First, some background information. My brother-in-law is a devout vegetarian, has been for years. My sister is not quite a vegan in that, from time to time (like when she's pregnant) she can be convinced to eat some poultry that was raised sans cage, antibiotics, or hormones with a vegetarian diet. Certified Humane chicken or turkey, in other words.
This couple is coming home to Lebanon for a visit, bringing my nephew along. The only meat he has ever consumed is sporadic dosages of this C.H. poultry. Sami, my sister, is a phenomenal cook who spends many hours preparing flavorful and hearty (if small-portioned) meals to suit their diet choices. I often say if I had my sister around to cook for me all the time, I'd be vegan no sweat. It all tastes that good.
Anyway, like most kids from Lebanon, my sister grew up eating chicken pot pie. For those people not from Lebanon, our version of PA Dutch pot pie is different from your vision. We eat something more like chicken noodle soup, only with very, very wide noodles and big chunks of potatoes. Some people put Karo syrup on top of it, which I have never done and find gross. Also, it is often served with a side of dandelion salad and bacon dressing.
My Nanny makes the best chicken pot pie in the world and likes to have the entire extended Hatfield clan get together frequently to eat it. We made some at my house when the clan came to Pittsburgh last winter, for example. Nanny has the best heart and intentions in the world and tried to make the pot pie vegetarian so Richard, my BIL, would eat it. This means she boiled the chicken to make broth and then picked the meat out and ate that separately.
My mom tried to explain that Richard still won't eat the pot pie (and probably I won't either) and that we would bring something different for him to eat. Nanny, who just turned 80 and grew up during the Great Depression, doesn't get it. Meanwhile, my dad and younger sister are all freaking out that there won't be chicken in the vegetarian pot pie that the vegetarians won't eat anyway. Why can't the chicken be on the side? They want chicken, God damn it! (Nanny, again with her big heart, thought perhaps to serve hot dogs and sauer kraut as a side dish to make everyone happy)
I don't know what is going to happen. I don't know why my grandma made the pot pie a week in advance, I don't know how to turn down this meal without being ungrateful and rude, and I don't know what the hell will happen when all my aunts and cousins and uncles show up and discover there is no chicken in the vegetarian pot pie the vegetarians won't eat. Probably people will yell (they would yell anyway...there's a lot of people and voices will boom). Probably Richard will try to calmly explain his dietary choices and be drowned out by the SuperBowl pregame shows on the tv. Hopefully nobody will cry.
My hope is that in the end everyone will appreciate how much work and thought my grandma put into such a big family gathering and what it really means for someone of her years to give such consideration to everyone's choices. I mean, imagine telling someone who grew up during times of ration that there are people turning down perfectly cheap meat? It sounds a bit crazy to me, too. I wonder if we can bring over a pack of veggie dogs, stick 'em in buns and eat them with mashed potatoes and nobody will even notice? I guess we'd have to make the mashed potatoes, too...