If you ask 100 people the first word that comes to mind when they hear the word “Thanksgiving,” chances are the vast majority will say, “Food” – specifically, “Turkey!” But what about the 7.3 million Americans that follow a vegetarian-based diet? How do they celebrate, and do their feelings about the holiday differ from those who treasure the traditional turkey dinner?
When asked about his typical Thanksgiving meal, Brian from Virginia (who has been a vegetarian for five years) said he enjoys, “… pumpkin pie, squash and zucchini, green bean casserole, baked sweet potato falafel, rolls, a nice salad made of field greens and Gouda cheese, with extravagant appetizers such as lentil cakes…”
Sarah – also from Virginia – shares her Thanksgiving with her entire extended family. But since there are two other vegetarians and one vegan in her family, their celebratory meals always have everyone’s dietary preferences in mind. “Everything on the table besides the turkey and gravy is vegetarian and everything but the turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes is vegan,” says Sarah.
In fact, each of the vegetarians interviewed reported they thoroughly enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, suggesting that maybe the food isn’t really as central to the holiday as it seems. Or, perhaps, are vegetarians less motivated by food than their carnivore counterparts?
Jeanne, from Colorado, has been a vegetarian for 38 years. She says she is typically the only vegetarian at her Thanksgiving celebrations, so she often takes along a couple of vegetarian dishes with her. In all her years of living without meat, Jeanne says, “The only thing I don’t like about Thanksgiving as a vegetarian is that when I go somewhere different, I always have to explain myself and all the reasons I am a vegetarian. I also wish people would just take vegetarians at face value, instead of trying to ‘convert’ them.”
I think that’s excellent advice, Jeanne. Thanksgiving should be about family and friendship, sharing and reminiscing, regardless of whether we celebrate with turkey or tofu.