image by riptheskull
Thanksgiving is technically about giving thanks and spending time with loved ones, but it's really just an excuse to eat copious amounts of delicious food- depending on what you consider delicious. A holiday nicknamed "turkey day" certainly does not bode well for vegans and vegetarians, especially those spending the day in a crowd of meat-eaters. This inevitably spawns an omnivore/herbivore dilemma: the herbivores worry about what on the Thanksgiving table will be edible, while their omnivorous hosts worry about what to cook that meets the criteria. After a few Thanksgivings of going through this myself, I've found there are a few things to do to circumvent unnecessary conflict.
If you are vegetarian:
Let your host know what you eat and don't eat. It sounds like a no-brainer but can be surprisingly difficult, especially if you are dining with a group you do not know well. Perhaps you're worried about judgment and feel you can slip beneath the radar. Or you may not want to trouble your already stressed-out host with an additional concern. However, it is a host's duty to make sure their guests, including you, are comfortable. Plus, your host may be offended if you do not eat anything, and possibly upset that you didn't say anything sooner.
Offer to bring something. Your host may not know what to make, so ask if there is anything you can bring. Thanksgiving dinner may not be the best occasion to showcase your famous carob-tofu-agar pie. Instead, bring something delicious that you know everyone will want to try and enjoy (see below).
Eat before and pocket an energy bar. If you are not sure what on the table will meet your dietary requirements, eat a small meal prior to leaving the house. At Thanksgiving, it's better to be too full than hungry. If worse comes to worse, have a safe snack on hand that you can slip away privately to eat.
Understand that there will be dishes you cannot eat. Your host cannot please everyone, but hopefully they will have enough to satisfy you.
If you are hosting a vegetarian guest:
Ask what they would like to eat or if they can bring something. You may feel ungracious asking a guest to help with the meal planning or to bring a dish, but most vegetarians will be happy to lighten your load and relived to know that they have at least one thing on their plate.
Make accommodations. You do not need to ensure that every dish meets your guests' needs, but have enough dishes that do so your vegetarian guests leave as full and happy as the rest of the crowd. Simple tricks can make this easier. Cook some stuffing outside the turkey. Bake a plain yam in the oven with the candied yams. Make universally acceptable vegetarian dishes, like roasted root vegetables, stuffed pumpkin or a nice salad (see below). Even an act as simple as microwaving a Field Roast loaf goes a long way. Discretely point out to your guest what foods on the table fit their diet.
A laundry list of meatless recipes for the Thanksgiving table:
- Tips and recipes from NPR by Nicole of Cucina Nicolina
- Cheap Healthy Good: Veggie Might: Vegetarian Thanksgiving Tips, Part I- The Main Dish
- Healthy.Happy.Life: Vegan Thanksgiving 101: Tips, Advice and the Basics.