Saffron Cross Bonus Material: Gangster Gail

Aunt Gangster Gail, me, and my mother at American Tobacco Campus, May 2013.


For years, my Aunt Gail has taken her sisters on a yearly trip to Charleston the first week in December. When my eldest Aunt Ann was too frail to go, Aunt Gail began inviting her younger sister, my mother Judy. Last year, I got invited to attend this sacred sisterly trip. But, I knew my place: they needed someone to carry the bags!

In celebration of these strong Trent women, I hope you enjoy this little “Aunt Gangster Gail” vignette from Saffron Cross cutting room floor. The most difficult thing about editing a book is the page limit. This story didn’t make the final edition—but I love it—and the upside is that I get to share it with you as bonus material!

And if you haven’t picked up your copy of Saffron Cross yet, do it today! If you’ve already read Saffron Cross and you enjoyed it–we hope you’ll do two things: 1) write a short review on Amazon, and 2) gift your friends with a copy this Christmas!

Gangster Gail (Bonus Material from the Vegetarian Chapter of Saffron Cross)

My Aunt Gail is two years older than my mother and comes to visit each May for one week. For seven days, she and I bargain hunt, giggle, and indulge in greasy meals.

Fred lovingly refers to Aunt Gail as “Gangster Gail” because within the first five minutes of their meeting in Chapel Hill, she offered him sly advice on the Tobacco Road rivalry.

She whispered, “You have to be careful in this town. If someone hears you are a Duke fan, they’ll slit your throat.” She quickly sliced her hand across her neck for dramatic effect.

Then I told Fred about the time she nearly stabbed a NYC cabby in the neck with a metal nail file when he took her on an unfamiliar route back to her hotel. Fred was convinced she was a gangster, even before she told him about her affinity for The Sopranos and the Godfather trilogy.

I should have known that my new vegetarian diet would be a point of contention with Gangster Gail, especially when I took her to Five Guys for lunch.

When I ordered the only vegetarian option, Aunt Gangster Gail crossed her arms and planted her feet in front of the register, unwavering.

“I will not have my niece order a bun with only lettuce and cheese! Nope. It ain’t gonna happen!”

Vegetarian, schmegetarian. Gangster Gail wasn’t going to allow her baby girl to eat a rabbit lunch, and that was that. She had forgotten I also ordered a huge paper bag of crispy fries, my favorite meatless splurge since my forty-day excursion with Jesus.

But I could not argue with a woman whom I knew studied the Mafiosa moves of Tony Soprano.

So I had a juicy cheeseburger and a pound of fries under the watchful eye of Gangster Gail, who was pleased with supplying her niece with a week’s worth of protein and fat in one sitting.

Enjoyed this vignette? Pick up your copy of Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk just released from Fresh Air Books (an imprint of Upper Room Books).

5 thoughts on “Saffron Cross Bonus Material: Gangster Gail”

  • Had this story been included in Saffron Cross some of the readers would have wondered where in the world
    these 3 Trent ladies were REALLY born and reared – Italy perhaps ? We would never tell. Nope, not us.

  • Greetings Dana :-))

    Are you a full fledge vegan or occasionally consume beef, fish, etc?

    What did Fred say about the ‘beefy juicy cheeseburger you ate’??

    God Bless


  • Hi Dana,

    Thanks for responding!! I hope my questions do not bring back memories, don’t wanna be the devil who tempts you !!! If u feel uncomfortable in answering pls feel free to not respond :-))

    I read yr awesome story on Lent, it’s truly beautiful how interfaith life really works out, I hope more people explore interfaith.

    Egg is alright as it’s not exactly counted as a leaving thing, moreover you’ll need the protein and calcium as supplements.

    I have friends who have a hard time becoming vegan because of beef, somehow they miss the taste, diff cuts and the variety of dishes made from it. Some of them eat veal as well,which is known to be torturous for the baby cow. I showed them videos of slaughterhouses and they were shocked, I could see how they have changed, now they try to opt for vegan food as often as possible.

    They also come from hunting and farming background so killing and meat is part of their mental schema which they are trying to root out.

    Have you taken veal? Yr favorite part or cut and hunted since NC is located nearer to the south known for its farm life??

    Best regards,

    • Kahd:

      Thanks for these comments.

      I *have* had veal, and know that I have interacted with calves and cows, I’m heartbroken that I ever put such foods in my mouth.

      But, we learn from our mistakes, and I’m grateful for Fred’s devout vegetarianism, as it has helped me be a more compassionate human and more diligent in my spiritual practice.

      Peace to you,

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