This weekend, I found out that my parents have gone feral.
We haven’t lived in the same city for almost 10 years now, so with months between visits, I have become accustomed to things changing. Jobs come and go. People put on weight, only to have lost it by my next visit. The house gets renovated, new neighbors move in, and haircuts are switched up. Ditto with pets. Ditto with babies.
What I didn’t expect, however, was for my parents to go vegan.
Now, I understand that inciting the wrath of vegans is a pretty serious situation, so I’m going to clarify a few facts early up.
- They are still eating meat on the very rare occasion. So they’re more Paleo. But it’s not as much fun to tease someone about being Paleo, is it?
- They have adopted the vegan diet for health reasons, not to be trendy.
- Even though my parents have become accidental vegans, my mother hasn’t yet become a blue-ribbon, preaching hippie: so please, hold the onslaught of angry vegan tirade. She comes in peace.
- I am vegan friendly. I also come in peace.
For the past few months, there were murmurings on the phone from my mother about this new diet she and my dad were on. Lots of leafy greens, colourful fruit, that sort of thing. As it was for health reasons, it was designed specifically for a particular ailment. There were strict rules, and lots of them.
And yet, nothing clicked until Mum and I were trawling the hallways of Chermside shopping center in Brisbane on Saturday afternoon. We were chatting through recipes for dinner that night, and I was throwing out health bombs left right and center.
"Vegetarian, gluten-free lasagne?"
"We can't have dairy."
"Pastry-free broccoli quiche?"
"We can't have eggs."
"Chinese sticky pork with garlic greens?"
"We can't have meat."
Even for a North Bondi resident, this was a lot of rules. I mean, I live in a suburb that turns out raw chocolate cake, cashew cheese, and green smoothies than contain more green things than Gwyneth Paltrow's veggie drawer.
And I still managed to look like Paula Deen in comparison.
Wide eyed, I turned to my mother. "Mum!" I spluttered. "Are you...are you a vegan?"
Deadpan, she continued walking along. "I don't know what that is."
That night, diagrams were drawn and Wiki pages were read. Ma and Pa Kelly got a very fast education in what it means to be a vegan. Luckily, I spied a few steaks in the freezer and we were able to determine that they were more on the paleo side of things. But very rarely.
All in all, my parents had gone vegan: just in time for the first ever snowstorm to freeze over Hades.
As children, we grew up on the diet of 90's Aussie suburbia. Meat was crumbed, vegetables boiled, potatoes mashed. Mum was a whizz with puff pastry, and as a result we had lots of things in pies - chicken pie, meat pie, veggie pie, fish pie, pie pie. Pies in pies in pies. It was a small miracle her three children emerged a normal weight.
It was the quintessential Aussie diet, and one that remained unchanged for my folks well after all the kids moved out. Every time I visited, the old favourites would be on the menu: apricot chicken, beef stroganoff, roast chook. Gravy. BBQ snags. Potato bake.
All of the meals that smell, taste, and feel like home.
Alas, as we suburban brats evolved into fully fledged millennials, we realised that most of those home-cooked delights were not exactly ranking high on the health scale.