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Jen Grond/the Gauntlet

Sidebar: Veggie Tales

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While growing up in rural Alberta, most of the meat my parents bought was not from the Safeway shelf, but from our neighbour down the dirt road. I never worried or even thought about the hormones and antibiotics given to feedlot cattle. But since moving to Calgary, buying a cow from the farmer down the road is not a viable option. I don't like the idea of buying meat raised in feedlots and although the research is not conclusive that hormones injected into cattle have any negative effects, I resolved to try a vegetarian diet.

On December 1st I decided to go "cold turkey." No meat: no beef, chicken, pork or seafood.

The first few weeks passed with relative ease. Calgary has an array of vegetarian restaurants and the supermarkets are stocked with fresh produce. I had fun experimenting with different recipes and friends had no problem when I opted for a veggie plate instead of chicken wings on nights out.

Then came Christmas break, the season of regale. My family likes to make a big production of Christmas dinner and besides the traditional turkey and ham, duck and goose have also been known to make an appearance at our feast.

And so I hopped the covered wagon and headed back to the home range to join in the family festivities. With the sun dipping below the hills and dusk arriving quickly, I pulled up to the family farmstead apprehensive of the reactions I would get from my carnivorous relations. I opened the door and was welcomed home by the smell of roasting beef in the oven, my mom, who was mashing potatoes, set down her whisk to come greet her firstborn home for the holidays.

"Just in time for supper," she said.

"It smells delicious," I told her. "But I can't eat it. I am vegetarian."

She wasn't sure what to think. To grow up in rural Alberta and then claim you are vegetarian is about the equivalent of saying you decided to join the Church of Scientology.

"You have spent too much time in that city," she accused.

She thought I was joking, but when I sat down at the dinner table and started filling my plate high with salad and potatoes she realized I was serious."It is not healthy! Where are you getting your protein?" my mom asked, genuinely concerned.

I tried to explain, but it was no use.

"From nuts and beans and leafy greens," I told her.

"You don't eat enough nuts!" she exclaimed.

Christmas break continued with mom trying to hide pieces of beef in my stew and my little brother jeering me at the dinner table as he chewed on deer jerky and garlic sausage.

My vegetarian stint didn't last long and before I headed back to Calgary, I broke under the pressure. Suppers of potatoes and broccoli don't suffice when aromas of roast chicken from the oven fill the kitchen and linger under your nose.

"You had me so worried!" Mom said with a relieved smile as she sliced a piece of chicken onto my plate.

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