The holidays can be hard. And they can be even harder when you have to endure teasing for/endless questions about/(un)intentional misunderstandings of your choice not to indulge in a giant bird carcass. To be fair, it can be difficult for people to understand why you would reject family traditions. Luckily, though, most people are understanding of alternative diets these days, and potentially tense situations can usually be avoided or diffused with a sense of humor.
This week will mark my fifth Thanksgiving as an herbivore, and it will be the very first time that I will get to have an all-vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner! Yay! Although I wish that I could spend the holiday with my (omnivorous) boyfriend, I’m excited that my lovely friend Alison and her hubby (both herbivores) have invited me over, and I am already drooling over the menu, which includes:
Chestnut-Apple Stuffing (vegan)
Tofu Roulade (vegan)
Mashed Potatoes (will keep some vegan)
Sweet Potatoes with Grand Marnier (served in little half-oranges, will make one vegan)
Butternut Squash Ravioli (not vegan)
Blue-Corn Muffins (not vegan)
In the meantime, I know that not everybody gets to have an all-vegetarian Thanksgiving. If you are an herbivore and have been invited to an omnivorous feast, offer to bring a hearty side dish and dessert. That way, no matter what, you will have something delicious to eat. Make enough to share. Your friends/relatives might really enjoy your dish, or they might not even touch it (this has happened to me), but don’t be offended either way. Just enjoy yourself no matter what. You might find that people who ask lots of questions are genuinely interested. I have had a lot of people tell me recently that they are trying to cut down on meat for health or environmental issues. Your veggie dish might be a welcome addition to the table.
If some drunk/mean relative makes fun of your Tofurkey (this has also happened to me), just try to diffuse the situation with humor, if you can. What works for me, usually, is to calmly point out that I don’t judge his personal dietary choices, and that there is no reason for him to worry about mine.
If you are an omnivore who is expecting an herbivore for dinner, be sure to ask questions about his/her specific dietary parameters. Don’t stress. Don’t worry about learning how to cook tofu. Most vegetarians are perfectly content with a meal of hearty side dishes. Ask him/her for any favorite recipe ideas and/or to bring a dish. He/she will be honored to be included!
Last year I made a tofurkey with stuffing from scratch! It was fun and delicious!
I used this recipe.
…and found this cute video helpful for the “construction” of the “roast:”
I didn’t bother with little faux drumsticks. It turned out nicely, especially near the bottom, where the marinade dripped down and got nice and brown. However, it was a lot of work, and I prefer nice, crispy stuffing. The next time I make a Thanksgiving entree, I’m going to make my Mom’s cashew stuffing and bake it in portabello mushrooms.
In the past, I have also enjoyed this recipe for tofu turkey slices. It was easy and good.
I have also made vegan shepherd’s pie for Thanksgiving. I used a recipe from Vimala Rodgers’s Vegetarian Meals for People-on-the-Go. I loved that it was basically a whole Thanksgiving meal (veggies, mashed potatoes, and gravy + chickpeas for protein) in one dish.
Other years I have tried some of the turkey analog products that are commercially available. I found Tofurkey to be pretty bland and dry. The Field Roast Celebration Roast was okay: I liked the stuffing, but I generally am not a big fan of gluten-based meat subs; they taste like bread to me, and not in a good way. My favorite so far was the Quorn-brand Turk’y roast. It was the most convincingly turkey-ish in taste and texture (note: it does contain egg whites).
A lot of herbivores prefer to not even pretend to eat turkey, and there is wisdom in that. Non-traditional entrees can be even more satisfying. Dreena Martin’s Festive Chickpea Tart looks super delicious to me!
…but who needs entrees when you have dessert (especially if that dessert involves pumpkin)?
Good vegan pumpkin pie recipes are plentiful on the Web, most of which involve tofu. I can vouch for this one.
I could keep posting all night. It’s fun to look for new recipes and ideas. PLEASE SHARE your ideas for vegan Thanksgiving yumminess in the comments!
This year I am thankful to have a bounty of nutritious food in my fridge, the support of loved ones, and my computer (just back from repairs after a near-death experience).
Thanks for reading!