Thanksgiving and Tradition

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Just a quick post today about Thanksgiving and the “tradition” of eating turkey…

I used to be all about tradition, especially with regards to Thanksgiving. I loved the food, the family, the football, everything. These days, the family/friends portion of it more than suffices. After becoming vegan, it eventually became clear: tradition doesn’t always equal “good” or “right” and thus shouldn’t be some sort of magical excuse able to be applied to anything that someone wants to do. As has been said many times before, there have been a lot of “traditions” throughout history that have been pretty evil. There is nothing implicitly good about something just because it’s the way it’s always been done.

With that, two things you should read:

To My Friends at Thanksgiving by Mary Martin,

Traditions are decided upon. They are consciously, intentionally repeated. And new ones can be created at any moment. I choose to opt out of traditions that cause harm and are the direct result of the exploitation and commodification of beings just like Charles, but who look a little different. And I want Baby Sky to grow up in a home where there is just as much respect for chickens and calves and fishes as there is for greyhounds and cats and people. Of course, the world outside of our home tells a different story. But we can bring our story to that world.

and my favorite of the Buddhist sutras, the Kalama Sutra (emphasis mine).

Do not go by revelation;
Do not go by tradition;
Do not go by hearsay;
Do not go on the authority of sacred texts;
Do not go on the grounds of pure logic;
Do not go by a view that seems rational;
Do not go by reflecting on mere appearances;
Do not go along with a considered view because you agree with it;
Do not go along on the grounds that the person is competent;
Do not go along because [thinking] ‘the recluse is our teacher’.

Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are unwholesome, these things are blameworthy; these things are censured by the wise; and when undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill, abandon them…

Kalamas, when you know for yourselves: These are wholesome; these things are not blameworthy; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness, having undertaken them, abide in them.

A Vegan Thanksgiving: The 2010 Version

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A comment popped up on last year’s Thanksgiving post thanking me for the resources, which was the kick in the pants I needed to make sure I had a similar post for this year.

This year’s Thanksgiving will be an interesting one for us. We’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving Day with friends who have the most interesting “how I went vegan” stories of anyone we know. Then, the day after, we’ll be celebrating again with my parents and my sister’s family at my sister’s house. What’s interesting there is that half of the people there will be celebrating a veggie Thanksgiving: my family, my mom, and my oldest niece (who’s been vegetarian for four months now!). We’re at the tipping point!

Nevertheless, I certainly remember how tricky Thanksgiving can be for new vegans or vegans with families that aren’t accommodating or understanding. So, here’s a slightly modified and updated version of my set of suggestions from last year:

Get to cooking!

Whether you’re spending a quiet Thanksgiving at home or braving an evening of stupid questions and taunts from 20 family members, there are some great resources online to help you get cooking and make sure that you not only have something to eat, but something to wow the rest of the family as well.

Nava Atlas is again offering her excellent A Bountiful Vegan Thanksgiving e-book. It features 65 recipes in all, including Nava’s own as well as contributions from all your favorite veg cookbook authors and bloggers (among them: Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Dreena Burton, Jill Nussinow, and Bryanna Clark Grogan). The e-book sells for $8.95 and all profits go to “humanitarian charities concerned with hunger, microfinancing for women in developing countries, and the alleviation of human trafficking.” Of course, there’s also Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Vegan Table and many, many other cookbooks with great sections on cooking for Thanksgiving.

Mainstream media is even offering up quite a few “vegan Thanksgiving” pieces, making hope this perhaps this is the year “Tofurky” will stop being the punchline to jokes about not eating turkey on Thanksgiving:

And, of course, there’s bound to be tons of great stuff courtesy of Vegan MoFo, as well.

Or, if you’re not the cooking type, Whole Foods has a pretty awesome Thanksgiving vegan dinner package (“for two, plus a few”) with six individual stuffed Gardein roasts, olive oil mashed potatoes, green beans with roasted shallots, cranberry pecan multigrain stuffing, cranberry orange relish and wild mushroom gravy. That sounds pretty awesome (too bad the image on the site is super tiny and pixelated).

Go to a real Thanksgiving…

And by that, I mean a celebration that doesn’t involve killing turkeys. Why not hang out with some turkeys instead? Sanctuaries around the country have vegan Thanksgiving get-togethers. The one at Poplar Spring is my favorite event of the year — imagine a vegan potluck with 300 people bringing dishes. Hot damn.

Below is a sampling of sanctuaries and their Thanksgiving events.

And a few restaurants and city listings of Thanksgiving events:

Someone should build a “vegan Thanksgiving” map like No Trick Treats! for Halloween.

Vegetarian and Vegan organizations also tend to do Thanksgiving meals on or around Thanksgiving, so check in with your local groups to see if there’s any thing to get involved in.

Adopt a Turkey

Farm Sanctuary runs the very popular Adopt-a-Turkey project each year, but you can also sponsor a turkey at your local sanctuary.

Read/Listen to Things

This is a good time of year to dig into More than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality by UPC’s Karen Davis (here’s a Google Books version). The level of detail is impressive — you’ll learn something. Trust me.

Some other stuff to peruse:

Feel free to share your favorite vegan Thanksgiving events, recipes, or books.

(Edited 11/19/2010 to add BVA’s event and 11/16/2010 to add SuperVegan, Washington Post, and Vegcast links.)