It’s been hard for my neighbor to digest the fact that I’m a vegan, as it’s not a lifestyle she’s familiar with. She’s a seventy-five year old Calabrese widow who invites me over for liquor and cookies and spreads apartment building gossip like wildfire.
We’re making strides in understanding each other, although I have more than a sneaking suspicion that she thinks I’m bananas.
One afternoon I brought her a piece of pumpkin bread my sister and I had made during my sister’s visit. The next day I saw her again and we chatted:
Me: Did you like the cake?
Neighbor: Yes, it was good. What was in it?
Me: [lists ingredients]
Neighbor: Can you read Italian?
Me: Sì sì!
Neighbor: Let me give you the recipe for a ciambella.* There’s nothing to it!
Me: [reading the recipe printed on the side of a bag of flour] Hmm, I’m sorry but I don’t eat eggs or cream.
Neighbor: No? But you eat cheese?
Me: No, no cheese.
Neighbor: [surprised look] What do you eat?
Me: I eat a lot! I eat vegetables, fruit, grains…
Neighbor: [interrupting] You don’t eat anything!
Me: I eat a lot!
Neighbor: But you eat meat, right?
Me: No, I don’t eat meat.
Neighbor: [even more surprised look]
Me: I’m following a vegan diet. I have high cholesterol.
Neighbor: [nods knowingly and pats her generous stomach] What’s that mean?
Me: It means no animal products.
This seemed to sink in and I considered the matter settled until the next time I saw her and she gave me her recipe for eggplant stuffed with prosciutto and topped with melted mozzarella. I reminded her about my diet. Another bewildered look, and she asked me if I really didn’t eat prosciutto.
You should have seen her when she found out I didn’t have TV…
*a cake similar to pound cake in the shape of a giant doughnut