This was the phrase that my pops announced to the cashier at the Burger King around the corner from our house. I was 10 years old at the time and with my father being a vegetarian, I was subjected to some odd food combinations. My dad would rarely go to any fast food restaurants, but on this evening I got excited when he turned into the BK. We stepped up to the counter and I just knew that he was gonna at least let me get a burger and some fries. Boy was I wrong. We walked through the maze that Burger King spots used to have leading up to the counter and the gentleman there politely asked if he could take our order. My pop stepped up calmly and said “I’d like two Whoppers… hold the meat. Also add two small fries and two orange drinks.” Know you know that BK had those loud microphone systems where they had to announce to the world what your order was. The guy grabbed hold of the gooseneck and repeated what my dad had requested… “Gimme two Whoppers… hold the meat… two small fry and two orange.” The cook in the back hollered “Two whoppers with no meat??? Okay” Meanwhile, I’m feeling small enough to jump in a glass of water. People in the restuarant were laughing and making fun at what they had just witnessed. The guy behind us in line asked my dad if he didn’t mind if they took the meat from the Whoppers we were supposed to be eating and allowed the cook to make double burgers for him at no extra charge. Pops was like “No problem, you can have them”. Folks in line looked on in amazement. You’ve got a grown man and his young son ordering and paying full price for two Whoppers with no meat.
We stood there for a moment and the order finally came. My dad opened the bag to check to ensure that what we had in the bag was what had been ordered. He pulled out two Whoppers with meat. He shook them over his head and said “I asked for no meat”. The cashier called the cook in the back and repeated the phrase. The cook shouted back “You were serious? I thought it was a joke”. He promptly fixed up two Whoppers as my dad had asked for and we left the restaurant. When we finally got home he placed the BK bag on the table and walked to the freezer. From the freezer he pulled out a box of Morningstar Grillers. For those who don’t know, Grillers are a meatless beef-like pattie. Pops threw two Grillers in the toaster oven, cooked them and walked back to the dining room table. He opened the bag with the meatless Whoppers and placed each individual Griller on the spot where the real meat would’ve been. We sat down, said grace and ate our dinner. You think I was excited, heck no. I was angry. I was frustrated. I was embarrassed. Why’d pops have to be a vegetarian? I ate meat when I was with mom. I ate meat when I was other places.
When I spent weekends with dad, meat was off limits. Hell, at lot of things were off limits. No real meat, we had veggie meat alternatives from Morningstar and Loma Linda. No real eggs, we had Scramblers. No real cheese, we had some kind cheese knockoff. No real milk, we had powdered soy. No Hostess anything cuz it had lard in it, but he sure as hell had a rack of Little Debbie snacks… they were made with vegetable shortening. I still recall a day we ran out of soy milk and I was forced to eat my Corn Flakes with orange juice. Yeah, that’s right… corn flakes soaked in OJ. I can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t funny then. To this day I’ve never seen my dad eat meat. I mean nothing. No fish, no chicken, no red meat, no pork, no nothing. He has maintained his vegetarian diet since the day I was born. It’s cool though, I eat meat so he can do whatever he wants. The family still gets a kick out of it though. Every Thanksgiving my grandma and grandpa (who do eat meat) ask dad if he wants to carve the turkey. He gives them that ‘aiiight now’ look and holds his hand out for the candied yams. We all laugh as he piles his plate with veggies, but hey it’s his world. Yet, it was my world that was turned upside down on that day we went to Burger King thinking pops was gonna be nice enough to get his son a burger… with real meat.