David and I are hosting Thanksgiving for the third year in a row, and three of our five children and our grandson will be there. As new vegans, we had a few discussions about how we wanted to handle the meal. We decided that wanted to be true to our convictions as ethical vegans and have a vegan Thanksgiving. And I admit that I had some trepidation about sharing the news with my son, Sam, who I thought might feel disappointed to not have his favorite “traditional” foods (cheesy au gratin potatoes for example) at the meal.
Through a text message (giving me the space to deal with my and his reactions) I shared the news. He responded predictably–“what no cheesy potatoes?!” although he did add “lol”. After a bit of back and forth chatting peppered with “lol’s” (mine and his) I assured him that he would be served a delicious meal and be healthier for it. He agreed to keep an open mind as long as I didn’t tell him the specifics about exactly what he was eating. Well, okay, I can live with that. I am incredibly excited to see the kids and share the best my vegan culinary skills have to offer. It’s going to be a great time.
And that brings me to a feature article I read in the Huffington Post this morning entitled, “I’ll Take Turkey Over Tofu, Thank you” and you can read it for yourself here. The premise of the article (I think) is that tradition matters–and tradition (for this family) seems to be eating the turkey, the stuffing made with gobs of butter, and the pecan pie a la mode. And the author emphatically (defiantly?) states that she and her family “will enjoy every bite”. WOW. Now I know that most people this Thanksgiving will be eating some version of the aforementioned meal (and enjoying it) but I couldn’t help but wonder about her defensive tone. Perhaps she doth protest too much??
The author states that she is happy to eat vegan or gluten-free concoctions but others shouldn’t judge her for wanting to keep her traditions. I agree that no one likes to be judged, and vegans, like people passionate about any cause, can ruffle plenty of feathers. But this is not simply a matter of tit for tat or about our cooking skills or palate. It is a matter of conscience. I doubt I’m exaggerating when I say that millions of turkeys will be inhumanely fattened up and slaughtered so that American families can keep up this tradition. I can work my way down the Thanksgiving menu but I won’t bother. It’s all so very sad that as a country this is where we are at. On some level, I wonder if the author of this article, who is making her assertions with some pretty intense energy doesn’t deep-down have her own concerns about the animals, the environment, her health and the health of her family. I think it’s hard to live in our culture without there being some uneasiness about our values and how we live.
Regarding traditions, I do understand that family rituals can keep us feeling connected to one another, and this author alluded to an”empty chair” at her table. I could feel the sadness in her words. The rituals around holidays (and food) are some of the most powerful we experience in our families and culture. And one way we connect one generation to another is through rituals like these. But even so, I believe that some traditions and rituals are worth rethinking even if the transitions feel uncomfortable. As we all know, at one time, “being true to one’s heritage” meant owning slaves.
On a slightly lighter note (but still on the subject of tradition and ritual) I barely got my own mini-ritual started when I had to change it. Remember this?
That wool yarn was not animal-friendly and the macaron is full of butter. Here is my updated spread:
This is acrylic yarn from my stash that I am using to crochet a “snuggle blanket” for an animal shelter. I got wind of this idea from an internet pal (thanks Barb!) who was wondering what to do with her (non-animal friendly) merino wool and she was considering making blankets for animal shelters. I like the idea of making some mini reparations in this way as well. The wool from the sweater above (if it’s washable) will probably be slated for shelter blankets as well. If you want to know more about this wonderful effort you can check it out here.
As for the cookie:
This delectable oat jam thumbprint cookie came with me from home. I made a batch yesterday and you can find the recipe here.
While I made some changes to my mini-ritual, I still chatted with other folks at Whole Foods and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. And here’s the thing–traditional foods are nice but they are nice because of the meaning we assign to them. Turkey on Thanksgiving means connection and love and family. While we can swap out one food for another, the people sitting around our tables are and will always be the main event.
New traditions await.