Thanksgiving for Vegans Doesn’t Have to Be Traumatic

–Farm Sanctuary

People love Thanksgiving for a number of reasons, whether as a day for graciousness, for family, or for the incredible amounts of food. But before you carve that juicy bird, Gene Baur, president and cofounder of theanimal protection organization Farm Sanctuary, would like to remind you that more than 45 million turkeys are killed for Thanksgiving dinners each year.

“[Thanksgiving] is a difficult holiday for people who care about animals to celebrate with friends and family with a dead bird as the centerpiece,’’ Baur said.

No kidding. But whether you avoid meat for dietary or philosophical reasons, tension between personal values and seasonal traditions doesn’t have to make for a stressful Thanksgiving. There are plenty of ways to create a harmonious menu and enjoy the holidays with family and friends—vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike. (Reminder: A vegetarian does not eat meat or fish. A vegan is even stricter, avoiding all animal products, including milk and eggs.)

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The At-Home Dinner

So if you’re a vegan or expecting vegan dinner guests, what do you do for dinner? Tofurkey and vegetables may not be an easy sell for the rest of your family and friends.

“The best way to explore it is to make them a wonderful dinner or to bring a vegan dish that is delicious to your dinner,’’ said Wendy Cohen Cliggott, coordinator for Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Animals Boston.

Cliggott said when she brings a vegan dish, she usually goes with a large salad platter with mixed greens. She also likes to bring dishes like a faux chicken pot pie. With meat substitutes, she said, meat-eaters can’t even tell the difference.

Bauer said he prefers to bring vegan stuffing, sometimes even using it to stuff a squash instead of a turkey.

David Coman-Hidy, executive director of the Humane League, said bringing a delicious vegan dish to your Thanksgiving meal is best type of education you can do on a holiday.

“Keep in mind, the dinner table at family events is not the best place for advocacy. Think positive activism,’’ Hidy said.

The Catered Dinner

Cooking without meat takes some creativity. For those who may not have that inclination, there are many vegan catering services in the Boston area. For Vegan Pact, a vegan catering service created by Lisa Kelly, Thanksgiving is the busiest time of year. Many people are looking for healthy, plant-based alternatives for Thanksgiving, and can choose from 10 different seasonal entrees and five desserts to have delivered. Or they can learn to prep the dishes at home, Kelly said. She currently has four orders and two at-home preparation lessons.

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“Every year, my most popular dishes are creamy green bean casserole, raw vegan cheesecake (unprocessed and wholely plant based), pumpkin pie, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and apple stuffing, stuffed delicata squashes, shepherd’s pie, and kale, cauliflower, and potato casserole,’’ Kelly said.

Let’s Just Go Out

Popular vegan restaurant Red Lentil will have three seatings on Thanksgiving day, serving five courses with wine pairings—a necessity for omnivores and vegans alike. Interested in cream of parsnip soup with Macintosh apple, sunchoke, coconut milk and fresh herbs, garnished with spiced pumpkin seed granola? Or maybe harvest-stuffed baby bell peppers stuffed with butternut squash? What about a cranberry pecan wild rice pilaf served over fava bean puree and a red wine beet reduction? And definitely some old-fashioned chocolate pudding pie served with caramel sauce and topped with coconut whipped cream?

Now that is a vegan Thanksgiving menu any meat lover could love.

“When we start making food that tastes good and aligns with our own values, we’ll see revolution in our meat industry,’’ Baur said.

The Experiential Dinner

For vegans who are looking for a more interactive experience with living turkeys, Farm Sanctuary offers a celebration for the turkeys at their three locations in New York and California. At its New York location, Baur said vegans and activists from across 12 states will be represented, catering to about 700 people between both time slots.

“We celebrate the lives of these animals, community, and tasty healthy food that was produced in away that didn’t cause other animals to be slaughtered,’’ Baur said.

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The celebration will have pumpkin pies, pumpkins, greens, grapes, grains and other goodies—for the turkeys, that is.

Last year, Farm Santuary provided at its New York location five acorn squashes, 10 cans of pureed pumpkin filling, two heads of kale, four heads of romaine lettuce, and five bags of whole cranberries, all for the turkeys’ feast.

After the animals have their dinner, Farm Sanctuary then provides a tasty vegan meal for their human participants, with the menu created by Harbor Hotel. The New York event this year is on Nov. 22, and there are currently 284 people registered, plus about 42 staff and volunteers.

Cliggott has attended the celebration of turkeys for the past four years.

“When you walk in, you expect the cows, turkeys, pigs are going to run away from you. But you have cows walk up to you looking like dogs wanting to be pet,’’ Cliggott said. “These animals are no different than the cats and dogs we all love. We just seem to categorize them differently.’’

For those who can’t make it to one of Farm Sanctuary’s locations in person, the sanctuary has created the Adopt A Turkey Project, where you can donate money to save a turkey from being slaughtered.

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