Published on November 22nd, 2012 | by Charu Suri2
The Vegetarian Thanksgiving Grows Up
For many vegetarians, including myself, a Thanksgiving meal is far from traditional. Over many years, I’ve witnessed (and made) various experimental and quasi-ethnic dishes for the meal, from well garnished, roasted Brussels sprouts, a creamy Butternut Squash soup, to gnocchi with pesto al dente.
One frigid winter, we baked bread from scratch (you know, with yeast and flour) and paired it with a few Indian curries because we had no idea how to make naan, and hoped for the best. It certainly was an odd pairing, but all the vegetarians who came to dinner gobbled it up in spades.
This year, with a wee little baby at our table, and a curious au pair from Sweden, will be our attempt to make a truly “traditional” Thanksgiving –but naturally—a vegetarian version. Although we’ll be at our folks’ house where they serve the traditional turkey, a small subsection of the table will be in the Venn Diagram area of the “odd couple” (aka vegetarians).
For years, a traditional Vegetarian Thanksgiving menu entailed the following: the indisputable cranberry sauce; creamy mashed potatoes; vegetarian stuffing…pretty much everything minus the bird. But recently, there’s been a movement to take the raise the Vegetarian Thanksgiving Meal bar several notches higher.
This year, The New York Times has dedicate a special “Vegetarian Thanksgiving” column in its Health/Science section, Well. The column, written by Tara Parker Pope, gives some excellent and balanced recommendations on Thanksgiving desserts, leafy green options, and even comfort foods like macaroni and cheese accented with fresh, seasonal produce.
Whole Foods has so many tasty Thanksgiving dinner options too, including delicious specialties with seasonal Butternut Squash, as well as artisanal pizzas with cranberry toppings. Food and Wine recommends a winter-vegetable shepherd’s pie (which is a complete avant garde version of the 1877 entrée from the United Kingdom, which is traditionally made with minced meat) and a delicious pumpkin lasagna.
It’s been a simply wonderful to see the bare bones Vegetarian Thanksgiving table grow up to such a cultured experience. It’s as though the tradition received a cap and gown and graduated summa cum laude, all in the space of a few years.
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see vegan and gluten-free options show up at the table too (our au pair is gluten-free) because of the increasing rise in allergies. Could vegans remember a time when a carrot osso buco, or vegan enchiladas were something that would show up at the Thanksgiving Supper table?
What I’m most looking forward to this year—apart from the champagne-like company –is a chance to try something new. We’re making a gluten-free pie and filling it to the brim with delicious, fat blueberries. There will also be a thick, crackly sourdough loaf of bread from Amy’s Bread, and plenty of Indian curries and Brussels Sprouts garnished with walnuts and honey.
In short, a very gourmet, grown up Vegetarian Thanksgiving.
Often, when there’s no “tradition,” it’s time for innovation. I certainly know that especially this year, with Erika, I have a lot to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!