What Do I Eat, Now That Turkey's Off The Menu?
I remember the panic of my first Thanksgiving. I had been a perfectly content vegetarian for about 4 months, and while I had experienced my share of food disasters, for the most part, I was having a lot of fun learning about nutrition and trying out new foods. Then, a few days before Thanksgiving, something occurred to me: for the first time in my life, I wouldn't be able to join in the family traditions. I wouldn't be eating the turkey, or the gravy, or the giblet stuffing, and I definitely wouldn't be making my family's annual Thanksgiving Jell-o. As I was only 14 at the time, this was a big moment for me, and I suddenly felt extremely alienated and isolated. Not because I wouldn't be eating turkey, but because I would be breaking one of the few traditions we observed, and I would be the only one doing so. I thought that I would be left out. As it turns out, my mother was great, and set aside stuffing for me without giblets, and the other dishes that couldn't be converted were things I didn't really care for anyway, so I was able to be part of the family and share most of the meal.
What did I eat instead of turkey for my first vegetarian Thanksgiving? I actually don't recall. I think it was some savory tofu dish that seemed daunting at the time, and ended up tasting okay but was generally underwhelming. The point is, the food itself didn't really matter, having my family make an effort on my part was enough to allow me to realize I could never not be a part of the family, and see how loved and accepted I was. I do know that for Christmas that year, and for the all of the Thanksgivings since that I've spent with them, my parents bought me a Tofurky. A whole Tofurky. Just for me. I've always appreciated the sentiment, even if I didn't really enjoy the entrée itself....I rag on it a bit, but it does make things easy, and I know many people who enjoy it immensely.
I actually was never a big fan of turkey on Thanksgiving because it usually came out kind of dry and wasn't particularly flavorful, which may account for why I don't miss turkey and don't care for Tofurky roasts. Give me a variety of delicious side dishes, or even just a plate of dressing and cranberry sauce, and I could be totally happy. I do enjoy the ritual of cooking for days, having a big production leading up to the main event, and then the delicious sedated afterglow, though. Plus, JD, my love, has a healthy appreciation for tradition, so we do a full spread, and we do it right.
I've been away from my family for 6 years now, so I've had some time to work on my Thanksgiving dishes, and I've done many different things for the vegan entrée at my Thanksgiving celebrations. For a few years, I made a simple harvest bake by mixing fall vegetables like celery, onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips in a casserole dish with tempeh or seitan, seasoned it all with soy sauce, garlic, herbs, and wine if I wanted, and baked until everything was tender. I've also made yummy but not especially festive protein dishes like tempeh marsala. Last year I tried making a tofu and gluten mock turkey, but it was terrible. I generally enjoy foods more when they're not trying to mimic something exactly, so I should have known better.
I usually try to do something a little different each Thanksgiving. Here's a recap of last year's Thanksgiving feast. I haven't finalized this year's menu yet, and there are over 20 recipes in contention, including chocolate bourbon pie, cranberry sorbet, cranberry, currant and champagne relish, cranberry upside down cake --yes, I have lots of love for fresh cranberries--and yuba holiday "duck". I do know we'll definitely be making the Cranberry, Fig, and Walnut Cornbread Dressing and Spiced and Caramelized Butternut Squash from last year's menu as well as traditional favorites like mashed potatoes.
Many blogs have compiled great recipes and ideas, some of my favorites include:
Vegan Bits - The link will take you directly to a compilation of holiday recipes, but check out the more recent posts for more Thanksgiving info.
PETA's VegCooking - Tons of recipes, most of which look like they were tailor-made for home cooks with limited time.
Bryanna Clark Grogan - The vegan food mogul and author offers up recipes for some of the most common holiday dishes. Great info, ideas, and recipes for soy-free vegans.
Karina's Kitchen - Anyone with gluten or wheat allergies will understand why Karina is a Gluten Free Goddess. While it's not a vegetarian or vegan blog, Karina does make sure her vegan readers have plenty of gorgeous recipes to try. In her pre-Thanksgiving post she includes tons of dishes that everyone can enjoy, just make sure click on any recipe that sounds inviting, as many of Karina's recipes have tips or variations for vegans.
101 Cookbooks - Heidi's compiled and organized all of her vegan Thanksgiving recipes, so you don't have to search. She's even separated all of the vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes on another page so everything is simple and easy for her readers. I love Heidi's style because it's simple, elegant, beautiful, and everything starts with quality ingredients.
Unturkey - Do you remember Now and Zen's UnTurkey? So do the vegans who created this site. They've opensourced the recipe, so you can recreate it in your home.
Finally, there's Field Roast - many people serve the Celebration Roast version, but I'm partial to the Hazelnut Herb Cutlet. The official website also offers recipes.
Up next: Guide to a Vegan Vanguard Thanksgiving, Part 3 - Where Can a Vegan in Austin Go to Get Their Thanksgiving Grub On?
Thursday, November 20, 2008
What Do I Eat, Now That Turkey's Off The Menu?