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.)

A Kindergarten Thanksgiving

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(This is a guest post by my good friend Katherine. Her post shows that we still have a long way to go in changing how the world thinks about animals.)

Our oldest child, Emma Kate, is in kindergarten this year. Today we were invited to the “Kindergarten Pow-Wow.” I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew they had been practicing songs and parents had been asked to provide food for the children to eat. The children filed into the cafeteria, took their seats on the floor, and began to sing a variety of Thanksgiving-related songs. The first offering was a sweet melody about being thankful for stars and trees, but it wasn’t long before the subject matter turned to turkeys. Even though Emma Kate attended preschool for several years, these turkey songs had not made it onto my radar. I’ve been a vegetarian for a little over two and a half years, and as the songs progressed, I became more and more uncomfortable. Here are the words to one of the songs they sang:

(to the tune of Frere Jacque)

Mr. Turkey, Mr. Turkey
Run away, run away
If you are not careful
You will be a mouthful
Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving Day

All of a sudden I was struck by how utterly one-sided the Thanksgiving curriculum must have been, and on a larger scale, how our children are indoctrinated to eat meat and dissociate from it by making fun of the animals. As if poor Mr. Turkey has a choice! In fact, the lyrics to this song go beyond teasing the turkey to blaming him for his own plight.

Proof of this indoctrination came when the singing portion of the program ended. As the children ate their pow-wow meal (which was interestingly vegan except for the Rice Krispie treats), a slide show played with slides containing “recipes” for a Thanksgiving dish provided verbatim by the children. This was a cute idea, but many of the children chose turkey for their recipe, and more than I would have expected mentioned killing the turkey as the first step. I was surprised to see that at 5 years old, quite a few of these kids had no qualms about taking a life for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Emma Kate considers herself a vegetarian, but she’ll be the first to tell you that she loves bacon (and I don’t mean tempeh bacon). Since I stopped eating meat, I have been honest with her about the origins of her food, but have told her that what she eats is up to her (her 18 month old brother, however, is being raised vegetarian – and dad is a carnivore – we’re a bit of a mixed up family). At the beginning of tonight’s dinner, after hearing Emma Kate belt out the Mr. Turkey song once more, I asked her what she thought about the song. She answered that it was about a turkey, and I probed a little further. Once she could see what I was thinking, she jumped pretty quickly into agreeing with whatever I said. She tends to do this whenever vegetarianism is discussed, so it’s hard to figure out her truest thoughts. However, at the end of our discussion, I was saying that I thought the turkey wanted to stay alive, and that it sometimes hurts to die, and she said, “Yeah, the turkey has to suffer.” Who knows what will come of this? Part of me is rooting for her to go to school tomorrow and inform the teacher or a classmate that she feels sorry for the turkeys. Part of me hopes she mulls it over, makes some connections and eventually decides to forgo bacon. I hope at the very least, she will be able to think a bit more critically of similar songs in the future.

Unfortuately, based on what I saw today, I doubt there were similar conversations around the dinner tables of Emma Kate’s schoolmates tonight. I now understand that if I want my children to be exposed to different points of view, I need to make these conversations a priority. I’m glad to have this awareness for my own family, and the greater awareness of how many opportunities for change remain for our culture, but at the same time, the task seems larger and more difficult than I previously believed. If you think of this scenario going on in thousands of elementary schools across the country this week, that’s a lot of reinforcement of meat-eating as the norm.

A Vegan Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving can be a rough time, particularly for new vegans that still celebrate with meat-eating family. It’s not easy sometimes to handle the chides that come with eating differently from everyone else at the table. And, especially the first time, it can be hard to resist the comfort food we remember from our childhood. There’s been a lot written about how to do a vegan Thanksgiving, but hey, there can always be a little more, right?

So, here are some ways to help get you through the holiday season stuffed and happy.

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.

I got a peek at Nava Atlas’ significantly updated version of A Bountiful Vegan Thanksgiving e-book and it’s mighty impressive. 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.”

Then, over at Vegan.com, there’s a guest post from Robin Robertson (author of many cookbooks, including the new and massive 1,000 Vegan Recipes). A full Thanksgiving menu is presented. The Triple Cranberry Relish and Ginger-Dusted Pumpkin Cheezecake sound mighty good. (Last year’s guest post is also still available.)

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.

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.

Read 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.

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

A vegan 1st birthday

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You may have noticed I’ve been a bit absent as of late. Yeah, um… sorry about that.

In addition to a heavy workload at my day job, a brief vacation (which will be the topic of an article or post somewhere along the way), and preparing for our daughter’s first birthday party, it’s been a hectic time around these parts. Thankfully, things are a little lighter now and I may finally start catching up on things.

So, the birthday party. I won’t go into too much detail about the party itself, but it was a houseful of adults and one-year-olds, culminating in that wonderful mayhem known as a toddler’s first birthday. My wife and I spent the day before prepping and I’m pretty sure that one of us was in the kitchen for most of the entire day. I was a bit curious as to what the reaction would be to the food since it was all vegan and none of the party’s attendees were vegan or even vegetarian (there were a few pescos, though). We didn’t label the food as vegan except for one reference to “v. cream cheese” and I’m happy to report that the response was simply awesome. Everyone loved the food, top to bottom. One friend whose known me long enough to expect vegan food when they come to our house commented that though he “won’t be giving up [his] omni ways, can definitely say that vegan desserts kick ass.” Nice!

For those of you that are interested, here’s a rundown of what we served (we made it all, except where noted):

Snacks/light fare:

  • Tomato Potato Salad from the new Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk zine
  • Fresh peach, corn, and pineapple salsa
  • Roasted red pepper hummus
  • White bean hummus (from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook)
  • Fresh spring rolls (aka garden rolls) with a peanut dipping sauce (from Xuan Saigon restaurant)
  • Fried spring rolls (from Xuan Saigon restaurant)
  • Lotus stuffed with seasoned rice (prepared by Huyen’s former co-worker Joyce)
  • Cream cheese, cucumber, and tomato rolls with fresh basil
  • Cold spaghetti salad

Dessert:

  • Salt water taffy (picked up during our vacation at the Jersey shore)
  • Mint Madness chocolate cake from Sinfully Vegan with mint buttercream frosting from Vegan Cupcakes… (adapted from the plain buttercream frosting recipe)
  • Lychee cupcakes with coconut glaze from Vegan Cupcakes…
  • Golden Vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting (I made them “extra golden” but went overboard and made them orange, so they became the “Abnormally orange vanilla cupcakes”)… these were made in regular size and mini size for the kids.

Not a bad lineup, if I do say so! I’ve also got to say that my wife did an amazing job prepping all that she did. I don’t quite know how she made the time to do so while also watching the kiddo.

(If you’re one of those “I want to see pictures!” people, keep an eye on my flickr stream. I’ll get around to posting pictures soon.)

Veganism: the ultimate sacrifice

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(Before I go any further, yes, that title is dripping with sarcasm.)

Today I attended a work-sponsored lunch at a nearby resort/conference center.  While there was plenty of non-vegan stuff served as part of the buffet, there was enough food there for me to easily fill a plate and feel satisfied.  Sure, it was mainly from the “salad” food group, but it was fine.

During lunch, the topic of liverwurst somehow came up at my table.  One co-worker asked me, “Would you ever eat it?”  I responded, “Now?  Hell no.”  Another co-worker asked me, “Why?” and I attempted a slight bit of humor in my reply, “Because I don’t eat meat, and that’s a pretty big barrier to trying out liverwurst.”  What followed felt like it came from the Totally Not Vegan sketchbook:

Co-worker: Do you eat fish?

Me: Nope.  No meat.

Co-worker: (slight look of surprise)

Me: No dairy or eggs, either.

Co-worker: (utterly shocked, shaking head)  I couldn’t live like that.

At that point, I stood up and said, “Yes, yes… it is true.  I have chosen to deprive myself of all that we as Americans hold dear!  I’ve taken it upon myself to sacrifice all my wants and desires for animal flesh and secretions for the betterment of the world!  Oh!  Woe is me, for I am wasting away in a state of constant hunger and deprivation!  How will I ever survive?”  And I followed that with a dramatic bow.

Of course that last paragraph was a total lie, but really, isn’t that what we all feel like saying when you get a line like that?  You say “I couldn’t live like that!” to someone who’s living in squalor with cat feces piled on top of decade-old newspapers.  You don’t say it to someone who simply chooses not to consume animal products (including cat feces piled on top of decade-old newspapers).

Veganism isn’t about deprivation.  It’s not about sacrifice.  It’s about doing what you know to be right and living your life in a way that is ethically consistent with your beliefs.  Period.  I can honestly say I’ve never felt deprived.  Why?  Because I’m not trying to lose weight here, I’m just trying to do what’s right.