Vegetarians have some unique challenges during the Thanksgiving holiday. Some are kind of funny and some aren’t funny at all. But Slate.com has a lighthearted, but helpful article this week on 4 ways that vegetarians can approach the holidays. While some of these approaches are not recommended, the article takes a humorous look at both the good and the bad ways that we vegetarians can try to get through the holidays without going nuts – or making everyone else nuts, either.
Author L.V. Anderson is Slate.com’s food and drink editor and she’s also been a vegetarian for about twenty years, so she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to the challenges vegetarians face at the family feast.
As she writes, the first approach you could take is one that’s pretty black and white, but might not make you very popular.
If you’ve been looking for a foolproof way to become estranged from your family, you can demand that no animal flesh whatsoever be present on the Thanksgiving table.”
Just as we expect our rights and values as vegetarians to be respected, we also need to respect the fact that there will be others at our Thanksgiving celebrations who have been waiting all year for turkey and gravy. Especially if we’re eating at someone else’s home.
Anderson suggests that a better approach may include a little compromise.
A more moderate approach is to request that every dish apart from the turkey be made vegetarian—an appeal that may elicit grumbles from your family, depending on how much they like sausage in their stuffing. (This request will go down easier if you offer to do as much cooking as possible.”
This is an excellent option if you’re the one hosting dinner, but it can also work if you’re gathering at the home of a relative. They may be more than happy to let you make a vegetarian gravy option and cook a few extra vegetarian sides.
For a third approach, Haiken says,
A laissez-faire vegetarian can adopt a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Many lacto-ovo vegetarians unthinkingly eat cheese containing animal rennet—so is a little gelatin once a year really going to kill you?”
Lastly, she says a fourth approach is to just toss your vegetarian for the day and enjoy a little turkey.
Now, most of us won’t go for that option, but for some vegetarians, mainly those who eat vegetarian for general health or weight reasons, this is an acceptable option.
Haiken has always followed the second approach, that of asking for vegetarian sides and alternatives. She says that this has worked very well in her family for years.
My mom has historically made two batches of stuffing, one with chicken stock and one with vegetable stock, and one year we made a mushroom gravy so I’d have something savory to put on my mashed potatoes. Aunts and cousins have voluntarily refrained from putting marshmallows on the sweet potatoes or bacon in the Brussels sprouts. I’ve insisted on making my own pie crust with butter instead of buying the pork-fat-laden kind, and no one has complained.”
I think that her approach, and her family’s accomodation, are both excellent. Identify a potential problem and then be part of the solution. We sometimes find ourselves having to ask for respect for our lifestyle and eating choices. We can set the example by doing the same for the non-vegetarians with whom we’ll be spending the holiday. This way, everyone can enjoy the food, the company and the focus on gratitude and sharing.