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Planning your Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

I know for a lot of people Thanksgiving and other winter holidays are a big question mark this year – will we see family at all? How many family members and who? Will we eat outdoors? Will we see the bottom half of our loved-ones’ faces?

It feels like so much is out of our control these days! But here is something you can control: choose to honor the Earth and our children by opting for a vegetarian Thanksgiving this year. Not only will it show your family how delicious meatless meals can be, but it will also give you a chance to showcase your commitment to a better diet for the health of our planet.

Below are two equally good options for a meatless holiday:

OPTION ONE: Replace the turkey with another big, showy, delicious centerpiece. There is such a thing as a “tofurkey”, though I’ve never actually seen or tasted one personally. This site does a nice job laying out your options. We tend to avoid meat substitutes, opting for different centerpiece options like the ones on this site. My aunt used to make this amazing stuffed Hubbard Squash that was as big as a turkey and just as impressive in the center of the table (this one looks similar, but hers showcased lots of cheese).

OPTION TWO: Spread the attention away from one centerpiece and make lots of different interesting dishes. This is by far my favorite approach for two reasons. First, it lends itself to the potluck approach to holidays, which I believe is the only way to go, and second, it gives people the freedom to cook what they love. One of my favorite Thanksgiving meals was when we lived in Berkeley, California, and celebrated the holiday with friends from all over the world. Everyone was asked to bring a dish he or she loved to make and we ended up eating an international feast worthy of any culinary magazine.

Some photos from a recent harvest feast we hosted in September. Everything was local and homemade and delicious. With roasted root vegetables, baked beans, fresh bread and local cheese, squash soup, pumpkin and apple pie, homemade apple sauce, roasted pumpkin and squash seeds, fresh-squeezed Concord grape juice and local wines… no one left the table hungry or wishing for meat. P.S. Yes, that is a giant sunflower head on the counter. My son was SO proud of his giant sunflower, he wanted to show it off. 🙂

The best way to approach a vegetarian potluck meal is to make sure at least a couple people (this depends on the size of your gathering) understand they are bringing a “main dish”. A main dish is one that contains a protein and a carb of some sort. Stuffed squash, baked beans, roasted veggies and chickpeas, a veggie casserole, a large pasta dish, seasonal rice and beans, a bread and cheese tray… there a tons of options. A couple of people should be in charge of fun and filling sides, a couple in charge of drinks and appetizers, and a couple in charge of desserts. The hosts should make sure to fill in any gaps and make some easy sides like peas, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce (I have never believed the hosts should be in charge of the big stuff – they have to clean the house, find enough chairs and dishes, etc… why should they also have to do the lion’s share of the cooking?)

Whatever your guests bring – or, if you celebrating without guests this year, whatever you choose to make – should be fun, delicious, and as seasonal as possible. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a harvest festival, after all. Enjoy shopping at local markets and remember to be thankful for what and who you do have in your life, whatever this year has thrown at you.

– Hannah

What are your plans for Thanksgiving this year?

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