My family comes from a culture where food is a dominating love language. People feed you to show you that the care deeply for you; to reciprocate, you eat the food. I have been a vegetarian for almost 16 years now. My "diet" has caused a lot of controversy between my mother and me. She is an amazing cook, but her repertoire is highly meat-based, so telling her that I won't eat meat was akin to stabbing her in the back. At the beginning, she was extremely resistant to my choice of lifestyle, insisting that this was how my teenage rebellion manifested itself, or that perhaps it was just a fad. Clinging to her animal-heavy upbringing, she also posited that a life without meat couldn't possible be healthy. We struggled for so long that even just a few years ago, she could be heard saying "Oh, you're still going to do that?" with more than a hint of disappointment in her voice. Year after year, I would come home with lab results that proved that my cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose levels were normal. She was surprised every time, especially after realizing that her own lab results were less than stellar. Doctors started telling her she needed to start eating a diet more like mine. About a year ago, I came home to my mom excitedly proclaiming, "Come eat! I made you dinner!" You have to understand, that for almost 16 years, I've had to fend for myself. I've learned how to cook for myself, where to find the best produce, and attempted to even grow my own food. So when my mother said, "Come eat! I made you dinner!" I looked over my shoulder to see if she was talking to someone behind me. Both curious and afraid, I sat at the dinner table. She brought a large bowl from the kitchen and proudly placed it in front of me. I peered in, to find a large pile of clean, chopped iceberg lettuce.
Just lettuce. I looked back up at her excited face as she exclaimed, "I made you a salad! I know you love salad." Indeed. My mom has no idea how to properly feed a vegetarian, but God, I love her for trying.