked a vegetable and nibbled at it.
“Too spicy. I'm not into this weird food, Sherrie.” The plate was placed on the counter as I thought, well, there went that brilliant idea…
“Well, surely it was better than that cheese dinner I prepared years ago?” I joked. But it was too late; she had already left the room.
I bit my lip, and surveyed my hard work – chopped tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, onions, and curry spices. She rejected it all. Dammit.
And then I froze, my cutting knife poised above the countertop, as a conclusion came to me. My mother, a mid-west housewife, daughter of a local farmer, creator of home cooked meat and potatoes, may indeed hate my new Asian invention, but there was something else. I was her college, world-traveling, weird food eating, vegetarian daughter. She just didn't get me. After all most other small town daughters didn't eat their vegetables with chopsticks and travel the world, they stayed home and made pork roasts.
Later that evening my mother served her usual concoction of meat, potatoes, bread, and veggies. We passed around the dishes until our plates were full as I tried to figure out how I would express how much I had missed them during my time abroad.
I took a bite of mashed potatoes, and smiled at my mother.
“What?” she asked, suspicious.
“These potatoes are fab, Mom. I really missed them when I was away.”
She simply beamed in the light of my praise.
Sherrie L. Davis is an English Composition and ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher from Dorr, Michigan. Over the past four years Ms. Davis has taught university and adult language schools in the U.S., Istanbul, Turkey and Busan, South Korea.
Reading and writing have been her passion from early childhood. Her work is greatly influenced by other passions: traveling and volunteering. In the past three years Sherrie has traveled throughout Southeast Asia, Europe and the Middle East. She currently lives and works in South Korea and enjoys spending her free-time volunteering for UNESCO
Comments or questions regarding her work may be directed to: Sherrie Davis