On Moving Toward Vegetarianism: Thanksgiving

This image has been removed for copyright reasons; You can see it here.

I went to see the film Rachel Getting Married this week and it made me think a lot about the topic of today's post. We are, of course, products of our families, but tensions can occur when we move away from the professed family ideal. The intensely emotional events that draw the larger family together such as marriages and funerals happen only occasionally, but Thanksgiving with your nearest and dearest comes around every year.
Not conforming to the family ideal can be a massive issue and a real cause of friction in the family. Thanksgiving is based entirely around the concept of harvest and being thankful for the food we eat. If your parents are traditionalists and you have become a vegetarian, not being thankful for the turkey can perhaps seem like a slap in the face to them. If your parents are indifferent or even hostile to your vegetarian choice, it can make for an extremely uncomfortable dinner.

A lot of the points I covered in my post on the social contract can be considered, but dealing with your family is different than dinner with friends or coworkers.

There are a few strategies you can employ to get through the day:

1) If a relative is baiting you, don't rise to it. Some wag once said "Of course your family can push your buttons, they installed them". Chances are the uncle who is goading you is never going to see things from your point of view, and is just trying to get you going, so don't bother arguing with him.

2) Offer to bring a vegetarian main course so that you aren't making extra work for your parents. Make something that is ready to serve and doesn't require precious oven or stove space.

3) Don't cover old ground. Families have a way of endlessly reprising touchy topics. Keep in mind a list of things to talk about that will help you avoid the mobius strip of argument.


This is my daughter Emma paddling us to our Thanksgiving dinner last month.

4) Before the big day, ask the cook to keep unnecessary meat additions out of the side dishes. Really, no one is going to miss bacon bits in the salad.

5) Be open to friendly discussion about your food choices if this is your first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian. Being a vegetarian is a normal, everyday thing for you and if you are matter of fact about it your family will see that it needn't be a big deal.

6) If you've already had the friendly discussion and you don't want to keep having it, it's time to set some limits. Politely point out that there may be other topics more interesting than what you eat.

7) Don't apologize to your family for your food choices, but also recognize that they have the right to their own choices as well.

8) Smile and be thankful.


Here's a very easy recipe that would be welcome on anyone's Thanksgiving table.

Roasted Pumpkin Salad

3 cups of pumpkin (or other winter squash), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
extra-virgin olive oil
fine grain sea salt
12 tiny red onions or shallots, peeled (OR 3 medium red onions peeled and quartered)
2 cups cooked wild rice*
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons warm water
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375. Toss the pumpkin in a generous splash of olive oil along with a couple pinches of salt, and turn out onto a baking sheet. At the same time, toss the onions with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and turn out onto a separate baking sheet. Roast both for about 45 minutes, or until squash is brown and caramelized. The same goes for the onions, they should be deeply colored, caramelized, and soft throughout by the time they are done roasting. You'll need to flip both the squash and onion pieces once or twice along the way - so it's not just one side that is browning.

2. In the meantime, make the dressing. With a hand blender or food processor puree the sunflower seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and honey until creamy. You may need to add a few tablespoons of warm water to thin the dressing a bit. Stir in the cilantro, saving just a bit to garnish the final plate later. Taste and adjust seasonings (or flavors) to your liking - I usually need to add a touch more salt with this dressing.

3. In a large bowl, toss the wild rice with a large dollop of the dressing. Add the onions, gently toss just once or twice. Turn the rice and onions out onto a platter and top with the roasted squash (I'll very gently toss with my hands here to disperse the pumpkin a bit). Finish with another drizzle of dressing and any remaining chopped cilantro.

Serves 4.

* To cook wild rice: Rinse 1 1/2 cups wild rice. In a medium sauce pan bring the rice and 4 1/2 cups salted water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes or until rice is tender and splitting open, stirring occasionally. You'll have enough for this recipe and some leftover.

Recipe and photo from 101 Cookbooks

The challenge this week
: on the theme of movies, try to find a copy of Albert Brooks' film Mother starring Brooks and Debbie Reynolds. Like Rachel Getting Married this film made me weep, but with laughter. The extremely funny scene of the mother offering to make dinner for her vegetarian son is worth the price of admission.

Related Posts

On Moving Toward Vegetarianism

On Moving Toward Vegetarianism: The Social Contract

On Moving Toward Vegetarianism: Getting the Protein You Need

On Moving Toward Vegetarianism: Thanksgiving
Photo credit: Chow, 2007

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