Of all the holidays, I love Thanksgiving the most.
Some people think that sounds weird coming from a long-time vegan. Those who equate Thanksgiving with stuffing themselves with a stuffed turkey may wonder why I would even bother celebrating Thanksgiving. After all, what’s the point if there is no turkey on “Turkey Day?”
I remember a Thanksgiving over 20 years ago when my mother invited me to her home for Thanksgiving. I told her yes, I’d love to come. But I reminded her I wouldn’t be eating the turkey.
She already knew I was vegan, so I thought I was just stating the obvious.
Her reply shocked me. “Don’t you think that’s taking it just a little too far?”
I was shocked because she had been very accepting of my vegan choices until then. But traditions run deep, and my choice not to eat turkey felt like a blow to her sense of tradition.
But we all know that celebrating with family and friends, and enjoying love, friendship, and gratitude are at the heart of Thanksgiving. There is no reason we can’t enjoy this celebration while maintaining our commitment to health and compassion.
I’ll admit that I like tradition, too. It helps me feel connected to people across time and space. But I now know I can enjoy the good parts without compromising my values.
I’ll share what we do, and I invite you to borrow my ideas and add your own.
We get together with about 50 people to enjoy a very traditional-style Thanksgiving dinner — only it is vegan! Our celebration is hosted by the Alaska Vegetarian Society, and this year is our 11th annual vegan Thanksgiving.
Instead of turkey, we make our own holiday roast with stuffing. It’s delicious, and makes a wonderful centerpiece dish. You don’t have to make your own – - you can purchase a Tofurky.
Our feast includes mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, yams, cranberries, salads, fruit salad, cooked veggies, hot rolls, fresh out of the oven and pumpkin pie with whipped topping.
There’s nothing missing from this delicious feast except the unhealthy saturated fat and animal suffering.
Another idea for a centerpiece dish is stuffing a pumpkin, or you can make individual servings by stuffing a small squash.
I’ve found that non-vegans enjoy this meal very much, so don’t feel compelled to offer meat to guests at your home when you’re the host.
When you are a guest at someone else’s home, be sure to let them know in advance it you are eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. You can offer to bring a dish or two, which will make it easier on your host as well as making sure you have some healthy choices there.
Just remember that the main purpose in getting together with friends and family is to share time, stories, love, and laughter. Don’t let food get in your way of connecting with others. At the same time, don’t let other people’s food choices dictate what you’ll choose to eat.
Being conscious and committed about our food choices is one of the challenges of the holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving. But being clear about our priorities makes it much easier.
What are some ways you’ve found to stay committed to healthy and compassionate choices?
What has worked?
What hasn’t worked so well?
We can all get ideas from each other, so please join the conversation.