Yo Joan! Let’s take a trip together ... Viva Las Vegis!

A vegetarian is something I wanted to be when I grew up, but the Czech and Polish dishes of my youth continue to haunt me. Sundays in particular were filled with tantalizing aromas of pork and dumplings or ribs and kasha. It made those Sunday school classes more tolerable knowing I was coming home to a terrific meal afterward.

After our meal on Sundays, we often would visit my uncle and aunt who lived in a small cabin in the woods off Fox Lake. Their lives were quite different than ours. We were suburban apartment dwellers living alongside a busy highway. They were tucked away in nature with sounds of chirping birds rather than car horns as their backdrop.

My uncle was a rugged fisherman. Every day he was up before dawn and out in his small boat quietly fishing as the sun rose around him. On our afternoon visits, he proudly would show us his catch for the day. I watched as he skinned the fish still flapping in his hands, blood dripping into the buckets where the rest of the catch awaited their dire fate. My stomach turned. I really loved my uncle.

“Wait!” I’d say before he would pick up the next one. “Did you know that fish have probably the most sensitive skin of all creatures? When they swim in packs, they move quickly in all directions without ever touching. They can feel one another from a distance even through the water that separates them.”

“Oh, come on,” he would respond, “they’re just fish. They’re here for us to eat.”

After he would finish, my aunt would fry the fish. What a sweet lady. And we’d all eat the fried-up fish together for dinner. I tried to disassociate the delicious food I was eating from all the blood splattering in the buckets, but I couldn’t. I quietly ate and inwardly faced my conflicts. My aunt and uncle, so precious and dear to my heart. I knew those dinners were made for us with love. And so began the foundation of my topsy-turvy quest to be a vegetarian.

Over the years since, I’ve been more of a “flexitarian” due to the perpetual aromas of roasts around me. Most of my friends are meat eaters. My family mostly is meat eaters As for me, I trudge along in my vegetarian wannabe ways struggling with my reality that sauerkraut and potato pierogis just don’t taste complete without meat.

As we enter this month of Thanksgiving, what are some of your favorite meals? Do certain aromas conjure up heartfelt memories? Might you ever consider being a vegetarian? Oh, please, you say. Yeah, it’s not easy, but you being one would sure help me being one. And it most definitely would help those fishies out there. It’s a bloody mess. Pass the gravy.

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