Vegan Thanksgiving

I made cranberry chutney this week—- a double batch.  My mother-in-law found the recipe in the Boston Globe a few years ago, back when we ate turkey and all the usual Thanksgiving fare.  I have never really liked turkey, or much else of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but can’t get enough of the condiments.  I load up my plate with butternut squash, the “green ‘du jour'”, a little stuffing, and lots of olives, cranberry sauce and green tomato piccalilli.  My Nana’s recipe that my mom and I make each year is my favorite, and I could always eat a little turkey if it was buried beneath the sweet and sour family secret recipe. (My mom would never speak to me again if I shared it, but if you want a jar, it can be arranged…)

This year is different.  We are going to my sister’s house and joining her with her family and my parents for the holiday.  I offered to bring the vegetables and let my sister do the bird, the stuffing and the dessert, but she demurely declined, letting me know in no uncertain terms that she would be preparing the traditional dinner and I was welcome to bring whatever food I was comfortable eating.  No problem if there were duplicates.

I thought this over for a while, trying not to let my feelings get hurt— after all, she is not vegan, nor is anyone else who will be sitting around her table.  I was stuck, though.  Why would I bring “the usual” if she was already doing it?  And really, what is Thanksgiving if not about eating in celebration of being thankful?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that without turkey being the focal point of the meal for me and my family,  I didn’t have to make mashed potatoes, mashed squash, plain old green beans or peas, and stuffing.  Why not make something amazing, delicious, and special that reflects the way we eat?  I set out to test a few recipes in preparation for my family’s vegan holiday debut.

I cannot list all the recipes I have read and tried, although they were all tasty and would work for the holiday.  The criteria:  whatever I bring has to work with the condiments!  With my family’s input, I have decided to make cranberry cornbread, Tal Ronnen’s Corn Chowder (oh my goodness— rich, thick with cashew cream, zesty with chipotle pepper, satisfying with purple potatoes, and crisp, fire roasted corn),  turnovers made with phyllo dough and stuffed with roasted butternut, walnuts, apples, fresh sage, caramelized onions, and dried cranberries, and mini squash-stuffed pan-fried dumplings.  The cranberry chutney and piccalilli for dipping the turnovers and dumplings will be one part of the tradition we will keep this year, with the addition of a bit of cashew cream.  For dessert, I have decided on a pumpkin pie with a chocolate-lined crust.

So, menu decided, I called my friend Michelle to see if she was home.  I wanted to drop off a jar of the chutney.  She shares with me the bounty of her garden, tons of vegan recipes, and a deep-rooted love of good food and cooking.  When I showed up at her door, she ushered me in, insisting I try her latest Thanksgiving trial meal.  Maple Tofu with Stuffing and Apple Cranberry Chutney nearly broke my heart.  She placed the plate in front of me and I sighed, breathing in the sweet and savory cloud of steam drifting up off my plate.  She thrust a toasted slice of her homemade potato bread in front of me and I was in Thanksgiving heaven.  This meal tasted so delicious that I ate until it was gone, heading home a bit later knowing I would only be able to keep my family company at the dinner table that night— I was absolutely stuffed and happy.

I am duplicating that dinner tonight, beginning a week-long vegan Thanksgiving.  I am definitely thankful this year— to be invited to my sister’s beautiful home with all the family that I love, to be able to cook and transport a meal that I am comfortable eating, and finally, that I made that double batch of chutney.

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3 Comments on “Vegan Thanksgiving”

  1. Thank you Elizabeth for those nice words. I simply just love to cook and feed people. I loved your chutney recipe, I just made a batch of it yesterday and packed up a couple jars to give to people. Love the new tradition you are starting, it really is all about the sides.

  2. Sharon Says:

    Can I join you at your Thanksgiving table. Everything you described sounds incredible!

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