By Katie Doyle, Food Editor
I haven’t had a real Thanksgiving since I was in elementary school. Even before I gave up meat in the sixth grade, I’d opt for Stauffer’s macaroni and cheese and Pillsbury dinner rolls instead of turkey and gravy, a tradition I’ve pretty much kept up with since then.
If you’re thinking it sounds like a pretty disappointing dinner, you’re right. And now that I’ve nixed dairy this year, that go-to Thanksgiving meal that doesn’t exactly jive with my diet.
Fortunately, my recent transition to veganism has forced me to be creative when it comes to cooking. And, if there’s ever a good time to cook, it’s Thanksgiving. After all, I can’t think of a better way to test out my chef skills than to cook for my family.
But cooking vegan food for omnivores is a tricky task, especially when the typical Thanksgiving fare—turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie—is so culturally engrained. After scouring the Internet for recipes and pouring through my vegan cook books, though, I’ve realized that it’s not too hard to imitate traditional Thanksgiving flavors and create a delicious vegan meal.
Even better, you don’t have to be a master chef to whip up some of these Thanksgiving fixings, and if you’re in a kitchen where a Thanksgiving meal is already in the works, you’ll likely have many of the necessary ingredients on hand.
I figured I’d share what I’m cooking for Thanksgiving, and maybe you’ll find yourself inspired to create your own vegan dinner. For starters, these garlic mashed potatoes are sure to be a hit, and in tune with Thanksgiving tradition, why not whip up a cranberry relish to add a hint of sweetness to your side dishes?
For an entree, I recommend a glazed lentil walnut apple loaf. Don’t let the name scare you: although it’s one of the more complex recipes, it’s worth the effort, as you’ll end up with a hearty meal with a perfect balance of savory and sweet. You can even mirror those flavors with this walnut-apple stuffing, which is sure to have everyone reaching across the table for seconds.
For dessert, pumpkin pie brownie bites are sure to be a crowd-pleaser, offering traditional fall flavors complimented by notes of cocoa. Or you can stick with a classic pumpkin pie. And surprisingly, the vegan version is a lot easier to make than the traditional one.
Finally, if you’re dealing with picky relatives who might shy away from vegan food simply because, well, it’s vegan, let me share a strategy I learned last weekend when I was visiting my best friend, an omnivore, in Brooklyn, N.Y..
She took me to one of her favorite spots in East Williamsburg, Dun-Well Donuts.
Dun-Well is an all-vegan cafe and bakery, and their donuts have become insanely popular since its opening. But you don’t find the word vegan anywhere in the store. Consequently, the cafe draws in omnivores and carnivores alike, many of whom enjoy Dun-Well’s donuts without realizing they’re eating vegan donuts.
When you’re cooking for omnivores and carnivores, try nixing the word vegan from the description of your food. Once everyone has enjoyed the meal, you can share your secret, but in the mean time let your food speak for itself. Chances are, you and your family will have a delicious Thanksgiving—without even realizing it’s a vegan one.
By Katie Doyle, Food Editor
A few posts back, I wrote about how my girlfriend and I were going vegan and giving up meat, dairy and eggs for two weeks. Three recipe books, a whole lot of grocery shopping and many delicious meals later, I remain vegan and Marisa called it quits.
As a vegetarian who never cared much for cheese and didn’t have a problem substituting dairy for soy, it wasn’t hard for me to nix the animal products from my diet. But for Marisa, an omnivore, it was a lot more difficult.
Marisa said she thought it was challenging to find vegan food, especially on-the-go, adding that going vegan permanently would require a serious lifestyle change. We agreed to continue cooking vegan meals for myself, and she agreed to eat them under one stipulation: no fake cheese.
That was one great thing about veganism that we could agree on: it forced us to cook. Forget boxed meals and microwaved entrées, going vegan required us to get elbow-deep in the kitchen.
We raided Trader Joe’s, Shaws and Whole Foods to scrounge up all the necessary ingredients for the recipes we picked out. We poured through cookbooks and numerous vegan websites. Although it took a little bit of work getting used to cooking without butter and eggs, we ended up with some surprisingly delicious vegan meals.
Peanut butter banana oatmeal was our favorite breakfast dish. It was perfect for a blustery fall morning but great for an afternoon snack the next day. The cranberry-pecan arugula salad we made was a tasty lunch option. The vegan lasagna took two hours of effort but provided delectable leftovers for a week. The jicama fries and quinoa made for a delicious 20-minute dinner. The vegan tacos were a hearty entrée that didn’t seem vegan save for the cheese. Finally, the chilled double chocolate torte was quite possibly the best dessert I’ve had in a while, vegan or not.
After all of that, I felt a lot healthier. Although veganism is a lifestyle that takes a lot of effort and a dash of patience to maintain, it is worth it not just for the physical effects, but for the benefits it reaps on the environment and the animals involved in our modern food industry.
I think there’s one part of that paragraph that deserves emphasis. Surprisingly, I’m not talking about the section about veganism’s benefits. Instead, I’m referring to the part about how it takes some effort and patience to maintain a vegan lifestyle—a statement that is especially true when it comes to living with someone who isn’t vegan or vegetarian.
You see, it doesn’t just take effort, patience and most of all, cooperation, on my part, but on Marisa’s, too. Throughout this experience, I’ve realized that veganism is just one way to live, and even though it’s a great way, it doesn’t mean that veganism is the only way to make the world a better place.
My thoughts on this are best summed up by Andrea Gibson, a spoken word poet who visited Boston University last year. Here’s what Andrea has to say about it in a poem called “Name That Meat.” Although I stand by my commitment to veganism, in the end, I couldn’t agree with her more.
On the in breath, we’re having dinner.
She’s eating her 50 square feet of death.
I’m eating my organic, vegan, local salad. No meat, no cheese and please hold the dressing because I don’t want to exploit the little honeybees.
But when we meet you, she will be a thousand times more likely to greet you with open arms than me.
I’m uptight and selfish.
She’s sit down and join us. You look heartbroken. How’s your family?
And I’m choking on my lettuce about now. Begging the cows to come home and prove me holier than thou, but it’s not going to happen.
. . .
I’m never gonna eat a hamburger, love.
You’re never gonna not say hello with a smile in your eyes like a porch light welcoming this broken world home.
And this is how we’ll grow, in every direction.
The answers are easy. It’s the questions that are hard.
What can you teach me?
What can I learn here?
Whoever you are, are you also looking for a soft place to sleep?
Are you also in search of a dark night holding the quiet light of 6 billion wishful stars?