Grow up in a house where meat loaf is eaten frequently and with gusto because it's one of the best things your mother makes after she finally settles on a recipe which does not involve Campbell's Alphabet Soup. (It is disconcerting to find noodle letters in your meat loaf.) It does involve Lipton's Onion Soup mix but it is good. Ann Landers made this recipe famous.
Rightly so? Well, for the times, it was not bad.
Become a vegetarian when you are in college because you need to lose weight and also you've started going to a restaurant called Hanuman's Conscious Cookery which introduces you to foods and a way to eat which are beyond sublime and which is all (consciously) cooked and served by extremely conscious tranquil people wearing all white, including turbans.
Also, another reason to become a vegetarian is to shove yet another wedge between your parents and yourself. Perhaps this is the most compelling reason.
Go on to become a hippie. Make skirts out of blue jeans and embroider them. Move back to Florida. Meet up with lots of musicians and lovely, crazy people who are building houses out in the boonies and who subsist mostly on beans and rice and collard greens. Be one of those people. Get pregnant and wake up one day craving meat like you could go wring a seagull's neck, pluck, and eat the bird.
Start eating meat again. Marry the baby daddy. Have a lovely baby. Move to the country. Raise a hog. Grow a garden. Bake bread and whole wheat stuff and have another baby.
Get fed up with the baby daddy.
Become a vegetarian again for many reasons, one of them which is to lose weight.
Divorce your husband for many reasons we shall not go into here. Get with a guy who is a vegetarian. Pretend you are blissed out for awhile. Move back to town. Go to nursing school. Get tired as hell of the vegetarianism and the guy. Mostly the guy. Kick his ass out. Start eating meat if you want to.
You are a single mother going to nursing school. Survive a major depression. Survive everything because you have no choice. Classes and clinicals and figuring out how to get your children to school and back and also custody issues and the worst loneliness you have never imagined and everything. Every thing. Including the horrible grief and guilt of your family being torn apart by you. Tell yourself repeatedly it was not your fault. Go to some therapists who DO NOT HELP AT ALL. Cry every night because your children's framework and very foundation have been torn apart.
It is all yours to survive.
Begin to date. You are only 27 years old, after all.
Go out dancing with your girlfriends. Find your joy and reclaim your powers. As a woman, as a person, as a human being. Start to discover who you are and what you want and what you are, amazingly, capable of. Make friends whom you will love forever. Study like a demon.
Date, date, date.
Boys and men. Men and boys. Guitar players and construction worker/artists, cowboy-indians and random strangers.
End up crying alone at night. After night. After night.
Meet a guy who is almost seven feet tall and paints houses for a living. Become intrigued. When he asks you to dance, say yes.
When he asks to spend the night, say yes.
When he asks you to marry him, say yes.
When he mentions he is a hunter, freak out.
Learn to live with it.
Have another baby. Start a business. Raise your kids. Go through another horrible depression or two. Finally deal with the issue of childhood sexual abuse.
Have another baby.
Throughout all of this, continue to cook. Vegetables and meat and breads and rice and grains and everything.
When he brings home venison, turn your nose up at it. Say it tastes nasty.
Live a few more decades. Learn more about meat and where it comes from and that which is healthy and that which is not.
Learn to cook the damn venison. Learn to love it. Learn to appreciate it with all of your heart.
Love that man who brings you the venison. Love him more every year until you don't think you can love him any more and then learn to love him some more.
Keep gardening, keep chickens, keep loving.
Thaw out a pound of ground venison and truly appreciate the way the meat has no fat in it, the clean scent of it because it ate nothing but what it found in the forest. Make the Ann Landers' recipe but add chopped onions and peppers and portobello mushrooms. And garlic. And a duck egg. Mix it all together with your hands. Make a loaf of it and put it in a baking dish. Put a few slices of bacon on top. Bake it in the oven with some potatoes.
Serve it to the man you love who brought home the deer meat. The man who was intriguingly tall who showed you a picture of his mama and his daddy the first time he ever came to court you. The man who has stood by you and with you and who has gone through births and deaths with you. The man who, on the surface, you have nothing in common with at all except a belief in family and in love and in working together and in supporting each other and believing that being kind to other human beings is about the best thing you can be.
Give him ketchup to eat with his meatloaf if he wants it. Butter for his potatoes. Some nice green beans and a slice of bread you made.
Kiss him while you're eating.
Appreciate the deer, the vegetables, the person sitting beside you.
Enjoy your meatloaf.
Make sandwiches the next day. Be grateful all over again.
It will be delicious. I promise.