Uno Mas
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FROM Vilma Reynoso, Vegans Make A Difference
November 2020

Every Sunday, we partook in an asado, Argentine barbecue which included most parts of the cow: molleja (gizzards or thymus gland), tripe (stomach), lengua (tongue), tripas (intestines), and sesos (brains). I preferred to eat my meat very well done, almost burned because the smell and sight of animal blood bothered me and sometimes made me nauseous.

Vilma Reynoso

ďUno mas?Ē I looked up at Dad, and before I could give an answer, another piece of charred meat was put on my plate, whether I wanted it or not.

I never did forget the smell of spices and cooked meat that permeated the back porch where we ate as a family. Every Sunday, we partook in an asado, Argentine barbecue which included most parts of the cow: molleja (gizzards or thymus gland), tripe (stomach), lengua (tongue), tripas (intestines), and sesos (brains). I preferred to eat my meat very well done, almost burned. My father, a non-wavering asado lover and excellent cook, could not understand that and every Sunday had to wait at the barbecue grill until my steak was well-done, while everyone else partook in the rest of the grub at medium-well. Dad liked his steak medium-rare. I disliked sitting next to him at our barbecues and purposely sat across from him at the dinner table. The smell and sight of animal blood bothered me and sometimes made me nauseous.

Friends and family filled the asado table almost weekly because Dad was well known for creating the most delicious asados on the planet. I remember many laughs shared gathering around the patio table overlooking a beautifully trimmed yard, Momís pride and joy. The rest of the meal usually consisted of a simple salad of iceberg or romaine lettuce with tomatoes and onions, and the occasional French fries fried in olive oil. As I grew older, it became my job to put together the salads we ate with our asados. I remember the delicious aroma of apple cider vinegar and olive oil as I mixed the salads to the perfect consistency. Everyone loved Dadís barbecues; they were a special time of laughter, a celebration of life and love, a time of releasing the stresses of the workweek. In Argentina, as is in many countries, meals are a means of sharing and partaking in love and friendship. They are essential for bonding and integral to the culture.

Growing up in Los Angeles as an immigrant from Rosario, Argentina, Sunday asados were the most consistent family tradition. It was also our custom to eat lots of pasta, rice, dairy, fish, and chicken with a Spanish and Italian flair. Meat was included as part of every meal, and so was Spanish or Argentine wine. My mother, a homemaker and very loving parent, raised us and cooked locro, paella, polenta, puchero, arroz con pollo, milanese, and desserts like flan (my favorite), alfajores, pan dulce, and arroz con leche. As a result, food became my solace away from the outside world as I tried desperately to assimilate into the American culture and learn English without help from my Spanish-speaking parents. As a child, I developed many colds, was overweight, and had sinusitis; eventually, as a young adult, I became asthmatic, but I still looked forward to coming home from school and partaking in Momís delicious home-cooked meals!

One cold February day, as I arrived home after high school track practice, I noticed numerous cars parked in front of our house. Something felt eerie and unsettling. As I ventured up the long stairway that led to the front porch of the house, I could see grim, familiar faces through the kitchen window, and I knew something was very wrong. As I stepped into the house, I noticed most of my parentsí friends in our kitchen and dining area. I will never forget the look on their faces as my eyes met theirs. I felt a deep anxiety as I looked from one face to another trying desperately to determine what happened. After what felt like an eternity, Dad pulled me aside and told me Mom had collapsed in the bathroom and was in a coma in the hospital. At that life-changing moment, I knew my mother was not going to make it.

The short drive to the hospital felt like the longest drive of my life. Dad and I did not say a word to each other. So many thoughts raced through my mind: ďWhat now? What will I do now that Mom is gone? What will happen to my family?Ē Once at the hospital, I discovered Mom had had a massive stroke. Her prognosis was grim: even if she were to emerge from her coma, she would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair and as a vegetable. The shock from these words filled my heart with fear. The woman who was so vibrant, who created the wonderful meals I loved, who cared for me like no one ever had, who was the undeniable glue that held our family together, who I loved with all my heart, was gone. It was too much to bear, and I asked the question we all ask: ďWhy?Ē

Mom was in a coma for two weeks and then died on March 7, 1981. As an obese woman who lived with an alcoholic husband, Mom had been in emotional and physical pain. I could not imagine Mom living her life in a vegetative state. I tried to come to peace with what just happened. I ventured out to my favorite beach a few hilly blocks from our home and stared at the atypical and tranquil March surge as I cried. I soaked in the smell of seaweed and wet sand as I stood overlooking the water, anxious and despondent.

Once Mom was buried, our family life, as I knew it, fell apart. In a deep depression and a constant alcoholic stupor, Dad ignored my siblings and me. Life at home became unbearable. I became involved in many activities at school to spend as much time away from home as possible. No one talked about Momís death, no one cooked paella or Italian sausage with tomato sauce; we lived in denial and tried to carry on. The delicious meals, the Argentine asados, and the family traditions stopped for what seemed like years because Mom could not be replaced.

As years passed, I often wondered why my mother died the way she did. I eventually accepted that her stoke occurred as a result of ill health and obesity due to the kind of food she ate. I believed that conclusion even further when about a decade later, Dad, also obese, collapsed at home and died of a heart attack. Years later, after moving to Colorado and as a stay-at-home mother myself, every time I stepped into my kitchen, I thought of my mother. Anytime I cooked a meal from scratch, I thought of Mom. I remembered how she nurtured us, inspired us, and fed us. I tried to create her delicious meals: rice and bean stew (paella), spaghetti with her wonderful meat sauce, gnocchi marinara, chicken and rice soup (puchero). Although my cooking was good, nothing could replace Momís.

In hopes of passing on family tradition to my daughter by experimenting with Momís recipes, I soon discovered that although her recipes were delicious, they were far from healthy. And, suffering from horrible PMS, fibroids, chronic fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, asthma, intestinal problems, sinusitis, foggy thinking, and even depression, I had to do something to improve my health. Also, my daughter, a toddler, would not eat any kind of meat, so in hopes of keeping her healthy, I began to study vegetarianism. I discovered that what my parents and I had been eating most of our lives was indeed harmful, very unhealthy, and even life-threatening. I delved into vegetarian cuisine. I learned that eating any type of meat was not necessary for good health, dairy was harmful and caused many ailments, and eating a plant-based diet was indeed much healthier. I read about the protein content in beans, the health benefits of vegetables, the fiber in fruit, and the harmful chemicals found in meat. Truly fascinated by what I read and by the examples of fit and healthy vegetarian (and vegan) people, I decided I needed to ďgo vegetarian.Ē

Once a seasoned vegetarian and successfully changing my daughterís diet, I stumbled upon the documentaryEarthlingsand watched it with my jaw and heart on the floor. I then chose to go vegan because I could not continue to participate in the barbaric exploitation of animals and the destruction of our only planet. Soon after, most of my ailments including sinusitis, asthma, depression, chronic fatigue, PMS, fibroids, anxiety, and foggy thinking disappeared. There was no turning back!

I think about Mom and Dad daily and thank them for their contribution to my now healthy and abundant life. I miss them dearly. I cannot give to them what they gave to me, but I can share with others what Iíve learned, what Iíve experienced, and who Iíve become because of their sacrifice and misguidedness. My goal is to welcome new family traditions and create vegan versions of the many Argentine meals I ate as a child. My mission is to inspire and teach others how to live an abundant, healthy, and compassionate vegan lifestyle.

ďUno mas?Ē Dad would say to me every time before adding another piece of charred meat to my plate. How I wish I could have told him that ďUno mas?Ē was so harmful to his health, to Momís, to the animals, and to the planet.


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