What nice day?
Besides, farm-raised turkeys never have a nice day!

Despite the grim title, and the grimmer contents to come, let me start by wishing everyone a very happy thanksgiving!

Notwithstanding my tendency to lodge complaints about this thing or that thing, I'm not unmindful of the fact that today is a day to be grateful to be an American living in a free country with a free press that we're equally free to criticize.

And of course, there are a lot of other things to be grateful for.

But suppose I started this Thanksgiving Day post by expressing gratitude (not "graddytood") for the fact that today is such a breathtakingly beautiful day!

No, really. It feels like Spring. Never mind that local "Fully" temperatures are expected to drop into the 20s "eauver" the weekend. Saying it's a beautiful day when it Really Should Not Be (because the Global Warming Rechimplicans have ruined the climate) means you're Just. Not. Getting. It.

I should be expressing ingratitude. For the "bad" weather that I imagine to be good.

And how the hell dare I enjoy it?

Seriously, I'm beginning to hope that this does not turn out to be a "record warm" Thanksgiving, for that would mean a hellish moral scolding in the Inquirer tomorrow.

Hey, I know!

I can be grateful that my bags were not lost at the airport!

Well, only because I didn't go anywhere this year, but because I might as well have, I might as well be grateful for the fact that my bags might as well have been lost but weren't. But maybe the whole problem of lost or stolen bags could be solved if we treated them the way the gun control people want to treat lost or stolen guns, and make it a separate crime not to report them. (If we could deter just one illegally diverted unreported bag....)

I can also be thankful that because I didn't have children, I never had to save the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to send them to brainwashing centers where they are taught that ingratitude (should that be "ingraddytood"?) is the highest form of morality, so than when they return home to sit down for their first Thanksgiving meal with the family, they can announce their evolution to a higher plane.

What is it that they learn? Why, that "this is the time of year we place a cooked brown carcass on the table, then reach inside its body cavity and scoop out powerfully odoriferous items that people are expected to eat":

"It's repulsive to see turkeys running around on the news at Thanksgiving time, and then they're all getting killed," says Melissa Stockton-Brown, a Royersford vegan and a 19-year-old sophomore at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

Oh. Well, that's a problem, then, isn't it?

"If someone wants to feel morally superior by not eating meat, that's OK," says California psychologist Edward Abramson, an expert on eating behavior. "It doesn't mean I have to apologize or explain myself."

Huh? What if you've raised the kids and paid their tuition, and it pains you to think that they're so deluded that they believe that their new-found food choices gives them a license not merely to skip the turkey, but become thoughtless little scolds?

Maybe as a non-parent I'm not getting it, but I think it is the kids in these instances who owe their parents an apology. The polite thing to do if someone offers you food that you don't want to eat is to simply say "no, thank you," and eat something else. Shouldn't feelings of morally superiority because of what you eat be kept to yourself? I think so, and I think it's wrong of them to lecture their parents at the Thanksgiving dinner table over their food choices (however benighted they might imagine them to be).

Maybe I should be grateful I naver had 'em. But it doesn't matter what I think; this phenomenon is growing. Because at college, more and more kids are taught to be vegetarians.

As it happens, a little more than 2 percent of the U.S. population over 18 says it never eats meat, fish or fowl and is, by definition, vegetarian, according to various polls.

The number of vegans is said to be between one-third and one-half the number of vegetarians, the Baltimore-based Vegetarian Resource Group says.

The VRG's researcher John Cunningham says the number of vegetarians has doubled since 1994. The number of vegans among vegetarians seems to be increasing, although it's hard to say by how much, he adds.

College is often the place where vegetarians are made, food experts say.

"You go away from home and see the world from a different perspective," says Richard George, a professor of food marketing and an expert on consumer behavior at St. Joseph University. "You may ask yourself, for example, 'Why do I eat meat?' "

Often, college is where young people first hear from vegetarians and vegans who believe that meat is unhealthy and that animals are exploited for their flesh, as well as for their milk and eggs. Consuming meat and its byproducts are seen, by this minority, as immoral.

College is also a time young people are establishing their own identities, trying to separate from mom and dad, says Temple University psychologist and vegetarian Frank Farley. And food can be a major point of departure.

As it happens, Thanksgiving is often the first big family gathering a student attends after starting college.

"A common result," says George, "is kids going home on Thanksgiving eve and saying, 'Mom, I'm a vegan and no longer eat meat.' " It's akin, some vegetarians say, to coming out as a gay person.

Yikes, mom might say. I built you out of meat, you ungrateful little thing.

Let me stop right there and express "graddytood" that the purpose of education is now to make kids "see the world from a different perspective." I never knew that. Nor did I know that kids were so hopelessly lost that they had to go to college to "establish their own identities." Is making a big show of not eating Thanksgiving turkey and hurting your mom's feelings now an "identity"?


The things that hundreds of thousands of dollars can buy!

And how insensitive of me not to realize that not eating meat is like telling the world you're gay! Well, I guess I should be grateful that they didn't say it was akin to something more serious, like being a veil-wearing Muslim in George Bush's racist America.

"I decided to give vegetarianism a try around Thanksgiving of my sophomore year," says Sarah Stockton-Brown, Melissa's 21-year-old sister, a senior at St. Joseph's.

"I just didn't eat the turkey, but no one noticed. But by Christmas, I told my mom I wouldn't be eating the ham and turkey."

No one freaked out. "My mom had questions and there was skepticism," she adds. "My aunt and uncle treated it like it was a college experimental phase that would pass."

Because both Melissa and Sarah had moral problems about meat, their mother started listening. Now, she, too is vegetarian, the sisters say.

"You see, it's not necessarily a rejection of the parents when a kid announces he or she is vegetarian," says University of Pennsylvania psychologist Judith Coche. "And parents must realize we don't own our children. At Thanksgiving, where there's a feast, we need to negotiate enjoyment of the meal."

Just think! Thanksgiving is now a time to "negotiate" the enjoyment of the meal!

Bring in Henry Kissinger and let's get started!

There's more, of course, including a success story about two daughters who converted their mother to veganism, and at the end of the story the Inquirer concludes with advice:

To read about preparing no-meat dishes at Thanksgiving, go to http://go.philly.com/food.
Well, it could have been worse. At least it wasn't pointed out that the turkey eaters are, by eating meat, not only responsible for random acts of savage cruelty, but they are guilty of warming the planet.

For that I am also grateful.

I'm going to a friend's house to eat turkey, and if by chance some vegans are there saving the planet by conspicuous non-consumption of turkey, I'll be very grateful if I'm not scolded.

(Especially if I get really mean-spirited and let slip something like "What a nice day!")

MORE: For some practical advice on avoiding family food fights, Dr. Helen's column on the subject is a must read!

posted by Eric on 11.22.07 at 01:35 PM


Why not stage a "kill 'em with kindness", preemptive strike and bring a Tofurky dish?

Meleva Steiert   ·  November 22, 2007 3:38 PM

They can eat what's on the table--or the table if they prefer. Me, I have a full compliment of teeth that includes CANINES for a reason. And it's not to suck juice out of a carrot.

joated   ·  November 22, 2007 6:19 PM

Could it be that the rise in college vegetarianism is really just a result of the poor quality of food those astronomical tuitions purchase in the college cafeterias?

It's been a while, but I recall hearing that the dining halls at Harvard served meat that the USDA rated "Grade D, but edible". Though this turns out to be an urban legend (Snopes), the quality of the non-vegetarian entrees did leave much to be desired.

For similar reasons, I request vegetarian meals on airplanes, though I quite enjoy *good* meat.

Clint   ·  November 22, 2007 7:29 PM

I became a vegetarian in college, for about a year... until I had a horrible bout of gastroenteritis and my mom told me in no uncertain terms, "You will eat what I put in front of you." I've never looked back! My six-year-old, however, has started to tell me, "I try not to eat meat because I don't want to kill animals," because her babysitter, a lovely, trustworthy, and kind woman, is also a principled vegetarian (as opposed to a "health vegetarian"). Sigh.

Jamie   ·  November 22, 2007 10:11 PM

If God hadn't intended us to eat animals, he wouldn't have made them so tasty. ;-)

Okay, wise-ass crack aside, I would point out that one of the goals of a traditional liberal education (i.e. a college degree) is in fact to broaden people's horizons and expose them to new and different ideas, i.e. seeing the world from a different perspective. However, this ideal of a liberal education is rather imperiled these days by the ideological conformity that's so common on many campuses.

Dean Esmay   ·  November 23, 2007 10:03 AM

My roommate in college in the late 70's/early 80's) went vegetarian, though not complete vegan, and maintained it for about 20 years. We'd go for pizza and he'd ask, "You want any dead animals on your half?"

Then, for our fortieth birthdays, a group from college took a golf trip to Myrtle Beach. I was shocked to see him ordering a steak, eating bacon for breakfast. His comment? "I can't believe I ever did that. This is delicious."

Enjoy the turkey. I did, and will again today. There's something special about the smell of a roasting turkey.

Giacomo   ·  November 23, 2007 11:53 AM

One of my brothers tried being a vegetarian in college. He contracted an infection they were calling "trench mouth".

Joe Lammers   ·  November 23, 2007 1:24 PM

I became a vegetarian in college, for about a year... until I had a horrible bout of gastroenteritis and my mom told me in no uncertain terms, "You will eat what I put in front of you." I've never looked back! My six-year-old, however, has started to tell me, "I try not to eat meat because I don't want to kill animals," because her babysitter, a lovely, trustworthy, and kind woman, is also a principled vegetarian (as opposed to a "health vegetarian"). Sigh.

řirket   ·  November 25, 2007 10:59 AM

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