Lorraine poured herself an extra large tumbler of Sauvignon Blanc, her favorite wine, took a big sip, and set to work preparing dinner. That clueless Frederick had invited the new neighbor for dinner and now the two of them were chatting away in the living room as if they were old buddies. Frederick was nice to everybody, but Lorraine figured that life is short, so you should walk away from annoying people. And Ellie was certainly annoying. Nevertheless, Lorraine loved to cook and found it soothing. She was gradually getting over her immediate reaction to the conversation she and Ellie had recently shared, as she lovingly washed and chopped vegetables for the stir-fry. Maybe Ellie would be an okay neighbor after all. She would take a page out of Frederick’s book and give Ellie a chance.
Lorraine had just been given an Insta-pot by John Nichols, and was enjoying her experimentation with this new toy. She had already tried dried beans, risotto, and was happy with it. She put her brown rice into the device for a super-speedy cook time. Then she squeezed the extra water from the block of tofu and wrapped it in a clean dish towel to drain. She heated the wok with a little peanut oil in it, and sautéed garlic and ginger. She cut the dried tofu into cubes and dipped each piece into corn starch before she fried it until crisp.
Frederick called from the living room, “Something smells amazing! Can’t wait for dinner!”
Sweet Frederick. If he would only keep his smelly socks off the bedroom floor…And get rid of those tacky short-sleeved dress shirts. And buy some new shoes. And get rid of those polyester pants. And stop being so nice to annoying people.
Lorraine spread a crisp white linen tablecloth on the dining table and set the table with her good Spode china that had belonged to her great grandmother, and the sterling flatware she had also inherited. She used her good stuff every night. There was no point saving it for special occasions. She had no one to leave it to when she passed, and she had heard that young people didn’t want that sort of thing anyway. She enjoyed and appreciated her beautiful things. Why save things for special occasions when dinner each night was kind of special.
When dinner was ready, Frederick refilled Lorraine’s glass, poured some for himself, and offered wine to Ellie. “No thanks,” she declared. “Wine is evil. I prefer Diet Coke. Can I have a can of that, please?”
Evil?? Diet Coke? Lorraine swallowed more wine and remarked, “If anything is evil it’s Diet Coke. Even Jesus drank wine. He would not have approved of diet drinks! Diet drinks eat holes in your brain. Don’t you know that? We certainly don’t have Diet Coke in this house!”
“My brain is just fine, thanks! At least I am not drunk.” Ellie snapped. “How about a glass of milk? That’s not bad for you!”
“Um,” Lorraine began. Nobody was drunk here. What was that crazy woman suggesting? She knew this explanation was going to be difficult. “We are vegan.”
“What’s a vegan? Is that another name for Alien?” Ellie asked.
“We don’t eat any animal products,” Lorraine stated.
“Like what?” Ellie asked.
Lorraine explained: “We avoid meat, dairy, and eggs. Basically anything that is derived from an animal.”
“That sounds like Alien shit to me. I don’t get it,” said Ellie. “That doesn’t leave anything to eat. What about hamburgers? You must eat them! That’s what keeps America great! Hamburgers with ketchup and fries.”
“No,” said Lorraine, barely containing her impatience. “We don’t eat them unless they are made up of vegetables.”
“Vegetable hamburgers? They can do that? What is that like? A ball of broccoli on a bun? Gross. What do you order at McDonald’s then? That doesn’t leave much from the menu unless you just eat fries. Why do you punish yourselves like that? Are you penitent for some really bad sins?” Ellie asked, honestly confused.
“We just don’t eat fast food,” Lorraine explained with an imperious sniff. “It’s not good for you!”
“That’s crazy if you ask me. As for me,” Ellie began. “I love every part of an animal snout to tail, and I couldn’t live without it. You guys must be Communists. It’s just not American to avoid meat and McDonald’s.”
Lorraine stood up quickly to end the discussion and brought the platter of rice and tofu stir-fry to the table. She served everyone’s plate, and put her fork on the edge of her plate to indicate that everyone should start eating.
“I’ll say the grace,” said Ellie, staring at the platter of strange food. She grabbed the hands of Lorraine and Frederick and they all bowed their heads. “Lord,” she began. “Thanks a lot for the food we are about to eat. I don’t know what this shit is in front of me. It looks like toasted marshmallows with vegetables on something dirty looking. It can’t be rice. Rice is white. Please keep me safe if I taste this stuff. It looks nasty. Bless the United States of America and the wise government that keeps us safe from Mexicans. Please help build that wall so’s Mexicans and their mules can’t come across the border and steal our jobs. And rape our women. And help these nice neighbors of mine get over their strange ideas about what’s good to eat. Whatever they did to make them punish themselves like this, please let bygones be bygones and let them eat delicious food instead of this stuff. These folks don’t look that healthy to me. Especially that skinny Lorraine. She could use some meat in her mouth and on her plate. Amen.”
“Well thank you, Ellie,” said Lorraine hesitantly. She drained her wine glass and poured herself some more. “Shall we eat?” Did she just call Lorraine skinny? Maybe she was not so bad after all.