Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chopped Liver

One summer my sister went away to a camp in the Berkshires and when she came home she was a vegetarian. 

The family didn’t take kindly to this. It was seen neither as a health decision nor a moral choice. Laura was labeled a juvenile delinquent.

My mother, in addition to thinking such rebellion was unseemly, was afraid the absence of meat in Laura’s diet would make her sick. Our family doctor, when consulted, claimed it was all a communist plot. “I don’t know what they think they’re doing up there in that pinko camp,” he said, “ but I’ve a good mind to report them to the government.” 

Aunt Fishy thought that all Laura needed was a good psychologist. Uncle Sammy said what she needed was a good slap.
But my grandmother got to work thinking of dishes Laura could not only eat, but enjoy. She invented what I think must have been the first vegetarian chopped liver. This was before tofu became popular and vegetarian chefs started claiming they could make a meatless meatloaf, or a chickenless chicken that, if your eyes were closed while you ate it, would absolutely, positively, fool you. This was before the days of vegetarian Thanksgivings, with a large slab of Tofurky sitting not-so-proudly in the center of the table. This was before you could find sliced seitan, passing itself off as roast beef or corned beef or ham, in your local supermarket deli department. 
Grandma never heard of tofu or seitan, but she knew from green beans. She took the beans and cooked them, and then she mashed them up. She chopped walnuts and added them to the mixture. Then a sprinkling of lemon and oil, a dash of this or that spice, maybe even a secret ingredient or two that she never divulged. 

The result was a vegetarian chopped liver that Laura declared “Delishioso!” 
I’m not certain, but I think that was the precise moment when she began putting the letter “o” on the end of her words. 

Neato. Excellento. Fabuloso. Keeno. Terrifico. Marveloso. Schoolo. Readingo. Whyo. Televisiono. Coolo. Stinko.

Soon the whole family was doing it. Even grandma.