Last year when my neighbor Louise asked us if we'd like to join them for Thanksgiving, I almost kissed her on the lips. But I had to get some vital information before I started to pucker.
"Is butter allowed?" I asked.
"Yes...?" she replied, looking a little puzzled.
"Are the rolls made out of rice flour?" I queried.
"Eww! God, no!" she answered.
"And other carnivores coming?"
"Of course!" she laughed. "Me!"
It was a huge relief, mainly because after last Thanksgiving, I was a little shell shocked. Actually, that was putting it mildly. I was so wounded that I couldn't pass sliced turkey in the deli at Safeway without getting shaky.
The previous year wasn't the first Thanksgiving I had hosted; I was a veteran at getting a huge dinner together for the orphaned and lonely graduate students and colleagues of my husband that made up our circle of friends in Oregon. But as we all counted down the years we had lived in Eugene, strange things began to happen. Things began to change.
At one happy hour, a friend ordered a Gardenburger. During a bowling excursion, someone refused the community cheese fries and then made a frowny face, shook their head and rubbed their belly. Another friend looked at the pizza that had just arrived at our table during a birthday celebration and said simply to the waitress, "I can't eat that! Can I just get a side of olives?"
This is what happens when you drink too much at social gatherings; you don't put the pieces of the puzzle together until you start inviting people to break turkey with you and you find out who it is they've become. At first, a couple of them converted to vegetarianism, which is fine, there's no meat in pumpkin pie and I just made more green beans. Then came the confession of intolerance, and in Eugene, that means no dairy, no gluten (also known as no joy in life, and it shows). Then the ultimate, which almost felt like a complete betrayal: "We are vegan, and that's with a capital V, thank you very much, pet eater."
I spent almost two days making three versions of each dish to accommodate all of our guests. Mashed potatoes with olive oil and garlic. Sweet potatoes with maple syrup and almond butter. Pumpkin pie with agave and rice flour pastry. I had to buy something with the word "namaste" on it. Did you know that gluten-free rolls are eight bucks a bag? Did you?
And you know what vegans bring to Thanksgiving? Hummus. Hummus and nut crackers, and believe me, when you look at your dining room table and there's 12 tubs of beige shit, it is very clear that you can easily have too much frigging hummus.
In the end, the bathroom was the most popular spot that holiday as the dishes got mixed up (or purposefully ignored) and the dairy-free people ate the real mashed potatoes, a green bean accidentally grazed a piece of dead fowl, and the rolls and the hummus went absolutely untouched. Then someone announced they were allergic to wine and did we have any Martinelli's?
Allergic to wine?
I made a vow then that if we were ever going to host another If there ever was another Thanksgiving, it was simply going to be a platter of Lactaid and Imodium AD.
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So when Louise asked us to her house for the holiday, I breathed a sigh of relief. She had just saved me a big trip to the pharmacy and the urge to bludgeon a sulfite-adverse hippie with a wine bottle.
"We'll come to Thanksgiving," I told Louise. "If we can somehow find out how to add meat to pumpkin pie."