Guidelines for Thanksgiving with a vegetarian

We won’t starve. Promise.

November 27, 2013

(Flickr/firepile)
Vegetarians actually have a lot of options at Thanksgiving.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the feelings of all vegetarians and vegans, many of whom follow a stricter diet than I do. Still, I hope it’s helpful if you’ll be in the presence of a vegetarian this Thanksgiving.

1. Don’t ask the vegetarian WHY they’re vegetarian.

Follow the politics and religion rule here, people. Most vegetarians don’t want to explain his or her dietary choices. And honestly, he or she shouldn’t have to. You don’t see anyone asking cousin Jimmy why he didn’t eat any of the broccoli. Maybe Jimmy just doesn’t eat broccoli. Who cares what his reasoning is?

Vegetarians are like snowflakes in their reasons for why they don’t eat meat. No two are alike. People seem to have a really hard time digesting that. (Pun intended.) They assume we all don’t eat meat for moral reasons or because we love animals or because we want to save the planet. The truth is, it’s all of those things and none of those things.

Also, most vegetarians don’t want to convert you. And we definitely don’t want to enter a debate where it is one person vs. a room full of carnivorous, judging family members.  As much as you know going into the holidays that you’ll never persuade your Uncle Randy to change his views on immigration, gay marriage and who really caused the government shut down, the vegetarian isn’t looking to change your views on eating bacon whenever you want. Most vegetarians don’t really care and they’re not about to start on Thanksgiving of all days. (But I would be a bad vegetarian if I didn’t bring your attention to this.)

2. Don’t say the following things to the vegetarian … unless you want them to internally roll their eyes at you. (Thanks for a few of these, BuzzFeed.)

- Anything related to Tofurky. Just. Don’t.

- Are you still doing that weird meat thing?

- Are you sure you don’t want any Turkey?

- Don’t you miss eating meat?

- Do you think you’ll ever eat meat again?

- If you were on an island and you had to choose between eating meat and dying, would you eat it?

- How can you not like bacon?

- But it’s bacon.

- Don’t you ever crave bacon?

- I could totally be a vegetarian if I was allowed to eat bacon.

- Or better yet, just watch this and take notes.

3. Don’t make things unnecessarily NON-vegetarian.

It’s really very simple. And don’t give me that “everything’s better with meat” argument. It’s just not. And it’s not like Thanksgiving is a holiday in need of more calories.

Green Bean Casserole? Fantastic. No bacon needed.

Mashed Potatoes? So easy! Potatoes, butter, cheese, sour cream. Repeat. 

Stuffing? Here’s one that might ruffle a few feathers. Just use vegetable broth. It honestly tastes no different. It’s really just salty water. Does it need to be a poultry byproduct? And if you claim you can taste a difference, well, you’re just a jerk. This same argument applies to all soups.

Pillsbury pie crust has lard in it, you say? C’mon. Make one from scratch. It’s THANKSGIVING. And don’t tell me in that beautiful mess that is the kitchen on Thanksgiving that you can’t find time to throw together some flour and Crisco (Did you know it’s vegan!?). You’d be surprised by how many modern food products are accidentally vegan.

Here are a few examples pertinent to Thanksgiving: Arnold Premium Seasoned Stuffing, Betty Crocker Bac-o’s Bacon Flavor Bits, Campbell’s Franco-American Mushroom Gravy, Mrs. Smith’s Deep Dish Pie Crust, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (Original), Sara Lee Cherry Pie, Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread and Organic Whipped Buttery Spread.

4. EVERYONE is secretly a vegetarian.

Every year, one of the first dishes finished off at my family’s Thanksgiving is the vegetarian stuffing. We’ve come so far in our taste for vegetarian stuffing that I’ve started doubling the batch. I’m not making this up. And to further drive home my point, the second and third dishes to be completely consumed are green bean casserole and potatoes, respectively.

This phenomenon also occurs with pizza. In my experience, every time it comes time to order pizza, people either gripe about having to order an all veggie pizza or will say something like, “Well, let’s make sure to order a small veggie pizza so Becky has something to eat.” But then something miraculous happens when all those circular, 20-inch, pies from heaven arrive… everyone wants a slice of the veggie pizza. It’s the first one gone.

Bottom line: If it tastes good, people will eat it.

5. Don’t go ridiculously far out of your way to make something different for the vegetarian.

There is SO much food available on Thanksgiving. I can all but guarantee the vegetarian at your Thanksgiving will not shrivel up and die of starvation. He or she really doesn’t need a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And please, for the love of everything good, don’t make a giant pot of spaghetti (unless of course you’re Italian and such dishes are part of every meal regardless of the holiday). Making a special, unrelated-to-the-occasion dish, just makes the vegetarian feel obligated to eat said sandwich or said noodles, leaving no room for all the other delicious options.

Also, dinner rolls.

The next two are directed at vegetarians themselves…

6. Ignorance is bliss.

(Disclaimer: I’m about to commit a major vegetarian faux pax and will again pre-emptively apologize to all vegetarians and vegans who choose a stricter dietary plan than I do.)

I am a very social person and I deeply enjoy Thanksgiving, as well as many other large festive gatherings. It is because of this that I would rather you not tell me what is in the food that appears, to the naked eye, not to have meat in it. Please don’t tell me you used chicken broth in the stuffing. Please don’t tell me that my favorite French fries in the city of Chicago are cooked in animal fat (DMK, I’m looking at you.) And please, please, don’t ask if I eat honey ‘because technically, bees are animals and if you don’t want to hurt animals why would you consider eating honey or cheese or ice cream?’ I eat those things things because they taste good and I want to. (See #1, paragraph 1.)

7. Offer to make something (and make it delicious).

See #4, paragraph 3.

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