Thanksgiving is next week. And it is not good to be a vegan on Thanksgiving.
At least in the United States, it is the one day of the year that we are unable to blend into the crowd and be like everyone else. Show up at a big Thanksgiving dinner where a dead bird is featured prominently in the center of the table and you may as well have a scarlet V sewn on your shirt.
I have identified several reasonable methods of approaching this touchy situation short of playing the hermit, declining all invitations to Thanksgiving dinner and staying home. What a depressing thought! No, we’re definitely not going there.
1. Host Thanksgiving at your home and invite family and friends to join you. For those who cook, there is no shortage of wonderful recipes for a vegan Thanksgiving. Convincing the meat-eaters to join you might be difficult, not only because seitan and tofu inspire fear and loathing in so many, but also because there are always family and friends for whom it’s not Thanksgiving until the turkey is carved. But it’s even worse for those of us who, like myself, simply do not cook. At least one blogger points out that meat-eaters can be satisfied by buying the turkey and side dishes fully cooked and prepared while the host makes a salad and some veggies. Well, vegans now have similar opportunities in many areas thanks to purveyors such as Whole Foods. Roasted cauliflower steaks with cranberry sauce and tahini-garlic mashed potatoes? Yum! Now it’s up to you to figure out how to bribe get your favorite people to try these dishes. The promise of a homemade pumpkin pie might help!
2. As a guest, politely skip the turkey and eat all the veggies and side dishes. This is a tried-and-true vegetarian technique that really isn’t all that effective for vegans. Those incredibly rich-looking mashed potatoes almost certainly contain butter; ditto for the green beans. And who knows what’s in the Parker rolls and the pumpkin pie? You can heap up your plate with salad, skip the dressing and dip some cranberry sauce for a side dish. A particularly kind host might prepare plain carrots, broccoli or baked potatoes (butter and sour cream on the side). But you can bet that someone is going to call you out on your “weird” eating habits, either right at the table or whispered behind your back. It’s awkward, to say the least.
3. Bring a dish that you can enjoy. There is a long tradition of vegans bringing their own protein with them. If you bring enough for everyone to share, your host may appreciate the extra dish on the table. And who knows? Some of your fellow guests may find your description of your dish sufficiently exotic to be unable to resist trying some. In our favor is that even if they don’t much like it, they have to be polite about it. What goes against us, however, is that some hosts consider it rude for a guest to bring his or her own food. You need to check with the host in advance and hope that she is sufficiently open-minded to tolerate those with non-mainstream eating habits. While the host may not fess up to what she really thinks, you’ll know if the invitation to Thanksgiving is not repeated next year.
4. Go out to dinner with the gang. Back when I was growing up, every store and restaurant was closed up tight on Thanksgiving Day. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. Among the big pile of things I am grateful for is that many locations of family restaurants with extensive salad bars such as Sizzler and Hometown Buffet are now open for Thanksgiving dinner. If you live in an urban area, there are likely to be vegan dishes available at many fine dining restaurants open on Thanksgiving Day. While many of us have an emotional attachment to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at home, you have at least two very big arguments for going out: No cooking and no dishes to wash! Not to mention no leftovers to get rid of. (Okay, no sandwiches for the next day could be viewed as a disadvantage.)
And what will I be doing this year? Thanksgiving with the family at my mom’s house. I will be bringing the veggie protein and the soy milk. But I am so looking forward to my mom’s split pea, barley and lima bean soup. Vegan and out of this world!
Best wishes to all for a happy vegan Thanksgiving. Oh, and don’t forget to leave me a note telling me about your vegan Thanksgiving experiences.