Having a vegetarian over for Thanksgiving this year? Step away from the tofurky* and – most importantly – try not to fret too much. It’s more than likely that the vegetarian in your life would hate to see you go to a ton of extra trouble for him/her. Here are a few tips to keep everyone – meat-eaters, vegetarians, and the busy host alike – all happy on Turkey Day.
1. Be mindful of your sides: whenever possible, keep them meatless
The Thanksgiving table overflows with dishes. Sweet potatoes, squash, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, rolls, salads … a vegetarian, theoretically, has more than enough options from which to create a satisfying feast with nary a glance at that platter of turkey.
But then we see that the Brussels sprouts are smothered in bacon drippings. And the stuffing’s got sausage in it. And the potatoes were mashed with chicken broth, and the gravy, of course, is made with turkey drippings. A roll, some cranberry sauce, and a pile of green salad – if we’re lucky – will have to do.
No need to change every single family recipe or make a second set of everything sans meat – again, we hate to see you agonize over us – but why not try a new recipe for a perfectly delicious stuffing sans sausage or make the mashed potatoes with milk or veggie broth instead of chicken broth?
Thanksgiving Day side dishes needn’t have meat to be utterly delicious. You’ll learn a new (and possibly healthier) recipe with hardly any additional work, and everyone at the table, no matter their dietary preferences, will still savor every scrumptious bite.
If you can work in an obvious protein source like quinoa or lentils, great! But that’s just a bonus – you’d be surprised how much protein most dishes already have in them.
2. When your vegetarian guest offers to bring a dish, let them
When your meatless loved one brings something to the table, it’s a win all around. It’s one less side dish for you to make – and nobody goes away with a growling tummy.
Will it mess with your menu? Possibly, but oh well! This is a great time to remember that Thanksgiving dinner isn’t about the perfect menu; it’s about gathering with the loved ones you’re thankful for. Okay, fine, and gorging yourself – but we all know you don’t need to live in a Norman Rockwell painting to do that.
3. Please, don’t fret
I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but seriously: it makes most vegetarians feel bad – and possibly even more like an outcast – when the host goes to a ton of extra trouble to create an entirely different menu for one lone palate on Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong – we do appreciate the effort and we know it comes from a good place – but nobody likes to feel like a burden.
As I alluded to in tip #1, simply including a meat-free dish or two that everyone can enjoy is ideal. My nephew loves a particular vegetarian tomato and olive pasta dish, so oftentimes my brother and sister-in-law will thoughtfully include that dish when they host family festivities. My nephew gets to enjoy a dish he loves that just happens to be meatless – and so do I (along with anyone else who wishes to partake).
* P.S.: I have nothing against Tofurky. In fact, the Tofurky products I’ve tried are quite good! The sandwich slices in particular are surprisingly delicious and a staple in our house.