Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is certainly the most food-centric. And while its crowning centerpiece is a turkey, that presents a bit of an issue for those who try to remove animal products from their diet and from their table.
Enacted to celebrate the communal spirit of the first pilgrims and now-Massachusetts Native Americans, who saved the pilgrims from almost certain starvation, the First Thanksgiving occurred in October of 1621 in Plymouth, MA and lasted a whopping three days. It played host to 53 Pilgrims and over 90 Wampanoag Native Americans. The spirit of generosity and camaraderie — after all, the 50 years of alliance and peace that sprung from this single dinner is one of the only instances of complete harmony between settlers and indigenous people — was celebrated organically for nearly 200 years until President Lincoln named it a national holiday on the third Thursday of November.
The First Thanksgiving table looked quite different from what we eat today. The first menu would’ve included things like lobster, swans and seal, not to mention wild fowl that were living in the woods of Plymouth. Sadly, sugar, butter and other rations would’ve run low after the nearly six-month voyage across the seas, so the pies, cookies and tarts that we enjoy today would’ve been a no-show at this first gathering. It’s likely that much of the meat was cooked in traditional Native American methods and with their seasoning, seeing as the pilgrims were hard-pressed for nourishment, let alone spices.
Today, Thanksgiving tables creak under an abundance of pot-luck dishes that include an enormous glazed turkey, green bean casserole, collard greens, corn bread, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, broccoli, thick loaves of bread and much, much more, depending on where you live. But in recent years, as Americans become more and more aware of the problems that face our climate and our country, dietary patterns have begun to shift toward the more vegetable-centric, a sustainable move that isn’t quite aligned with our Thanksgiving traditions.
That said, we don’t need to sacrifice taste when incorporating more vegan and vegetarian options onto our Thanksgiving tables — and these additions prove it. After all, there’s nothing better than loading up a table for family and friends and knowing that the Earth will thank you for your choices.
The husband and wife team from Minimalist Baker have whipped up a slew of Thanksgiving-oriented recipes. The team has listed everything, in order of menu, so for breakfast, you could be indulging in Vegan Sticky Buns or Vegan Pumpkin Pancakes, while The Best Vegan Biscuits, Vegan Stuffing, Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pinwheelsand Delicata Squash Bake with Tahini Sauce make for delicious sides and appetizers. Steal the show with their One-Hour Pot Pies, Garlicky Kale Salad with Crispy Chickpeas or Shepherd’s Pie. Dessert shines as Two-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Truffles, Vegan Pumpkin Sugar Cookies, Lemon White Chocolate Cheesecake or Vegan Pumpkin Pie.
If you’d like to add a bit of traditional comfort, look to the entertainment queen herself — Martha Stewart — for some vegetarian-friendly swaps. One is Mushroom Gravy, which you can pour over your entire plate without a hint of guilt. Consider also a Dried Fruit and Toasted Nut Stuffing, which provides an explosion of flavor that will leave your guests coming back for more. Spiced Lemony Brussels Sprouts with curry powder and Creamy White Bean and Vegetable Mash will distract from any missing meat and additions like a Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Greens will bring the harvest season full circle.
But, of course, your table needs a centerpiece. Instead of opting for a bird, consider tofurky. Yes, we know, it’s the butt of many jokes, but has actually been developed so well that the taste is on parr with actual bird. The brand’s best-seller comes stuffed with a wild rice melange and a “wishbone” to continue Thanksgiving traditions. Gardein serves up Stuffed Turkey or Holiday Roasts, which are stuffed with cranberry and rice and serve between two and eight. For a home-style feel, consider the Harvest Celebration Field Roast, which is seasoned with lemon, garlic and sage and features a sausage-style stuffing interior that’ll suit both vegetarians and omnivores. There’s also the stunningly real looking Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey which looks — and slices — just like the real deal, feeding between 10 and 16 hungry family members.
At the end of the day, it’s not hard to make your Thanksgiving table plant-powered; plus, your stomach — and the planet — will thank you.