Friday, November 16, 2012

Vegan/Vegetarian Thanksgiving Survival

The holidays are often stressful, but being a vegan/vegetarian at Thanksgiving, traditionally an orgy of animal foods, can be miserable if you don't have a supportive family. Here are a few suggestions on how to make it more enjoyable:

Discuss your diet with the person or people cooking in advance. Explain that you can't eat stuffing that was inside the turkey or vegetables cooked with meat. Something as simple as leaving the marshmallows off the sweet potatoes or the ham out of the collard greens might open up several more options for your meal, and your host may be happy to oblige. For vegans, see if it's too much to ask for mashed potatoes or squash to be made with non-dairy milk and butter.

If your host won't oblige these requests or you still feel your options will be too limited, bring your own food to the party. Offer to be in charge of the vegetable dishes to take some of the pressure off the cook. Suggestions include butternut or acorn squash baked at 350 with Earth Balance, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of sugar; potatoes mashed with Earth Balance, almond milk, and fresh dill; collard greens or kale sauteed in olive oil and garlic; baked yams; barbecue blackeyed peas; homemade bread; lentil walnut pate... The possibilities are endless and chances are, your guests will not miss the dairy or meat traditionally in these dishes after gorging themselves on turkey and gravy. You'll actually be performing a public service. Too lazy to cook? Check out Whole Foods and Trader Joe's for a host of premade vegan foods, or go super gourmet with The Cinnamon Snail's Thanksgiving menu. Most health food stores also carry vegan pies and pastries.

Finally, have a discussion with someone you're close to who will be at the gathering and explain that being singled out as The Vegan or having your diet critiqued or analyzed makes you uncomfortable and unable to enjoy the celebration. Announcing to the whole room "These green beans are for Suzie because she's A VEGAN" is not nice, nor is saying "come on, just eat the pie, it's Thanksgiving, it won't kill you," nor is getting all huffy because Suzie won't eat the nice souffle Grandma spent all day making, nor is asking where you get your protein, etc etc etc. You are going to politely refrain from talking about the miserable life and death of the poor turkey and how high everybody else's cholesterol probably is, so everyone else can refrain from making you a pariah or a conversation piece. Enlist supportive family and friends to intervene on your behalf if these remarks come up. Or you can just send people this article.

Finally, if you aren't obligated to go to someone else's house, consider hosting your own plant-based Thanksgiving and inviting others to join in the feast!

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