A Modern Meat-Free Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving can be an alienating time for those who don’t eat meat. Think about it— the moniker for this holiday purportedly centered on gratitude is “Turkey Day”. Oftentimes veggie-eaters end up with a plate of sides for the holiday (and sometimes less than a plate if you’re a vegan).  So if you are a vegetarian or vegan, or you are hosting one this holiday, what are some go-to tips that will leave everyone present thankful for the bounty before them?  

Samuel Hartman, the secretary for The Louisville Vegetarian initiative, shared some of his Thanksgiving advice for vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike.

“I really enjoy all the traditional Thanksgiving foods like stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes. They are all easily made vegan by substituting the animal-based products for their plant-based counterparts. Some other dishes my family enjoys making vegan are corn soufflé, easily done with tofu instead of eggs, and baked sweet potatoes,” Hartman said.

“There are some animal-based ingredients that tend to sneak into a lot of prepared foods: honey, gelatin, any type of cream, butter, or dairy base, and different liquid stocks that might contain meat or bones. It's easy to replace these and I encourage anyone attempting a vegan meal to do so! The internet is an excellent for what to use in place of animal product; for instance,” Hartman continued.

Another way to create meals that are appealing to everyone at the holiday table is by checking out a co-op or farmer’s market for delicious produce. I stopped by The Root Cellar to see what offerings were locally-sourced available.

Beth Nolte, who has been working at The Root Cellar since spring, gave advice on what seasonal items to include in a meat-free holiday meal.

“We have everything for Thanksgiving. Obviously squash; we have six different kinds of potatoes – the blue potatoes are amazing, they are buttery and blue all the way through.”

Enchanted, I paused here to confirm that when you mash them they will, in fact, stay blue.

“We also have sweet potatoes, all the herbs traditionally used, broccoli, and lacinato kale is a favorite. Swiss chard, different kinds of apples and pears.”

If you’re vegetarian and incorporate dairy into your diet, The Root Cellar also had a full wall of cheeses, creams, yogurts and milks. All of the Root Cellar’s produce and dairy is sourced within 150 miles.

So—final question.

As a vegetarian or vegan, if you are going to someone’s home for Thanksgiving do you bring anything to share or to have to ensure that you have food options?

“I think a combination of bringing your own food, but also communicating with the host works best. If they aren't willing to make anything vegan (even the green beans or mashed potatoes), then I would reconsider attending. It's not difficult to make a dish that's already vegetables vegan. But bringing some delicious food - especially vegan dessert! - can really help smooth over any issues that the host or other guests have. If it tastes good, people will enjoy it, whether it contains animal products or not,” Hartman said.

The turkeys will thank you. 

The Louisville Vegetarian Initiative is hosting a vegan Thanksgiving potluck on November 23 at the Crescent Hill Library - people can RSVP online if they are interested!

Photos 1 and 3 courtesy of shutterstock. 

Photo 2 courtesy of "oh my veggies"

About Ashlie Danielle Stevens
Freelance writer based in Louisville, Kentucky. Writing curator of eclectic experience.
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