Halloween is over, which means it’s time to start decorating for Christmas. I’m just kidding; please keep the tinsel in that box for a little while longer. It is time, though, to start thinking about your plans for Thanksgiving. Since each year more people are eating less meat, traditions are changing in some families. More meatless dishes are being incorporated, which is great for our health, for the environment, and of course for animals.
I’ve been a vegetarian since 2006 and a vegan since 2009, and in that time span I’ve gone from being the weirdo vegetarian at the table, to the woman in a weirdo vegetarian couple, to the weirdo who has somehow convinced her husband and her brother to be weirdos too. Of course I am exaggerating – nobody thinks I’m weird because I’m a vegan; they think it for many, many reasons.
I barely remember my first vegetarian Thanksgiving. My husband was in the Army, and we were living in Monterey, California, nowhere near our families. He wasn’t vegetarian at that time, and I was newly so and hadn’t yet sought out likeminded friends for support. So, we were on our own.
If I remember correctly, the centerpiece of our meal was a Tofurky roast. And if I remember correctly, I didn’t like it. In fact, it’s been a common process for me to stop eating the animal-based version of a food, immediately decide I don’t like the plant-based versions, and then really enjoy them after letting some time go by for my brain to forget what they’re “supposed” to taste like. It happened with meat alternatives like Tofurky (which I now love, and the people who run the company are incredible), and it happened with vegan cheeses too (and now I can’t live without Miyoko’s creations). I don’t remember what we chose as side dishes that first Thanksgiving, but since neither of us really cooked, I assume they weren’t too exciting.Think having a #vegetarian Thanksgiving is hard? @LisaRimm explains why that's not the case. #food Click To Tweet
At times when we lived closer to our families, we ate any sides that happened not to contain animal products. This included simple sides that were “naturally vegetarian” like carrots and Brussels sprouts, and sides that were made purposely for us, without animal ingredients – like green bean dishes without ham bits in them (a cardinal sin in southern households) and stuffing cooked separately from the turkey.
I also brought my own dishes to supplement the existing options. I would usually create a main dish – either a store-bought roast like a Tofurky, Field Roast, or Gardein’s holiday roast, or a nut roast I made myself – and a couple sides. Ideally I would make something I had already tested or made in the past, something I already knew would turn out well. Sharing delicious meals with family members at Thanksgiving has allowed me to expose them to vegetarian food and leave them with a positive impression. I got my fair share of “Ew, that has tofu in it?” from people who had never in their lives eaten tofu, but often times they would try my dishes with an open mind and I’d get lots of compliments.
This year, we’re living in Colorado, and I attended the “Gentle Thanksgiving,” a no-animals-harmed celebration and potluck in Boulder. Hundreds of people – vegans, vegetarians, and folks who are toying with the idea of veg eating – come together to enjoy an enormous potluck, an interesting speaker, and each other’s company. This year, I thought about bringing this Wild Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pecans, but my hectic work schedule inspired me to instead bring vegan doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnut. It’s a great form of advocacy to show people that vegans can eat junk food too, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I also brought something else to the potluck: a big smile, because I got to spend Thanksgiving with new and old friends who put their compassion into action by leaving animals off the table. I know, I know: they sound like a bunch of weirdos.