A Vegan on Thanksgiving?

green beans

What Thanksgiving really needs.

It seems that a good number of Americans pretty well hate vegans on Thanksgiving. It’s like our very existence somehow threatens their ability to enjoy Thanksgiving like the Pilgrims did, with a ginormous Butterball turkey. (Have you ever seen a real wild turkey? They’re scrawny little things. They probably weren’t served at that Thanksgiving in the Plimouth Colony, either).

Earlier this week on Slate.com (preface: Slate thinks vegan stories make for good click-bait), Dear Prudence printed a letter from a grandmother. Her 17-year-old granddaughter, who lives on the other side of the country, is a vegan. She and her mom and family are coming to grandma’s for Thanksgiving. Grandma’s other daughter lives locally, and usually brings her family over.

Well, vegan granddaughter expressed to grandma that she wasn’t comfortable being around when meat is being consumed. She also said that she would leave while the turkey was being prepared. We have no context for how the conversation came about. What we do know, is that to make granddaughter feel comfortable, the grandmother decided to host a vegetarian Thanksgiving. Now the local-living daughter and family refuse to come.

Grandma’s question was about how to handle the local-living daughter, not the vegan granddaughter.

Yet Prudie and about 95% (percentage made up) of her commentors came down on the granddaughter for dictating what would be served at Thanksgiving. Prudence did at least admonish local-living daughter too, but the sentiment of nearly everyone is that the granddaughter is a brat and needs to get over herself.

If you’re a vegan, are you perfectly comfortable being around when meat is being consumed?

I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong, I do it all the time. I tune it out for the most part, and it makes for some good-natured joking among friends and close family. But no, I’m not “comfortable” around it.

A lot of people in the comments section seem to think that since vegan granddaughter won’t be around when the meat is being prepared, she won’t be around at dinner if meat is being consumed, because that’s “logical.” I don’t think that’s a logical assumption at all- it feels way worse to me to watch the meat go in the oven, see all the grease and nastiness that goes along with a dead body, etc. I’m a nurse, I can handle it- but I see her point. I personally won’t help clean up after the turkey when I’m at my mom’s, because the grease alone completely skeeves me out. I do eat dinner with everyone else- I just only eat vegan things. More on that later.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a letter on Dear Abby or Annie’s Mailbox (sorry, can’t find a link for that one), where someone wrote in because their brother’s wife is a vegetarian, and the brother and wife are hosting Thanksgiving. It will be an all-vegetarian Thanksgiving. The writer wanted to bring a turkey, and was told no- there would be no meat served, end of story (I should say that the wife’s response included some unkind words citing religion, but that’s not what the question was about). The writer was extremely upset at the idea of a Thanksgiving without turkey, and was threatening not to go.

Don’t go.

People have a right to celebrate Thanksgiving in their own homes however they see fit, so long as they aren’t hurting anyone. If grandma wants to try out her granddaughter’s way of eating, that’s her right. If sister-in-law keeps a vegetarian household, that’s her right. It don’t make vegans and vegetarians wrong.

What I was the most floored with about the grandma question was how it was assumed the granddaughter was a brat, simply because she’s A) vegan, B) a teenager, and C) it came up that she was uncomfortable about the meat. Maybe she and grandma have a really close relationship, and it came up in a totally non-threatening, non-bratty way, like this imaginary phone call:

GM: Hey honey, I’m looking forward to having you here for Thanksgiving, and I love our time together making dinner. I’m going to make sure I buy some soy milk so you can have mashed potatoes, too. Are you going to make me an apple pie this year?

VGD: I am totally going to make you an apple pie this year! But about the time in the kitchen… I know I’ve been vegan for a few years now, but it’s really starting to hit me now how much it bothers me to see meat being prepared and to see people eat it. So I’d like to make my pie on Wednesday night, and go to the football game with my cousins while you’re making the turkey. I’ll be back in plenty of time for dinner. I’ll set the table before I go, too!

{Big Pause}

GM: I didn’t really think something like that would bother you. The truth is, I hate turkey. I hate making it, too. Would you work with me in the kitchen if we left out the turkey, and made everything vegetarian or vegan? I only get to see you once a year, and I love our time together.

You might think that sounds a little over dramatic, but that sort of thing does happen. Vegan activist Jasmin Singer’s grandmother even went vegetarian after learning about the cruel conditions in the animal agriculture industry. Some people would rather have their loved ones be comfortable than eat meat.

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Mmm… pie.

I don’t request that my mom stop serving turkey (or other meat). When we spend holidays together, we make all or almost all of the sides vegan (Earth Balance, soy milk and vegetable broth are your friends here). I usually bring a dessert, as my mom does use pie crusts with lard. My mom usually even buys me a Tofurky. So, I can eat almost everything on the table, and my mom doesn’t ask me to help her make the turkey. And let’s be honest, I’m usually still asleep when the turkey goes in the oven anyway. Or if it’s meat with a shorter cook time, that might be when I go take a shower. There are ways to get out of the kitchen that don’t say “I don’t want to help with anything” or “I don’t want to spend time with you.”

I haven’t hosted many Thanksgivings myself, and those where I have my guests have been vegans and vegetarians, so that’s not been an issue- but should I ever start hosting for friends or family members who might expect meat… well, I keep a veg household. Like the sister-in-law above, I would say no to anyone who wants to bring a turkey.

If that makes me a brat, I’ve stopped caring.

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Thanksgiving needs cranberries.

So here are my rules for the holidays.

  • The host decides what the cuisine is, and has total veto power over anything being brought in.
  • If there are true air-borne food allergies, only a complete jerk would insist that the offending allergen be made part of a meal.
  • When it comes to special accommodations, please understand there is a difference between ethical/religious beliefs and preferences. For example, it is my ethical belief that eating meat is wrong, so I will not do it for myself. It is my preference that others follow suit, but I don’t get to “dictate” that unless I’m the host. Also, low-fat, low-carb, paleo, low-GI- these are preferences. Unless…
  • If there is someone with diet-related illness (such as diabetes), it would be a very nice gesture on any host’s part if they offered a few dishes said guest can have.
  • The host probably can’t accommodate everyone if everyone has a different preference/allergy/ethical belief, but there are somethings that can work for everyone, or almost everyone.
  • Guests needing special dietary accommodations should offer to bring something (actually, all guests should offer to bring something), but should let it drop if the host says no, especially if it’s contrary to the host’s ethical/religious beliefs or is an allergen that could trigger a fatal reaction.
  • Karma. Remember it.
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Cheating Today

Not on veganism!

Cheating on Vegan MoFo. I’m just linking you over to my post on Small Bites about Bhog Indian in Pleasantville, NY.

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I also mentioned this the other day.

Happy MoFo!

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How would you feel?

I just read this article from Slate today. I’m sure it’s blowing up their page hits today and that’s why they ran it, because I have a hard time believing that they are this ignorant.

If you don’t feel like giving them a page hit, here’s the bottom line: omnivore makes dinner (risotto) for vegetarian guests, and uses chicken stock. The stock was originally an accident, but then he decides not to tell his guests because it would be rude of them not to eat what he’s serving, and basically veg*n people need to get over themselves and be polite.

Pot, meet kettle.

My basic comment there was if any of my friends ever did that to me, I would consider that a serious breech of trust. Not realize that you used chicken stock until after we’ve eaten? That’s an accident and there should be no hard feelings. Intentionally use chicken stock and lie to me about it? Why should I believe anything else you ever say if you feel it’s not a big deal to lie to me about that?

If I were in that situation and they came clean with me, it’s true, I would not eat the meal. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still enjoy the company.

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Lucky Buddha in Thornwood, NY

My department at work likes to go to a restaurant at the winter holidays every year. Before I started a few years back, they typically went to Applebee’s. When I heard that’s where they were going my first Christmas there, I really, really, really didn’t want to go. I explained to one of the people organizing that there really wasn’t much there I could eat, and fortunately, there were a couple of other people not thrilled with the idea, based on Applebee’s just not being very good.

So I had to come up with somewhere that everyone would agree on.

Nearby, we had Indian and Thai that I could eat. Not everyone is into those types of foods, though, so I had to come up with something else.

There was a hibachi place just down the street. Everyone likes food entertainment, so Lucky Buddha it was.

I’m not writing them a love letter over their food- it’s not my favorite place, but it is somewhere where pretty much everyone can get something. When we go as a large group for the holidays or other celebrations we usually sit at the hibachi grill (I just engage in conversation and don’t pay much mind to the food), and when with smaller groups, there’s plenty of regular tables. They can sub tofu into many of the meat-based dishes, even though they’re not on the menu, but this has been my recent standby:

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Avocado/cucumber roll and mini vegetable spring rolls.

It’s a-okay. I prefer my sushi without seaweed, but I’m learning to tolerate it!

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Sweet Grass Grill in Tarrytown, NY

Oh, I am so tired tonight.

I take pictures pretty much anytime I go out to eat, but I don’t always get to use them. Mostly because I don’t blog enough, but that’s for another time.

Some of you might know that I blog for the local paper around here on their Small Bites blog, where I write the I Eat Plants column, which I took over from JL of JL Goes Vegan when she moved away from NY last year. One of the place I’ve written about on more than one occasion is Sweet Grass Grill in Tarrytown. I go there a bit more often than I do most other places. I don’t about them over on I Eat Plants as often as I go, because I try to avoid bias. But since this is a totally different forum, here’s my last meal.

And here I go talking about this place like “hey, I go here all the time.” My last time there was over a month ago. Oh well! It wasn’t because the food wasn’t good, because that would not be true. The food was awesome!

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Potatoes on top. Inside, jackfruit and lentils I think, along with a few other things which I wish I could remember!

Sweet Grass always has a vegan dish or two on their menu. For a while over the last year they had been doing Meatless Mondays where they had either a vegan or vegetarian (or both) dish, but a few months ago, they brought in a vegan chef consultant to help them have more vegan dishes on a regular basis. I really wish I had the time to go more often- I really do support this business!

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Desert! I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it was apricots on a cashew-based crust and it was good!

They also always have at least one vegan dessert on the menu, which is just awesome. This night they had one, which was the one above, and a “vegan possible” dessert- I believe that the other dessert had honey drizzled on it, but they left it off for the vegan possible.

It’s nice to have a restaurant that has reliably good vegan dishes who really understands what it is they’re talking about when it comes to vegan. While I’d love a restaurant in the area that serves an all-vegan menu, there’s something to be said about a place where it’s not too hard to convince your friends to go. They might even order a meatless dish! I think it can be helpful to bring people to places where they have a choice and they decide on the meatless dish even when they don’t have to. Give it a try sometime. 🙂

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Lagusta’s Luscious Mad Men Summer

A few weeks ago, a friend and I went up to New Paltz for one of Lagusta’s Luscious Savory Dinner Series nights, the Mad Men Summer. It was an excellent, excellent choice!

Lagusta’s Luscious is a chocolate shop. I’ve never been during the day, but I’ve picked up some of her chocolate before at the Brooklyn Vegan Shop-Up (awesome!). She makes some seriously crazy flavors that just… work. My understanding is that there are some non-confectionary food options in the shop as well, but it’s not like it’s a regular restaurant.

Enter the savory dinner series.

May through August (she had originally planned to go until September, but has gotten super busy- good for her!) there is a dinner served a few days at the end of the month. It’s the same dinner that’s served for the 3-4 nights each night. Seating is limited (I think there were 12), and everyone gets the same thing. The was one on the night of my birthday in July that I had thought about going to, but since the menu was mushroom-heavy, I decided against it and went in August instead. While I’m glad I went in August, it might have been a mistake to skip July. More on the mushroom conundrum later!

Of course, it was low lighting so pictures aren’t great, but Lagusta has an album up on her FB page!

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The table was set with a Mad Men-era flair.

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The Menu.

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I don’t usually drink whisky, but when in Rome…

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Potato chips with caramelized onion and shallot dip. Off the hook.

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The cauliflower is supposed to be like shrimp cocktail. I’ve never had shrimp cocktail, so I can’t say how it measures up, but I liked it. What I LOVED was the picked watermelon rind. See below for how this was served.

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With cream of tomato soup! This was so, so good. I really want to learn to make this one myself.

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Next up, Heirloom Iceburg Lettuce Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing and Smokey Eggplant Bacon. To be honest, I didn’t love the eggplant bacon, and my friend didn’t love the cheese (it was pretty ripe. I was on the fence about it, but loved the base of the dressing). It was still a winner though!

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Mushroom roulade. My friend loved this, and was hoping I would hate mine so she could have it. I kept eating it, and thinking “it tastes like mushroom, but I want more.” Maybe there’s hope for me yet?

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Peach punch with thyme. And vodka, I think. Or was it gin? Either way, I couldn’t finish, as I was driving. But I liked what I had!

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Mac & Cheese with Fried Green Tomato and Carrots with Dill. I LOVED this. The pasta was actually smoked! This was so good. My friend did not love it, but I did. The coating on the tomato was a little bit too heavy, but then again, I had never had a fried green tomato before, so what do I know? I do know that it was made with a 40-year-old sourdough starter!

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The Chocolate Bombe. I actually said “Oh my God” when it was being described to the table. And man, was it good!

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To end, we got candy cigarettes. I didn’t actually eat mine, but it was really fun and smelled awesome! We also got a tobacco chocolate wrapped that we could take to go. I unfortunately forgot about it in my purse, and wasn’t sure how good it would be by the time I found it.

Now, I should point out that my friend that I went with is not vegan. She did note that if she could eat like this everyday, she sure could be!

If you get a chance to go to one of the dinners next spring/summer, I highly recommend it. I can’t wait to go back, and hope I can bring even more friends with me! This is the kind of dinner that has the potential to convert people!

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Vida Vegan Con Zine Winner!

And the winner is

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Commenter #2, Em! Em, please contact me through the Contact Form so I can send the zine out to you!

Happy MoFo everyone! And don’t worry, there will be another giveaway soon!

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VeganMoFo VII Giveaway #1: The VidaVegan Con Zine!

My day today was incredibly busy. So busy I missed the whole iPhone 5s/5c announcement today and only got caught up this evening! That is saying something for me!

Also, I really don’t feel like blogging tonight, so you benefit, because tonight will be my first giveaway of the month: The Vida Vegan Con 2013 Zine!

Amey of Vegan Eats and Treats put together an awesome zine that was available for purchase at this year’s Vida Vegan Con (which I attended, but didn’t blog about. I’ll get around to that later). She got recipes from some of the presenters, illustrated it, printed it up, and sold it to raise money for one of the animal rescue charities (I don’t remember which one, sorry!). I picked up an extra so I could share!

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It’s mighty cool!

Now I think that Jenn over at Vegan Dance if You Want to is going to have an even better VVC 2013 zine giveaway this month, but why not enter this contest anyway?

So to enter this one, leave a comment. I’d love it if you would like my Facebook page in return for the entry, but you don’t have to. Contest closes Friday 9/13/13 at 3PM ET, winner to be announced later that day. Good luck!

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Bits from the Weekend

I almost forgot to post today. I think that’s part of the point of VeganMoFo, at least as a writer- get out of your comfort zone and just keep posting, no matter how insignificant the post may seem! I hope to do some more in-depth posts about some of what I’m showing in the future- but for now, I’m just giving you the barebones version.

I had an extra long weekend (starting Thursday) due to the Jewish holidays. I decided to put it to good use with the food projects! You already saw my pesto from Thursday, and I know you know that I’ve been working on tempeh!

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Not quite fermented long enough, but this is it at its prettiest. It ended up with some ugly, but edible, black spots.

On Saturday, I went to a meetup with the Westchester Veggie EatUP group to the farmer’s market and an Indian restaurant for lunch. Fun times were had, and the food was good! Jenn from Vegan Dance if You Want to and The Food Duo were there, too!

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I don’t even know what this was.

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I’m a big fan of Chana Massala.

I went for a bike ride later, and was pretty much ready to just flop on the couch for the night, but remembered I planned to ferment some purple string beans from the farmer’s market.

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They were so pretty to start! They’re green now, though.

There were other projects, but one of the best? Bread making!

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Made it myself, from start to finish!

It was a busy, busy weekend- this was only a sampling of what I did- I didn’t take pictures of everything. But there might be more from the weekend that sneaks its way on to the blog. And you know what? There will always be more to come!

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Vegan Pesto

I have so many food projects going on in my kitchen (and living room, at this point) it is not funny. And most are not done! Tempeh is, but that will be a post for another day. I will say: success.

One thing I did get done for today was a simple basil pesto.

Pesto

Tasty, tasty pesto.

I got an awesome deal on basil today- a huge bunch that yielded over 6 cups. Some is going to be dehydrated tonight, and some was made into pesto. Pesto is incredibly simple to make!

Vegan Pesto

  • 2 cups (packed) washed and dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  1. Mince garlic cloves. On the cutting board, sprinkle the cloves with 1/4 tsp salt.
  2. Mash the salt into the garlic with the side of your knife. Keep mashing until you have a paste. Add to food processor.
  3. Add pine nuts to food processor, and give a quick couple of pulses to combine garlic and nuts.
  4. Add basil leaves. Process.
  5. While the leaves are processing, drizzle in the oil. Stop and scrape down sides as necessary.
  6. Taste. Add extra salt if needed, as well as pepper.
  7. Serve immediately, or freeze in an ice cube tray.

That’s all there is to it. You can put it on pasta, spread on bread, throw frozen cubes into tomato sauce… lots of possibilities!

I’m off of MoFo for the weekend, but I’ll be back Monday!

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