Thanksgiving is quickly approaching.
There are more vegans and people following a plant-based diet than ever.
And my omni friends are panicking!
“HELP!” they are texting me. “I’ve got vegans coming to Thanksgiving dinner!”
The first thing I do is text them, in large friendly letters, “DON’T PANIC.”
It’s not that hard. It really isn’t.
A Few Do’s and Don’ts
DON’T Worry (Too Much) About The “Meat”
There are so many Thanksgiving “roast” options out there for vegans today.
Feeding multiple vegans? There’s Tofurky Holiday Roast. Trader Joe’s has its own version. Field Roast has two versions – its regular Celebration Roast and one “en croute.” Gardein has a large Holiday Roast.
Feeding just one or two people? Gardein also makes a Savory Stuffed Turk’y. If all else fails, pick up a package of Gardein Turk’y Cutlets with gravy (available just about everywhere year-round).
Can’t locate these in the stores? If you have Amazon Prime, check out their Prime Now app. In Charlotte, most of these roasts are available through Amazon via Whole Foods, and will be delivered to your door in the two hour time frame you choose.
There, that’s done. Wasn’t that easy?
DO Substitute Earth Balance For Butter
Earth Balance is widely available, reasonably priced, and can be used exactly like “real” butter. Unless you or your guests are used to really fancy butter (like Irish butter) no one will be able to tell a difference. Often, this is the only swap you need to make many vegetable sides vegan.
DO Use Vegenaise Or Hellman’s Vegan Mayonaise
For fruit salads, potato salads, pasta salads, etc. There are other good brands, but I have found these two “behave” the most like egg-based mayo in recipes. You can substitute spoon for spoon without making any adjustments.
DO Use Vegetable Broth
There are a number good brands. I’d suggest using the same brand of whatever chicken or beef broth you would normally use, as it will probably have a similar level of the saltiness/flavor oomph you are used to.
DON’T Spend A Lot Of Money On Expensive Vegan Stuff
Truthfully, we will worship you if you buy vegan cheese for our salad or special order us a $15 vegan dessert. But it’s not necessary. Really. Vegan can be done inexpensively, and honestly we’d rather not have “vegan” equated with expensive or difficult. We’d rather just be invited to your home more often.
DON’T Make Things Too Difficult For Yourself
Your family insists on Grandma’s broccoli casserole made with canned “cream of” soup and tons of gooey cheese? Ok, make that, but don’t try to figure out a separate vegan version for your vegan guests. (1) It will stress you out! (2) Going into this new, you have about a 1% chance of creating anything edible. (3) We really don’t care! Maybe serve some steamed broccoli with Earth Balance, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a spoonful of capers – you’ll be buying the broccoli anyway. Green bean casserole? Cook some green beans and throw in a handful of almonds – again, you already have those beans!
DO Have A Mix Of Simple And WOW Dishes
I was brought up in a family where Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner was always “homemade” – and you used the prize-winning complicated family recipe! Anything less was frowned upon. Anything “boughten”? Oh, hell, no.
But, every Thanksgiving my great aunt Martha was always in the kitchen, instead of socializing. While everyone else was sitting around, stirring their drinks, having a big ol’ time.
And Christmas dinner made my mother meaner than a rattlesnake trying to bite her way through a pair of snakeskin boots!
Martha has now, for years, been nothing more than ashes and dust. Mama is in a hospice facility with Alzheimers. And I’m shaking my head, wishing I could have better holiday memories of those two. Laughing with Martha outside the kitchen. Not tiptoeing around my mom and taking two-hour long walks with my dogs just to get out of the house and away from “The Wrath of Mom.”
I mean, we all really appreciated the homemade dressing and lemon jelly cakes! But – why couldn’t they have eased up on themselves and bought some damn packaged dinner rolls and canned cranberry sauce?
MY RULE (for omnis and vegans): Make a couple of homemade dishes you really love, and then cheat where you must. For example, if I make a vegan asparagus casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, and waldorf salad, I “cheat” by making Pepperidge Farm dressing and baked sweet potatoes (instead of sweet potato casserole). Maybe you are making dressing from scratch, sweet potato casserole, and pecan pie – give yourself permission to doctor up some frozen green beans or frozen collards.
It’s a wonderful thing to invite people into your home and cook for them. But please don’t stress over making your vegan guests a gourmet meal. Just make sure you are serving at least one thing that is fresh and homemade, and you’re golden.
DO Feel Free To Ask Your Vegan Guests Questions
We realize many of our omni friends are unclear about what “vegan” means. Many get it confused with gluten-free! Be honest and say, “I’m not used to cooking for vegans. I think this will be appropriate for you, but I’m not sure!”
DON’T Let A Vegan Take Advantage Of You
If you ask my advice on your dinner and I say, “That’s great … I can eat this and this and this …. I could eat this if it wasn’t made with dairy butter … I’m also happy to bring a dish – do you need another side or dessert?” – That’s me, being a vegan.
IF, however, I say, “Nope, don’t like Tofurky, I want Field Roast … I want mashed potatoes, made with West Soy organic unsweetened soymilk and Miyoko’s butter … I can’t eat the cranberry sauce because I can’t tell from the can where this company sourced the sugar … I want you to use completely separate utensils to stir the pots, and a different knife to cut the pecan pie and my vegan cheesecake …” That’s me, being a bitch.
DO Make Sure Your Guests Are Respectful
Say something if one of your guests picks up a slice of turkey and waves it in front of another guest. “Gobble gobble gobble!”
Notice if there seems to be an excessive amount of turkey talk. “Ohhh, this turkey is sooo good!” Of course, there’s going to be a lot of turkey talk, but if someone (or multiple someones) keep talking about the turkey, and none of the sides – realize this may be passive aggressive behavior.
You may think vegans will defend themselves, but if we are guests in someone else’s home we are trying to be respectful. For all I know, the obese woman sitting across from me with gravy on her dress, going into orgasmic ecstacy eating turkey and encouraging me to “try just one bite” is your mother-in-law. Or your boss.
DON’T Announce To Other Guests Some Of Your Guests Are Vegan
No one – except the host(s) need to know. It will eliminate harassing table talk.
DO Remember All Wines Aren’t Vegan
I know, right? Who’d have thought? Wine is made from GRAPES, right? But some wines are filtered through egg whites or fish bladders. Some vegans don’t care; some do. (The ones who do will often bring their own bottle of wine, plus one to share.) Organic wines are almost always vegan – and many are inexpensive. Beer, usually, is vegan, as are spirits. You can check it out on http://www.barnivore.com.
DO Remember Dessert
Vegan desserts don’t have to be difficult or expensive. You could splurge on a fancy vegan ice cream or cheesecake, but you could also do sorbet, fresh fruit, and Candy Cane Joe Joe’s.
DO Remember Vegan Food Is For Everyone
OK, probably not everyone’s going to want to try the Tofurky, but you may be surprised how many omnis might prefer green beans almondine over green bean casserole, quinoa salad over macoroni and cheese, or sorbet and fruit over pecan pie! On more than one occasion – at a friend’s house or at work – the omnis ate all the vegan food before I had a chance to get to it! So make sure there is enough for everyone interested!
DO Understand Your Vegan Guests Love You Simply For Inviting Them And Making The Effort!