“I’m a vegan now, Mawmu.”
I drew in a long breath as I crossed the border from Texas into Louisiana. I was on a road trip from Los Angeles to New York. Visiting my mother was crucial. On her end, there was silence. Having grown up in the city of New Orleans, uttering the word “vegan” felt like a betrayal. As a child, I was obsessed with all things Cajun and Creole: po’ boys, jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, plump blackened shrimp on a bed of wild rice, and Café Du Monde’s chicory café au lait made with whole milk. This was my childhood, my heritage, my cuisine.
“What are you gonna do about gumbo?” she asked. “You have to eat gumbo.”
“I’m excited to explore vegan options,” I said, trying to sound confident and filled with gusto. Letting go of that NOLA elixir would be hard. “In fact, I’m excited to explore all things vegan, especially in New Orleans.”
Another long silence.
“Well, all right.”
I never knew my mother to be brave, at least in the way of food. But for one solid week, she travelled with me to the various vegan spots around the city. She listened to me gab about lentils and stews—simple dishes that I now craved almost as much as I used to crave gumbo. She adventured with me to Whole Foods, watching me float up and down the aisles reading labels and going on and on about how I create dishes by spontaneous inspiration. She listened to stories about Vegan Fest and watermelon soup. Then she sat next to me at her kitchen table, slurped down a bowl of creamy lentils, and said. “This is really good, Rhonda.”
My heart melted.
“Thanks, Mawmu. I’m happy I get to share it with you.”
My mother and I are two different beings living in two very different worlds. She is a loving, religious wife and homemaker. I am a world traveler, actor, writer, and spiritual dreamer. Our tastes couldn’t have been more different until food. Our connection in this world. The link to our beings and our ability to see each other anew.
Rhonda Gibson is a yogi and an MFA graduate student at the TV Writer’s Studio in Brooklyn, New York. She is a member of the Sundance Collab and is currently working on her second pilot. She can be found @DiscoveringTheQuill.
The Good Stuff (Lentil-Mushroom Stew)
(quantities are approximate)
lentils of your choice
approximately 16 oz. no-sodium vegetable stock
1 T. coconut oil
baby portobello mushrooms, whole
1/2 onion, sliced
3 - 6 cloves garlic
spinach or kale
turmeric to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
Toss everything in a large pot, cover, and simmer until lentils are soft and creamy, stirring occasionally.