Enjoying Thanksgiving, even without the turkey

This Thanksgiving, many grocery lists around the country will be modified to the needs of vegetarian guests. (Photo Sophia Lodigiani)
This Thanksgiving, many grocery lists around the country will be modified to the needs of vegetarian guests. (Photo: Sophia Lodigiani)

By Sophia Lodigiani and Maggie Warren,
BlueDevilHUB.com Staff–

Last year, sophomore Lauren Limburg was raising a forkful of her favorite Thanksgiving squash dish into her mouth– when she was stopped just in time by her father. He reminded her that he had just altered the recipe to include meat.

Many vegetarians, like Limburg, struggle with food options during the Thanksgiving season.

It can be awkward when the main dish has to be denied by a guest.

“Usually when someone tells me I need to try the turkey or ham they cooked, I have to explain why I can’t do that, and that’s always a bit of a struggle. They always have a lot of follow-up questions,” said junior Carolanne McLennan, who has been a vegetarian for two years.

Likewise, junior Laura Young has been a vegetarian since sixth grade and constantly has to explain her diet to her family members.

“My Cambodian aunt does not understand why I don’t eat meat. She says, ‘God made animals so you could eat them,” Young said.

Being limited to fewer food options on Thanksgiving can leave vegetarians feeling neglected.

“Everyone’s making such a big deal about the turkey that they’re roasting, and you feel kind of like an afterthought,” said Laura Doyle, Education & Outreach Coordinator for Davis Food Co-op.

It can also be difficult for vegetarians seeing their family eating things that they themselves cannot eat. Limburg also has a different concern: that her family might not cook a dish they love in order to satisfy her needs.

“I don’t want them to give up any of their meals just because of a decision that I have made,” Limburg said.

Many people have created fine-tuned solutions over the years to ensure a smooth holiday for vegetarians.

“Many non-vegetarian recipes can be easily modified to make them vegetarian,” vegan dietitian Reed Mangels said.

These include swapping chicken broth for vegetable broth, and changing lard to vegetable shortening.

For any dietary need, it is important to plan ahead. This could mean requesting a vegetarian option from your host, or supplying a dish of your own.

“If you prefer not to cook, you may need to help your host with ideas for vegetarian dishes or offer to bring a vegetarian entree to share,” Mangels said.

McLennan said she looks up dishes in order to ensure she will have at least one option to count on.

Some vegetarians enjoy meat substitutions, while others choose to stay away from anything that seems like it came from an animal.

“I would say just avoid that stuff because it’s so disgusting. Instead, try to find vegetarian things that have protein like beans or tofu,” Young said.

Despite the obvious difficulty she will face, Roberts stays optimistic about this holiday.

“Being a vegetarian is one of the best decisions I’ve made and I think I’ll make it through the holidays with no problem,” Roberts said.

Junior Lyla Schoening has been a vegan for two years and since she is the only vegan in her family, Thanksgiving is not the easiest holiday to sit through. She said that her family tries to accommodate to her needs and will make versions of certain dishes that are not traditionally vegan.

“There definitely aren’t as many vegan options, but you just have to get creative,” she said..

Davis resident Richard Beauchamp, 52, tried a vegan diet for a year with his daughter. Although Beauchamp is no longer vegan, Thanksgiving was not as hard as he thought it would be. In fact, he embraced the challenge because of his passion for cooking.

“I enjoy cooking Thanksgiving dinner, so this was an opportunity to try some different recipes,” Beauchamp said.

He cooked a traditional dinner for his non-vegan family members along with vegan items for him and his daughter. Instead of a turkey, Beauchamp got a Field Roast from Whole Foods. His favorite vegan dishes that he cooked were the vegan pumpkin pie and asparagus roasted in olive oil and garlic.

“Much of the flavor in the pumpkin pie comes from the spices, so it tasted fine without the typical condensed milk,” Beauchamp said.

Cydney Mahoney, a doctor at UC Davis, was vegan for a year because her husband suffered from a heart attack and they thought it would be a healthier lifestyle. Mahoney believes that it is very easy to achieve a great tasting vegan meal on Thanksgiving.

“There are absolutely fantastic recipes,” Mahoney said.

Some alternatives she used were cauliflower miso millet mashed potatoes, quinoa black bean red pepper salads and lots of yellow and green vegetables. Although some vegans feel left out on Thanksgiving, Mahoney thought it was a piece of cake.

“When you have a special diet it’s important to bring plenty of whatever you do eat to contribute to the festivities, share ideas, expand everyone’s horizon,” Mahoney said.

Junior Morgan Walters, a vegan, believes it is important to remember that the reason behind Thanksgiving is to spend time with your loved ones.

“In my opinion, Thanksgiving isn’t about turkey or whatever animal products, it’s about who you’re with,” Walters said.

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