Vegan Thanksgiving options

Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up Thanksgiving. In fact, a big portion of the dinner is probably vegan–or could easily be made vegan. As for the turkey? Swap out the carcass with a delicious vegan loaf!

When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of sharing precious time with family and friends. There’s no better way to show people how easy and delicious being vegan is. And if you can share your vegan food with others, they’ll know so much more about how to be vegan.

Here are some options for the holiday:

Host a dinner

Having dinner at your place guarantees you can make it an all-vegan meal and show others the joy of eating cruelty-free.

Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, soup, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie are all dishes that are vegan or easily can be. Substitute butter and milk with dairy-free options and you’re set. You can find lots of vegan recipes online–even for things like gravy.

 

Field Roast, made from seitan (a wheat protein), and Tofurkey (made from soy beans), make delicious prepackaged loaves that easily take the place of a turkey on the table. Doing an online search for “vegan turkey loaf” will return great recipes for a DIY version.

Attend a dinner

There are two types of dinners I’ve attended. My favorite are ones hosted by vegans. I get to try all the food, and I get to spend time with like-minded people.

Attending a dinner with people who aren’t vegan is a great opportunity to bring a dish and show people you can still enjoy holidays and that vegan food is awesome! If being around a murdered turkey is too disturbing, plan to arrive for dessert–with your favorite vegan sweets!

Go to a vegan restaurant

Sometimes vegan restaurants will offer a Thanksgiving meal. You’ll likely have to make reservations in advance, but it will be worth it. It’s also a great chance to take friends who still eat meat and show them vegan options.

 

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No matter how you plan to celebrate the holiday, have fun, be safe, and enjoy the vegan food!

 

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Dining at Café Flora

One of the auction items I won at the Hoot! chimpanzee fundraiser was a Café Flora gift card. So last Saturday, I went out with my husband to enjoy dinner at Flora, a great vegetarian restaurant in Seattle’s Madison Vally neighborhood. I’m not the only one who thinks that: They were voted best vegetarian restaurant in 2014 by Seattle Magazine. Travel + Leisure Magazine also lists them as one of the top vegetarian restaurants in the US.

The only way they could be better is if they were an all-vegan restaurant. Still, there were lots of vegan options and we had a great time.

We started with drinks–and they didn’t disappoint. Hubby stuck with his martini and I tried a refreshing springtime mule, a vodka-based cocktail with home-made ginger beer and raspberry bitters.

flora drinks

We gobbled up the paté platter so fast I didn’t get to take a picture. It centered around a lentil-pecan paté and included red onion confit, pickles, olives, red pepper and apples.

I suspected I might want dessert too, so I made a salad my main course. Vegan Caesar salads are few and far between so this was a real treat! Hubby loved his Italian black bean burger.

flora salad

Several vegan dessert options tempted me, but the chocolate brownie with mint chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate sauce was irresistible.

flora brownie

On the way out, I saw the Café Flora Cookbook on display, along with a fantastic vegan children’s book: That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. I bet the cookbook is fantastic, and I recommend the kids’ book for all the little animal lovers in your life. I’m glad Flora had a copy on display. It’s a great way to talk to kids about the ways animals are exploited and how to help.

flora books

If you’re in Seattle, check out Café Flora!

Celebrating Seattle Vegfest

This past weekend I participated in Vegfest, a healthy food festival in the Seattle Center. The annual event is put on by Vegetarians of Washington. Instead of just attending, I worked a shift at the NARN table.

NARN table

The NARN booth had a great selection of pamphlets and flyers about topics such as how dairy and eggs are cruel and unhealthy, that humane meat is a myth, and why fishing is unsustainable and causes a lot of suffering. We had information for parents who have vegan kids, and a restaurant guide for people looking for vegan places to eat.

A brand new tote was for sale too. They’re made from recycled bottles and have my new favorite slogan printed on them: The future is vegan. I’m not the only one who liked them. People snapped them up! For $20, you can too.tote bag

Attendance was great and we talked to a lot of supportive people. Some were vegan, some were toying with the idea, and some weren’t even vegetarian. But there was something for everyone. No matter where people were on their compassionate journeys, we talked to them and had good conversations.

I was surprised that three people came up to me over the course of my shift to tell me that since becoming vegan they’ve gone off their cholesterol medication. One man was vegan for only three weeks before his doctor retested his blood and told him he no longer needed statins. Amazing!

I became vegan for the animals so I sometimes forget I’ve made a really healthy choice too.

The festival had cooking demos, cookbooks for sale, and tons of free food samples. I was really impressed with Dave’s Killer Bread, Daiya vegan cheese, and juices from Blue Print Cleanse.

Have you been to Vegfest or a similar festival? I highly recommend it. It’s a lot of fun to be around like-minded people and have a wide variety of foods to try.

Becoming vegetarian

I’m a vegan now, but I wasn’t always.

At age three I had an epiphany and made the connection between what I was eating and where it came from. But being young, I was easily fooled. Call it “chicken” and I wouldn’t eat it; call it “meat” and I would.

For me, meat was a frozen patty in a box in the freezer. I hadn’t really thought about the connection until I was ten. That’s when I moved from Toronto, a large metropolis where it’s easy to be removed from the origins of food, to a tiny, farming town in Germany.

Jean and AlineI was already shunning fish. Especially if I’d bite in and see a chunk of scaly skin. I started passing fish sticks under the table to my dog. But when I saw the local butcher kill a pig in the driveway of a neighbor’s house, my meat-eating days ended. I was in the back seat of the family car and we were driving away. To this day, I can picture the scene in slow motion. The blood, the cruel smiles on the kids’ faces as they participated in the event. Ugh. It was a nightmare. I’ve always loved animals and I didn’t want to be part of that.

Fortunately, my family was practically vegetarian. My mother has never liked meat and didn’t object to my change in eating habits. I still ate eggs and cheese and drank milk, but I was becoming a conscientious consumer. I started to learn about food and what we need to be healthy.

The next year, I moved back to Canada. I packed PB&J for lunch and blended in with the other kids. I didn’t make a big deal about my choices and neither did they.

Not everyone thought me being a vegetarian was a good idea. When I was 15, a boyfriend begged me to eat a burger. That’s the only time I’ve fallen for peer pressure. I ate the burger but told him I wouldn’t do that again. He relented. A few months later though, just to be polite, I had a chicken casserole at his mom’s house. I realized that I couldn’t keep “being nice” so I explained to her that I didn’t eat meat and I didn’t lapse again.

My grandmother’s husband said I’d be dead by twenty if I stuck with a vegetarian diet. I called him on my twentieth birthday to remind him that not only was I very much alive, but I’d grown nine inches and gained about 40 pounds since I was ten (gained in a good way–I was tall and slim and healthy). He forgot his warnings though, so I didn’t have the pleasure of gloating.

Being a vegetarian suited me fine. I’d met a couple of vegans when I in college but thought they were a bit extreme. I mean, what was wrong with dairy and eggs? Luckily, in my mid twenties, a friend handed me a copy of John Robbins, Diet for a New America. It’s a book that changed my life. It was absolutely eye-opening. It led me on my path to veganism.

But that’s a post for another day.

The origin of my compassion

a younger jeanAre people innately compassionate? I’d like to think so, but I’m really not sure. All I can do is speak for myself.

I had my first taste of vegetarianism in the womb. No really. My mom decided that a plant-based diet would be the best thing for my development. She’s always cooked healthy meals, and excluding meat made sense to her. My mom’s a vegan now, but in the 1970s, people told her that meat was good for us. That growing children needed it. So with reluctance, she served small portions of meat every now and then. She’s never cooked a roast or chicken. Performing autopsies in the kitchen didn’t interest her.

At the age of three, I was happy and oblivious to most things. I was learning to read, and interested in books, dolls, cars, and my trike. Animal rights wasn’t something I even knew about.

My grandparents served me chicken one day, and unlike beef or pork, I made the connection. “This is chicken.” I said, happy to share my newfound knowledge of the world. “It used to have feathers. It used to have a beak. It used to have feet, and it used to walk around.”Chicken

Ding! A light went off in my head. “I’m not hungry anymore.” I pushed the plate away.

I don’t remember that incident, but my mother did. It was profound. I didn’t want to eat animals. For a while, people could trick me by calling something “meat” instead of “fish” or “chicken.” But in a few more years, I gave it all up.

I’ve heard other stories and I think a lot of kids are initially uneasy about eating animals. But we’re talked into it by grown-ups–the people we trust (or have to obey). Soon, we don’t think about it and we get desensitized to it. But it’s not wrong to feel your conscience tugging at your heart. It’s good to question our choices.

Do you remember making the connection between animals and meat? When was it?