Here we are – Thanksgiving week is upon us! It totally crept up on us this year, right? I’m already feeling the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, planning my menu for Thursday, gearing up to face the insanity in the supermarket this week, but so grateful that this holiday exists. 2016 was not the easiest year, but it was also full of love and happy moments and good health, and for that, I am very thankful.
As a vegan – and especially for new vegans – Thanksgiving can be a tricky holiday to navigate. I figured I’d share how I enjoy Thanksgiving without the meat and dairy!
Most years, I cook for myself. That can mean bringing an appetizer, an entree, a side dish, and a dessert, all completely vegan/edible. I truly believe that most hosts/hostesses should do their best to accommodate all diets, but the truth is, some don’t, or don’t know how to. I avoid any potential awkwardness by just offering to do it myself. Yes, it’s more work – but you’ll be guaranteed to have plenty of food on the table to enjoy.
I don’t necessarily make everything from scratch – I might buy a vegan pie from Whole Foods, and bring veggies & hummus as my appetizer, and just cook the entree and sides. I also start prepping a few days in advance so I’m not spending all day Wednesday and most of Thursday in the kitchen. Most dishes can be prepared several days in advance and reheated on Thanksgiving with no issue!
Choose dishes that are not only vegan, but appealing to meat-eaters and vegans alike. I find that the best way to spread a message of health and compassion is to do it with delicious food. Not everyone wants to sit around and talk about factory farming or causes of heart disease, but we can all appreciate a good meal. Many meat eaters expect vegan food to be bland, or, even worse, “weird”, so it’s always fun to watch them dig into something completely plant based. Remind them that everything that makes meat taste good – salt, pepper, herbs, spices, vinegars, oils, garlic, onions – is almost always 100% vegan.
If seeing a table full of turkey and other animal-based products is difficult for you from an ethical standpoint, remember the spirit of togetherness and make that the focus of your holiday. We are grateful for our loved ones, regardless of what diet they subscribe to. It’s important to keep Thanksgiving a judgement free zone (for vegans and omnivores alike) and that we treat each other with compassion and acceptance. Let love and happiness be the undertone of your day, not defensiveness, anger or frustration.
That being said, being a vegan means sometimes being the recipient of snarky comments, jokes, and, at times, plain obnoxiousness. If you are (unfortunately) on the receiving end of this sad behavior/cry for attention, take the high road and politely excuse yourself from the “conversation”, and don’t further engage whoever is targeting you. Remember that they need to be treated with compassion, too. Oftentimes, rude behavior is the result of insecurity and feeling threatened. If you radiate acceptance and love, the temptation will hopefully fade away to make nasty remarks/statements about your lifestyle choice (the good news is, most people are kind and accepting and will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and welcome!).
Sometimes, you will receive comments about your diet that aren’t rooted in insecurity and fear. If someone asks you why you aren’t eating turkey and seems genuinely interested in your response, explain to them (in the nicest, most positive way possible), why you’ve made the decision to give up animal products, whether it be for health, environmental, or ethical reasons (or all of the above!). Offer to answer any of their questions, or to send them recipes for all of the delicious food you contributed to the holiday table.
Once you’ve got navigating the social aspect of Thanksgiving down, it’s time for the food!
Here are some recipes (both my own & by others) to enjoy this year:
image via ElleDecor.com