March 17, 2011
Converting the Heathen
During my sophomore year in college I started dating a girl who I met at a copy shop on campus. She was a bit quirky and definitely outside my normal type: outspokenly liberal in her beliefs, had a "questionable" liberal arts major that included a significant portion of Women's Studies, she had tattoos, and most threatening to our way of life, she was vegetarian. In fact, she'd been a vegetarian for four years. This wasn't a fad, a phase, or a curiosity.
Quick, someone call Joe McCarthy!
These things didn't bother me, but they freaked out my parents. Honestly, that's just something parents do.
We started dating in October, so it was perhaps a tinge early in our relationship, especially considering my parents not-so-great opinion of her, to bring her home to Texas for Thanksgiving. But, I'm an optimist.
My parents would ask things like "But...what is she going to eat?"
"Non-meat things, obviously," I replied. Then my aunt would call. "What is she going to eat?" Then my parents would call again. "What is she going to eat on the 6 hour drive home?"
I began to wonder if I meant to say "she doesn't eat meat," but instead accidentally said "she cannot exist in an Oxygen-based planetary environment without a special hazard suit."
We arrived and I began to parade around my fabled girlfriend from faraway lands. I half-expected my parents to give a tip to the local newspaper and/or police.
My mother is terrible at avoiding the elephant in the room, especially the elephant that is primarily visible only to her. She cannot not poke the bear. This is her greatest flaw and easily the greatest source of my family's amusement throughout my life. She began making incredibly awkward jokes about meat, and tattoos, and anything else that would emerge. My girlfriend took it all in a surprisingly cheerful way.
The day of Thanksgiving arrived and my father set about his holy work. Some quick background info. My father is an incredible cook with a specialty in meat, particularly BBQ. He has won BBQ competitions! When I come home from California I send my mother a list of things I expect to eat during my visit. I look forward to his meats.
Years ago, my father grew tired of dry, baked turkey and began injecting delicious, spiced marinades into turkeys and then deep frying the turkey. What emerges from the process is a bird so delightful it is as if a southern, banjo-playing god blesses it himself. The bird smells incredible and the smell is inescapable. When cooked, it covers our entire 2 acre lot.
My girlfriend was not immune to the scent, no more than a bear can resist salmon leaping from a stream. Slowly, but surely, she wandered to my father's cooking shack. She loomed over the bubbling, frying turkey with wild eyes and inhaled as deeply as her lungs could manage.
My father, like Satan in many biblical verses, appeared out of nowhere and offered the forbidden fruit. "Would you like to have some?" he asked.
"No...no it's okay," she responded. "I'll just smell it." She tried to present a strong resolve, but everyone could see through her facade. Especially my father.
Minutes later he removed the turkey from the oil and began cutting it with his electric knife. My brother, cousins, and myself swarmed him like vultures as he'd hand out little snippets of the hot, delicious meat. The oil was still dripping from the portions and the flavor was heavenly!
Again, she loomed. Again, my father asked, with a backdrop of his delighted customers behind him.
"Are you sure you don't want some?" he asked.
"I...no...no, it's okay," she responded.
God parted the clouds at that moment. A ray of sun bathed her like a spotlight on a stage actress. With the sound of a thunder clap the sky erupted with the lord's command of "FINISH HER!"
"It's okay," my father cooed. "Just try a little." With that, he offered her a napkin covered with the tiniest sliver of deep-fried turkey.
She took it, breathed deeply, knowing her life was about to change, and ate the turkey.
We have long since broken up, but two things came as the result of my father's poultry intervention. One, she is no longer a vegetarian and hasn't been since that day. And two, my father to this day celebrates Thanksgiving as the day he converted the heathen.