Monday, November 22, 2010

Vegan Thanksgiving

You can't think about Thanksgiving without thinking about food, and since we at New Voices are all about healthy minds and bodies, we want to keep your food focused thoughts on some healthy alternatives this Thanksgiving week. This quickly led us to long time friend of New Voices, Dana Loy. Today, Dana will be sharing her experience in celebrating this poultry-centric holiday as a vegan.

Oh no! Not vegan Thanksgiving!
After looking through the Trader Joe's turkey-gravy-and-stuffing advertisement mailed to my house in early November, I came to the official conclusion that Thanksgiving is the least vegan-friendly holiday ever.

After all, the crowning achievement of any holiday table in America is a golden, roasted fowl--the bigger, the better. Fortunately, it's easier to survive Thanksgiving as a vegan than one would initially think. Over the past two years, it's been nothing but fun for me to dispel people's stereotypical notions of "vegan Thanksgiving" as a slab of Tofurkey and a plateful of limp broccoli.

Perhaps the most essential tools in any vegan Thanksgiving arsenal are replacement foods. Earth Balance buttery spread is a staple in my refrigerator; it comes in both stick and tub form, perfect for spreading on rolls and for baking into cookies and pies. Tofutti makes a vegan sour cream that works especially well when blended into mashed potatoes (or dolloped onto nachos any other time of the year).

Soy milk is an excellent dairy substitute for any creamy dish; for nuttier flavors or different nutritional benefits, almond milk and hemp milk are personal favorites and particularly good in cinnamon-y baked goods. Egg replacements can run the gamut from ground flaxseed or oil to applesauce or silken tofu and are easy to find with a quick Internet search. (Just don't tell anyone about the tofu--I've found it has a surprisingly negative affect on omnivores' appetites.) And of course, flavorful vegetable broth is an easy substitute for chicken, beef, or turkey broth. Armed with these products, most of which are available at your local grocery, co-op, or health food store, you're able to substitute vegan ingredients in traditional recipes to veganize almost any Thanksgiving dish you can imagine.

Any dish, that is, except for the turkey. What to do for a main dish? Personally, I'd rather just eat the side dishes with no main course. The sides are the best part of Thanksgiving anyways! If you really want a main dish to fill you up, I'd suggest a stuffed acorn squash, a veggie pot pie with sliced portabello mushrooms, or for a meatier substitute, a seitan-based recipe (such as Vegan Yum Yum's Seitan Roulade with Chestnut Stuffing).

Once the initial shock of Thanksgiving without a turkey subsides, you'll find that there's a whole host of animal-free substitutes just begging to find a way onto your holiday dinner plate. Although you may seem overwhelmed heading into Thanksgiving as a vegan, you'll quickly find that many other vegheads are in the same situation. Take a few deep breaths and plan your menu with your personal tastes in mind.

If you're hosting dinner and feel comfortable having meat in your house, you may want to ask some omnivore guests to bring a small turkey or order a pre-cooked turkey from a grocery store. If you're attending a dinner at a meat-eater's home, be sure to contact your host ahead of time and ask what's on the menu. Don't expect them to go out of their way to prepare special dishes just for you, but offering to provide them with some of the vegan ingredients mentioned above may lead to more animal-free dishes at the gathering.

If your host isn't amenable to using vegan ingredients, I'd suggest preparing a few vegan dishes to bring and share (I usually go with two sides and a dessert) so that you'll have something to eat without inconveniencing anyone. And who knows? Once people taste the pure goodness of vegan cooking, they might be willing to try some animal-free recipes themselves. Spread the vegan love!

Dana Loy is a PhD student at University of Wisconsin Madison in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Dana is a long time follower of New Voices and we're thrilled she took the time to be a guest blogger.

More Thanksgiving posts from New Voices
Thanksgiving Recipes
A Second Helping of Thanksgiving

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