Your uncle insists on telling you how turkeys are so dumb that they’ll drown themselves by staring at the rain with their mouths open and you’re pretty sure your least favorite aunt is sneaking chicken broth into pretty much every side dish and lying about it because she thinks you’ll never know the difference anyway.
Your sister-in-law demands to know if you eat this way because you think you’re fat or something (then whispers to your brother that she thinks you might have an eating disorder) and your grandmother accuses you of being a part of the “University Liberal Elite.”
All because you don’t eat meat.
Thanksgiving can be a challenging holiday for vegetarians. The day is symbolized by a meat-centric feast after all, and vegetarians are still a minority (though a growing one) in our society. Vegetarians can feel isolated, even attacked on Thanksgiving, because of their diets, but the good news is that it’s easy to have an awesome, plant-based Thanksgiving and still get along with carnivorous loved ones.
There’s more to Thanksgiving than food, believe it or not.
Don’t focus the celebration on the meal, which is just a small part of an entire day. Channel positive energy into decorating, enjoying the football game, catching up with friends and family from out of town.
Take a long, leisurely after dinner walk with loved ones and delight in the autumn weather or play board games with the kids.
Let it go.
The stupid tofurkey and rabbit food comments, the ignorant questions, and the eye-rolls that people think the vegetarians don’t notice? Forget them all. None of it matters. We all have a choice in how we respond to others and the best choice is to ignore everything that doesn’t serve us. Vegetarians don’t owe anyone an explanation or a defense for their dietary choices. Smile and change the subject.
What anyone eats is no one else’s business.
Likewise, what other people eat is none of your business. Save any proselytizing for another day. Sure, the abuse of turkeys in factory farms may be horrifying, but don’t bring it up in the middle of dinner. Doing so will only cause meat-eaters to go on the defense. Practice detachment.
We are all are on our own paths in life and must be given the freedom to learn our own lessons (or not). No one can be pushed into seeing or accepting a differing point of view and that is ok. Change must come from within.
Practice empathy and compassion for those who might seem critical.
They may view different choices as a judgment of their choices and resent that even if it isn’t true. Most people have their own issues with food and they may be projecting these issues onto people who eat differently. Reflect love and acceptance to them.
Come prepared with a non-food related, fun activity in which everyone can participate.
Bring craft supplies and have everyone make a Christmas tree ornament. The game “Catchphrase” has made for some hilarious memories in my family as has “Pictionary” and “Scattergories,” and check this out for fun, easy games you can organize easily.
There’s no reason vegetarians have to get stuck eating nothing but rolls and cranberry sauce. Bring a protein, a side or two and a dessert that everyone can enjoy.
Roast halved Brussels sprouts and halved red grapes with olive oil and sea salt at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. Toss in some walnuts five minutes before the sprouts are done. Season and drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving. Everyone will love it, except maybe the five year olds. Here’s the full recipe.
Make a big salad. My favorite Thanksgiving salad includes Boston lettuce, fresh corn, chick peas, pistachios, dried cranberries, diced green apples and cubed avocado. Toss with a citrusy vinaigrette and top with feta or blue cheese crumbles. Leave them off for vegans and no one will know the difference.
Put together a gorgeous fruit platter for dessert. Trust me, there will be no complaints.
Bake this vegan pumpkin pie and don’t tell anyone there’s tofu in it.
Be the bartender. Bring the ingredients for a special cocktail or mocktail or use what the hosts have on hand. Either way, annoying relatives are probably a little more tolerable with a couple drinks in them.
Be thankful! Instead of being nervous or looking for ways to feel slighted, train yourself to see the positive. Look for all the things you have to be grateful for and express that gratitude openly.
Thanksgiving is about celebrating our abundance, not the choice to eat lentils instead of dead birds.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise