For the first Thanksgiving of my entire 17-year-old life, I’m finally excited for the familial feast. Every Thanksgiving of my childhood consisted of dried out turkey, pumpkin pie straight from the can, boxed stuffing, racist jokes from my uncle, and drunken slurs from my aunt. My poor mother attempted desperately to salvage a delicious meal from the ruins left by her relatives, contributing the Mediterranean-inspired appetizer platter, her famous maple-glazed sweet potato-pecan casserole, a wild rice pilaf, and a completely homemade pumpkin cheesecake (no cans involved). She endured, thus forcing my father and myself to endure, the painful November holiday only because it pleased my grandmother to see all her children and grandchildren celebrating together. After my grandmother died last year, however, my mother bade goodbye to her siblings, nieces, and nephews on Thanksgiving, instead collaborating with me to prepare a lovely vegan-friendly feast for only our three household members. Relaxing, convivial, and extremely tasty, the first Thanksgiving without my crazy relatives and as a vegan earned the title of Ali’s Best Thanksgiving Ever. This year, I have high hopes of recreating the joyous atmosphere with festive dishes even more creative and yummier than those of 2010. Here’s the plan of attack:
Huge fans of the Italian antipasto platter, my family adores a good appetizer tray complete with patés, crackers (gluten-free this year!), fruit, and cheeses for the omnivores (aka my parents). This year’s spread includes Maple Spice’s Baked Almond Feta, Walnut-Mushroom Paté from Veganomicon (we made this recipe last year and fell head-over-heels in love), Including Cake’s Speedy Seedy Crackers, a selection from the Whole Food’s olive bar, fresh grapes, and gorgonzola and black truffle cheddar cheeses from Hook’s accompanied by a dried fruit compote.
While my mother began a new tradition of preparing duck for herself and my father, I forgo a Thanksgiving centerpiece dish (certainly not Tofurkey…bleargh!), and opt instead to form my meal from a wide selection of food that most people would delegate as sides. These tantalizing plates do not only satisfy my Thanksgiving-expanded belly, but they serve as an incredibly enjoyable part of my parents’ more meat-focused feast as well. This year’s main dish-worthy sides include What Would Cathy Eat?’s Wild Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash, Cranberries, and Pecans (substituing sweet potato for the squash due to my father squash aversion and currants for cranberries due to my preference), The Stone Soup’s Burnt Carrot Salad (omitting the feta), Bon Appetit’s Glazed Hakurei Turnips from Chef Anita Lo (substituting olive oil for the butter and date syrup for the sugar), and Vanilla and Spice’s Rosemary Sweet Potato Cornbread (using gluten-free flour instead of whole wheat). We’ll probably halve all of the recipes to suit our small family so as not to end up with a fridge stuffed to the brim with leftovers.
I adamantly insisted on a raw dessert this year. Infinitely healthier than their traditional baked counterparts, they inspire absolutely no guilt while tasting wonderfully decadent. My mother happily joined the raw dessert bandwagon for Thanksgiving, but we’ll have to hide its uncooked nature from my father who warily leers at my experiments with vegan and raw cooking. Shh… Instead of the traditional pumpkin or pecan pies, I’m making Ricki’s Mini Raw Apricot Swirl Cheesecakes from Diet, Dessert, and Dogs.
Menu submitted to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.
Only three more days until the vegan feasting commences!
Comment Provoking Questions: What are you making for Thanksgiving? Are you having a traditional Thanksgiving or a more unorthodox one? What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions and dishes? Do you celebrate as a big family or in a smaller group?
Until next time, Ali.