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Vegetarians at the Gate

November 19, 2009

My sister, Lizzie, is a full-fledged vegetarian. Not vegan, but a card-carrying veggie, sporting vinyl shoes and grilling waiters about chicken broth in the soup–the whole bit. She walks the talk, and is raising her two little girls vegetarian as well. It’s fully admirable and she doesn’t preach. (Serve her husband Mark a steak, however,  and keep your fingers clear of the serving platter). Lizzie’s vegetarianism does, however, make family meals, especially Thanksgiving, somewhat of an obstacle course.

First, there’s just the general food persnikety-ness of kids.  Now add in vegetarianism.  Yikes.

So how do you make sure the vegetarians at the party don’t feel like like second class citizens? I refuse to mold a turkey out of tofu, and it would make them all gag anyway. There’s the veggie lasagna option, but it does say kind of loud and clear “HI VEGETARIANS! YOU ARE WELCOME AT THE THANKSGIVING MEAL, BUT YOU WILL BE EATING SOMETHING THAT IS DIFFERENT!”

The answer in our family is substantial side dishes, and plenty of them. We have a big group, so there are cooks to share the load.

And, a savory bread pudding can be very vegetarian-friendly, especially when it’s served with a nice assortment of other vegetable side dishes.  Year after year, we have an enormous mushroom bread pudding as kind of the second entrée-slash-side-dish on the buffet table, though this year I was eying this mushroom pot pie recipe, or this beet and goat cheese tart , to change things up. A cheese strata is a similar thought.

So, what about you?  You probably have a vegetarian in your midst on Thanksgiving…maybe it’s actually you!  What are you making, and how do you create a menu that makes everyone feel like they’re sharing the same meal?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2009 9:00 pm

    Maybe it’s because in my family the meal is still totally centered around the turkey, but I honestly feel insulted if I’m told “Oh, just eat more of these side-dishes.” I feel like an after-thought. Now if someone takes the time to make sure I have a protein-rich entree of my own that omnis in the family can eat as a side-dish, then I feel included. Generally what’s worked well for that is a nice fall stew or chili.

    • November 20, 2009 5:13 am

      My daughter was a vegetarian for 8 years and is now a “flexitarian.’ It inspired me to include an entire chapter in my first Thanksgiving cookbook, The Thanksgiving Table. Consider roasted acorn squash stuffed with wild rice, vegetables, sweetened dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots and hickory-smoked tofu. I also included a butternut squash and sage lasagna.I think vegetarians deserve a show-stopping entree not just a plateful of side dishes!

  2. Leon permalink
    November 20, 2009 3:44 pm

    Thanksgiving is the EASIEST meal to accomodate vegetarians! Everything, with the exception of the turkey, is vegetarian. Stuffing (i do it outside the bird), candied yams, asparagus, greenbeans, spinach noodle casserole, salad, cranberry sauce….it’s a veggie bonanza!

  3. November 22, 2009 9:32 pm

    Here’s my favorite vegetarian main dish show-stopper for Thanksgiving. It’s not as much work as it seems if you do some preps a day or two ahead – keeps/reheats well.
    Turkey lovers will likely want some, too.

  4. Stephanie permalink
    December 4, 2009 3:29 am

    My sister asks for my spinach orzo every year as a side dish. Totally works as a veggie main course though. Typically outside of Thanksgiving I do use it as a main course.

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