I wasn’t raised Catholic, but my husband was. His mom, Gretchen, is a devout Catholic so we’re raising the kids in the church. She’s the epitome of a mom and spiritual leader. If the kids turn out even a little bit like her, I’ll be happy.
Gretchen is so devoted to her faith, she prays the rosary many times during the day. As such, she has rosaries, which we’ve lovingly nicknamed “God beads,” in every room in her house. She also has quite the impressive stash all over our family business.
We made up a quip derived from the old H&R Block commercial – when Gretchen prays, God listens.
Each afternoon, she takes a break and goes into the lounge to pray. She uses the rosary so often, she’s broken at least 10 in the last two years. For Christmas, I made her a new one. I’ve restrung it twice since.
Finally, when she broke it the third time, we couldn’t find all the beads. I decided to make her another out of new beads and heavy duty fishing line. I sent the girls to the store to buy the line used to reel in sharks, in the hopes that she won’t pray/break them. Even so, we’re all taking bets on how long it will take until she does.
But at both Easter and Christmas, her usual amount of prayers looks like a hobby - during Christmas and Lent, it’s a full-time job.
As the family’s spiritual luminary, we follow her traditions during religious holidays. In other words, the traditions of the Catholic Church.
One of them is that after Ash Wednesday, we don’t eat meat on Fridays. This practice is a little difficult for my family, as none of us are particularly fond of fish. But with enough tartar sauce (or in Boy’s case, ketchup) slathered on, we manage. Of course, as soon as it’s Easter, I have what amounts to a meat cornucopia on the dinner table.
Another tradition this time of year is to give up something for the season. This is to honor the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
My daughter, Aubrie, made a startling announcement: she was giving up meat for the entire Lenten season. This is the girl who hates fish, and only tolerates certain vegetables. I was stunned. To make matters worse, her announcement was the day after my grocery store had a huge sale on meat.
There was half a cow in my freezer.
But the family decided that we’d try to go meatless as well in support of our girl. The cow needed to settle in for a little while.
At first, we ate a lot of pasta. I made different meatless sauces, but after a few days, we’d had enough tomato or vegetable-laden noodles. A vegetarian friend told me that they sell tofu in the form of burgers, sausage and hot dogs that actually taste like meat. Why didn’t we give that a shot? I got the meat substitutes, and we tried every single one of them.
Here’s the thing; you can put a tutu on a dog, but it’s still a dog. I give the tofu makers credit for adding interesting spices to their products, but they in no way taste like their meat counterparts. When I asked my friend how long she’d been a vegetarian, she said 15 years.
I probably should have asked that before I took her word that tofu can be made to taste like beef. She has obviously forgotten what it tastes like.
I went in search of recipes for meatless food. I have to say, most were pretty good. Aubrie even stumbled upon a recipe for meatballs made from rice, bread crumbs and spices, which again was excellent, yet there was no way to mistake them for the real deal.
A Web site suggested using portobello mushrooms as a replacement for steak. I love portobello mushrooms - on top of my steak. That recipe was tasty as well, but I couldn’t find any veggie or tofu burger that I would mistake for a Big Mac.
Sadly, I don’t possess my daughter’s will power. By the end of the second week, I’d taken to sneaking out to the nearest fast food drive-in and getting some type of burger. Or chicken, I wasn’t picky. Hunched over, lest anyone see, I sat and ate it in the car like a troll under a bridge.
Honestly, a lot of the recipes were very good and we continue to make them to this day. And frankly, I admire vegetarians and vegans, my hat’s off to you. But if there was ever a doubt that I could give up meat and live the healthy lifestyle, it was erased during this experiment. Even for Lent.
Finally, it was Easter Eve and we observed another tradition. As we watched “The Ten Commandments,” Gretchen silently said her rosary and I began to prepare the next day’s feast.
I had a Flintstone-sized ham as well as a turkey the size of a wildebeest. There was enough gravy to keep the Titanic afloat, along with a vat of stuffing. Only two things resembled a vegetable. One was the mashed potatoes that were quickly drowning in gravy.
And the second was the obligatory green bean casserole, topped with bacon.