3 Different Journeys to a Plant-Based Thanksgiving!
I started questioning my habits a few years ago. I was (and still am) an avid podcast listener and so many leaders in the personal growth space talked about examining that which you do automatically.
With that guidance, I made many seemingly small changes over time that made each day better. I stopped having the news on in the background during the day. I stopped aimless shopping. I even stopped consuming alcohol once I took a break and decided that alcohol didn’t add any real value to my life.
Shortly after deciding to stop drinking, I tried a vegan diet. This was my most significant change so far. I had eaten so many things because I always ate those things. I would eat snacks like Little Debbie cupcakes as a treat after a long run or have cheese in my refrigerator because I always had cheese stocked there.
In November of 2019, I committed to eating vegan just in time for the holidays. My last piece of meat consumed was a small piece of turkey at a holiday celebration my mom hosted.
I remember looking at that piece of turkey and wondering how the meaning of Thanksgiving grew to be all about turkeys and less about the true meaning of Thanksgiving – giving thanks. I started asking myself questions I’d never considered before. Why would a turkey need to be killed and consumed for me to give thanks? Surely people out there have other ways they celebrate, but what are they? And why is Christmas so tied to cookies, ham, and a stack of mashed potatoes topped with butter? Do celebrations need to revolve around food?
I had already learned that celebrating didn’t need to include alcohol, so redefining how I incorporated food in my celebrations was a logical next step!
That first plant-based Thanksgiving was a special one and also one with some lessons learned. I learned that making my vegan macaroni and cheese is far better than using a frozen version. I also learned that the frozen holiday loaves from Whole Foods plant based roasts are AMAZING and taste just like turkey and stuffing.
My (now) fiancée and I enjoyed that first plant-based Thanksgiving and have celebrated more since then.
Last year I decided to do something special in addition to cooking plant-based for Thanksgiving. I went up to Harmony Farm Sanctuary and served the turkeys! I made Lurch and Sirius bowls of salad made just for them served in nice dishes!
Taking time to think about my choices and their impact when it came to my plate has made a big difference in my life. I enjoy my holiday celebrations more now because they are on purpose. Nothing has to be killed in order for me to celebrate, and there’s an added joy in knowing that.
I've been vegan for almost 7 years now. It's much easier to live a vegan lifestyle now than in the past. I became vegan once I became aware of the cruelty of animal agricultural. I was fortunate that my husband easily came along on this journey.
But, I do remember my first Thanksgiving as a vegan. COMPANY WAS COMING FOR DINNER. I panicked and my first thought was to order a turkey for my company as only my husband and I were vegan. But I took a breathe and really thought about the meaning of Thanksgiving and used that as my driving force to plan my celebration. After all, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks so WHY ON EARTH do we need to kill an innocent turkey to do that! And then I remembered that the best part of Thanksgiving dinner are the SIDE DISHES and DESSERT! It is super easy to veganize mash potatoes (sub butter and milk for plant-based options), the green bean casserole, stuffing, gravy (use veggie broth) and a variety of desserts. Visit Pinterest and search for Vegan Thanksgiving. It's all right there!
I was so happy that everyone really didn't notice the turkey was missing. It was a success and really set the stage for all my upcoming holiday celebrations. I also started a new tradition. Instead of eating turkey we adopted a turkey from Farm Sanctuary www.farmsanctuary.org. It's really easy, you make a donation and you receive a certificate of a rescued turkey along with a picture. This was the center piece of our table. It was heartwarming to see the reactions of compassion that happened when they read the certificate. We often talk about all the turkeys that have been spared over the last seven years.
Remember the meaning of Thanksgiving and everything will fall into place.
About 25 years ago I became a vegetarian and then about 5 years ago a vegan. I haven’t eaten a turkey in more than half of my life. That is a lot of holidays to navigate.
Something I found was that honestly, holidays don’t need any meat. The idea that someone, likely a corporation, used its money to convince people that Thanksgiving involves eating turkeys and maybe so does Christmas. Hmm, when you think about it, it’s a brilliant marketing plan to tap into people’s emotions.
The biggest challenge I faced those many years ago was the fear that I seemed to spark in people by choosing not to eat meat. They seemed to make it about them and their fear that I was judging them. Back then, it was way more weird to not eat meat. I suspect this is still the case in many places. It was so odd to me that the hosts of these events would be concerned that I “wasn’t eating” as if ALL of the other offerings were not actually food. I never had a problem finding what to eat, it was navigating the human dynamics that was challenge. I didn’t enjoy that my holiday was spent justifying and explaining my choice.
Now choosing to be vegan is seen as more of a good choice and since there are SO many replacement options and the media is engaging in these conversations, people don’t question my choices. I have found that others often get excited to make vegan options. My sister-in-law gets excited to cook for me and try new recipes. There seems to be less threat and each meal I am somewhat like a beacon of possibility rather than a threat.
When we can separate the need to harm animals in order to celebrate holidays, we become free. 98% f turkeys in the US come from factory farms. I have found that celebrating being connected and together feels lighter when we eat plants rather than animals. We aren’t so dulled out and grossly full. If we are together celebrating love and all we are fortunate for, doing that without having caused harm feels better. We can celebrate ourselves for making conscious choices and for taking a little extra time to create new menu options our guests will try and enjoy.
Hopefully these 3 different journey's and ways to navigate the holidays is helpful to those thinking about celebrating with a plant based meal. We are at a turning point in society where it is no longer "weird" to not eat meat or animal by-products. Trust me if you make tasty plant based food your family or holiday company wont notice that the turkey is missing. In fact most will be amazed at how satisfying a holiday celebration can be with out meat or animal by products. And most will feel really good about being "kind" and making a compassionate choice in their celebration.
Remember, holidays are all about traditions and giving thanks! It's truly amazing that by celebrating plant based style you can start a new holiday tradition that is truly centered about the true meaning of Thanksgiving!
Continue to tune in as our next post will be sharing tasty vegan holiday recipes.
Also, if you'd like to meet the Turkeys of Harmony Farm Sanctuary consider signing up for our Halloween Pumpkin Carving Event on October 30th! There will be pumpkins to carve, treats to eat, farm friends to say hi to and more. Visit www.harmonyfarmsanctuary.com/events to sign up!