Yeah…not so much. Over the years I’ve approached this holiday a few different ways depending on whether or not I was hosting. I’ve hosted an all-vegetarian Thanksgiving. I’ve hosted an omnivore Thanksgiving with locally raised turkey when I was a meat eater. I’ve attended family gatherings and just eaten the sides I thought would be okay. I’ve talked with the hostess and gotten as much information as I could about the various dishes. I’ve said little and eaten just salad and hoped for the best.
Thanksgiving shouldn’t be stressful!
Or if it’s going to be stressful, it should be stressful because of awkward discussions with that cousin you only see once every few years or the post-election tensions between family members of different affiliations—not because of the food.
A few tips if you are going to be a guest and you have specific dietary needs:
1. Discuss it ahead of time. If the hosts are close friends or family members, they probably already know what your needs are. If they don’t, the polite thing to do is to call at least a week ahead of time and let them know, while also offering to bring a dish or two.
2. Bring something that you can eat to share. This is a great opportunity to let people know that being vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free doesn’t equal “weird” or gross food. When I was making this dish last night, my (omnivorous, non-Celiac) children kept picking at it and trying to eat it while I was taking the picture.
Butternut Squash & Kale Quinoa
This is one of those recipes that came about by the happy accident of throwing in a bunch of what was around.
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped.
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 cups apple cider
1 1/2 cups quinoa
several handfuls of washed and chopped kale
sea salt, sage and nutmeg to taste.
Start with the coconut oil and onion in a large pan over medium heat. As the onion begins to caramelize, add the cider and the chopped butternut squash.When the squash is soft enough to break with the spoon, add more liquid (water, cider or vegetable broth) and the quinoa. When the quinoa is nearly cooked, add the kale and seasonings. This way, the kale keeps its bright green contrast to the squash and doesn’t become soggy.
For Thanksgiving, I would recommend bringing one savory main/side dish and one dessert item.
3. Don’t make a big fuss or speech about what you can and cannot eat at the meal. It’s rude. It’s annoying when people are doing it because they are doing Atkins or whatever diet-of-the-month, and it’s also annoying when you are proselytizing about your way of eating. Skip it.
4. If you aren’t sure what’s in something, and it would make you ill to eat certain items, ask! When I was first diagnosed with Celiac, I didn’t want to make a big fuss or put anyone out. If something seemed like it would be gluten-free and I was at someone else’s house, I would often risk it. I would also often be sick for the next few days. The last thing your hosts want is for you to be ill because of what you ate at their party. You can be discrete about it, but ask!
5. Say “thank you” for any and all efforts made by your hosts to accommodate you. This should be a given for all guests, regardless of dietary restrictions, but we often forget to show our gratitude. Go old-school about it and send an actual snail mail thank you card the next day.
And next year, consider hosting Thanksgiving yourself!
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