At age eleven, without any say in the matter, I became an overnight vegan. The short-story reason for this drastic change is that my parents divorced. And after a time living with our Father, my brothers and I moved from the Midwest to California to live with our Mother. She had fallen in love and married a guy who happened to be VERY opinionated when it came to diet and health. Mom had stars in her eyes and love in her heart which made her forget how much she liked pepperoni pizza in her stomach so we all had to go along with it.
I recall an adjustment period for most of 7th grade where I was vegan only at home and in the presence of my Mom and new Stepfather. And despite being the ultimate Good Girl, that didn't stop me from sneaking weekly to Carl's Jr. between ballet and jazz to scarf a Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger. Still, I was so afraid of getting caught that once, while walking home after school with a frozen yogurt on my person, I spied my Mom and SF driving toward me and sprained my ankle jumping into a ditch.
It wasn't just me, either. My brother Josh made fast friends with a meat-eating kid down the street whose family took him in like their own. I found out years later that they used to hold Thanksgiving dinner for him. He'd high-tail it to their house and eat a second Holiday meal after picking at his Tofurkey with mushroom gravy at ours.
At some point I made peace with the vegan lifestyle. Or maybe I was just tired of living a lie. I made my way through High School and then to New York at 19 and kept up the meatlessness without much thought until one night: I was at Ollie's Chinese restaurant when a giant wave of intense meat craving washed over me. I didn't even remember what it tasted like but my body had to have it NOW. I gave in to some General Tso's Chicken and it felt so good, so right. I was back. From then on, while I was secretly eating meat, my guilt was eating me. I lied to my Mother and SF, devouring cheese pizza and greasy burgers only to eat vegan when they came to visit. I felt terrible. And then? I started taking birth control pills behind their back. AKA evil pharmaceuticals. Some kids had booze, pills and weed. I had whole milk, potstickers and OrthoTriCyclen.
I wrestled with my own food guilt while a few more years passed, and then after 15 meat-free years together, my mom and SF went through a brutal divorce. When the dust had finally begun to settle, a particularly vivid dinner stands out to me, the first we three kids had with Mom alone in years. We met at a place famous for its delicious roast chicken and without discussing it, each of us ordered a 3-piece-meal with sides. My brother Tyler broke the silence when the food arrived. "I never thought I'd say this," he said, "but...how's your chicken, Mom?"
We laughed for ten minutes solid. And that was that.
I don't feel guilty anymore for what I eat. Sometimes it's vegan and gluten-free, sometimes it's seriously not. I love cooking and eating it all. I'm equal opportunity all the way. So today I give you a recipe involving meat AND dairy AND gluten. Loud and proud. No apologies. You won't see me jumping into a ditch about it.
You can also make this with lean ground beef. It's delicious either way.
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 t finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 t kosher salt
a few twists of freshly ground black pepper
2T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
3t worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey (not all white meat or you'll be bummed)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 t kosher salt
additional ketchup for squeezing on top before baking and also for serving
Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment and drizzle with olive oil.
Saute the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay, thyme, 1/2 t salt and pepper in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low for another 5 minutes. Stir often. Remove from heat. Discard the bay leaves. Stir in the parsley, ketchup and worcestershire sauce. Set aside.
Mix the ground turkey with the milk, breadcrumbs, eggs and 3/4 t salt and pepper. Add the cooled vegetable mixture. Form into an oval-shaped loaf on the prepared parchment, zigzag some ketchup all along the top (alternatively brush it on if you lack a squeeze bottle) and bake for 50-55 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center reaches 170. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. With leftovers, use a nonstick pan to saute individual slices in olive oil until hot. Serve with more ketchup.