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A Vegan's Guide to Surviving Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of those days of the year when you have to share a meal with people who are likely not all vegan, and in many cases, not even vegetarian. I hear of too many fellow vegans who are simply losing their minds trying to figure out how to reconcile it all. While it may already be too late this year to affect the holiday planning too much, here is some clear advice on how to make Thanksgiving (and other such holidays) a less stressful experience

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1. If you are hosting Thanksgiving at your home, don't go out of your way to prepare an imitation turkey or spend too much time concocting vegan versions of classic dishes. As host, it's your home, and you decide what to serve. There are plenty of meals that can evoke the "spirit" of Thanksgiving (fall harvest) without having to be composed of fake turkey and the like. Try incorporating potatoes, green beans, pumpkins, etc. But you don't need to scramble to find substitutes for butter and eggs - just don't prepare dishes that require these ingredients, and you will be far better off for it. For protein, try Tempeh or even standard legumes. You can always serve bread and other sides to "beef up" the meal. If people agreed to come to your home for a meal, they implicitly agreed to eat what you serve them. The key here is to have enough variety to please everyone, but it's unlikely that someone who expected real turkey will be pleased by some over-processed imitation made of tofu and who knows what else.

2. If you are invited to a Thanksgiving meal where the hosts are flexible (like close family members), ask them ahead of time to prepare a few simple vegetable dishes that do not include butter nor eggs. This may mean frozen or canned vegetables, but trust me, you'll live. Offer to bring some brown rice - it's easy - you just cook it, then put it in Tupperware, and lug it with you. Remember you are vegan because you "eat to live", not "live to eat". Between brown rice, a couple of helpings of vegetables, and maybe some multigrain bread (made without honey), you should be set "meal-wise." It should not bother you that those around you are stuffing themselves silly full of turkey, gravy, and who knows what else - it should make you happy that you won't be passed out on the couch with your shirt buttons popping open an hour later, while trying to care enough to watch the Detroit Lions on TV get crushed by whatever team they are playing this year. Close family members should not be insulted because you didn't eat everything they made - they should respect your diet decisions enough to accept it. If not, then you have more fundamental issues there. The key is to communicate the expectations (or lack thereof) ahead of time, so you don't spend the entire dinner talking about it. Trust me, your mother, aunt, or cousin should (and will) understand.

3. If you are invited to a Thanksgiving dinner where the host is not flexible at all, then you have two choices. One, don't even go - if you have friends or family members who cannot respect your dietary needs, then you are better off not dealing with them for such a food-centric day. Remember, they are insulting you by being so rigid, so don't feel so bad about potentially insulting them. Second, go, but don't expect to eat much. Chances are there will be something there that you can eat, and if not, so be it. Again, go for the family, not for the dinner. This may be more insulting to some than not showing up at all, so choose wisely. Many Thanksgiving dinners are early enough that you can always eat a healthy meal later if you are hungry.

4. Don't preach or grandstand on this day if you are vegan for ethical reasons, then you should just boycott Thanksgiving dinners altogether. Don't create a make-believe one - it's a lame concept. If you are vegan for health and personal reasons, like I am, then you can deal with the fact that others (even if they are loved ones) have no qualms about eating turkeys and other animal products. It should not impact your life at all. Also remember that even if you are against killing turkeys to eat on Thanksgiving, the turkey you may face is already dead, and others will eat it anyway. No sense in making a statement at this point that will just fall on deaf ears or be laughed into oblivion. Just be true to yourself, and you should be fine.

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Posted in Other Home Post Date 09/09/2016


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