Guest Blog Post by Anna Visioli
You are turkey-day ready. You’ve been planning for weeks and are ready to brine, roast or deep fry that bird to perfection, to the inevitable delight of the brood gathered before you. So imagine the horror of all horrors, when yes, you are told that you will be hosting a vegetarian at your Thanksgiving table.
It’s okay, put down the paper bag. There’s no need to hyperventilate. And for crying out loud, stop searching for the nearest store selling Tofurkey. No one eats that stuff outside of Friends re-runs. As a 20+ year vegetarian, I’ve survived my share of conversations about preferring neither the white NOR dark meat, thank you, being served (and having to pretend to enjoy) some weird vegetarian approximation of a turkey, and simply feeling like a holiday pariah. So whether it’s your first time hosting a vegetarian or just another year serving a brood of vegans, here are my tips to make any vegetarian feel at home at a table of carnivores.
Focus on the sides
Make no mistake about it; the turkey is the star of your Thanksgiving table with the mashed potatoes, stuffing, candied yams and green bean casserole functioning merely as lesser supporting players. However, many of these seasonal favorites are naturally meat-free, and will allow your vegetarian guest to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving feast along with everyone else. Most side-dishes can easily be vegetarian-friendly. Just make sure to avoid bases like chicken stock in stuffing or your mashed potatoes, substituting vegetable broth instead (it should go without saying, that giblets in the stuffing are a definite no-no). You don’t even need to nix the gravy. Campbell’s mushroom gravy is one store-bought vegetarian option.
For your vegan guests (those would be the folks that avoid dairy as well as meat) you’ll have to go one further, substituting soy milk and vegan margarine (Blue Bonnet and Smart Balance Light Margarines are both vegan) in your potatoes. You’ll also have to ditch the canned mushroom soup in your green bean casserole. If you’re so inclined, you can make a green bean casserole base from scratch using fresh mushrooms and soy creamer.
Pass on the Tofurkey
The protein portion of the Thanksgiving meal provides perhaps the biggest challenge to vegeterianizing your Thanksgiving. This should serve as no surprise to your vegetarian guest, and you may simply want to ask him or her what they would prefer you serve. If you’re lucky, they will offer to bring something in for themselves, allowing you to avoid this conundrum altogether. However, if your dinner isn’t a potluck or you would just prefer to make something special for your guests, consider simple, make ahead options that won’t require you to make a parallel vegetarian meal.
Try a vegetarian pot pie, the internet offers a myriad of vegetarian and vegan options. Stuffed butternut squash is seasonal and pretty—consider making extra for the non-vegetarians at your table. Or to really wow ‘em, try my meatless meatloaf recipe below. The loaf can be fully made up in advance, just defrost and re-heat on Thanksgiving Day.
And thanks goodness, your dessert is probably vegetarian (unless Grandma’s famous pie recipe uses lard, you’ll have to pass on that one). For your vegan friends, whip up a vegan pie crust if you’re feeling bold or throw together a simple fruit crumble.
Vegan or vegetarian, remember the goal is to make your guest feel comfortable. You may want pull them aside before dinner to let them know which dishes are good to go (or which ones they should avoid). And if you can kindly intervene in the conversation with Uncle Herb about their food preferences, they’ll love you forever.
Thanksgiving Walnut Loaf
1 cup of cooked brown rice
2 cups of grated cheddar cheese (substitute tofu cheese for vegans)
1 ½ cups of wheat germ
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup chopped onions
½ cup grated carrots
½ cup minced green pepper
6 eggs, beaten (substitute 1 ½ cups silken tofu for vegans)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried thyme
Mix all ingredients and press into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 55 minutes. If making ahead, allow to cool, then freeze and re-heat on Thanksgiving.
Anna Visioli is the Senior Director of Platform Development for Coldwell Banker Real Estate, LLC.