Going cold turkey on the Thanksgiving Day turkey

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Posted 11/29/16 (Tue)

Passing Dreams
By Steve Andrist

The table was set with fine dinner ware.
Candles were lit, and 10 of us took our places around the table. Steam rose from several serving bowls that were piled high with Thanksgiving bounty.
For a moment -- a very short one -- everyone sat motionless, drinking in the ambiance and feeling completely grateful.
Even, it appeared, two-and-a-half-month-old Gwendolyn.
Two-and-a-half year-old Arthur broke the silence with a Thanksgiving Day proclamation:
“Let the feast begin!”
And it did, just as it has for generations on the fourth Thursday of each November. Just as it did again this year for thankful families from far and wide.
Time-honored traditions.
Except this year, for us, it was tradition with a twist.
We had been informed far enough in advance we had the option to cop out, that this would be a plant-based Thanksgiving dinner.
Plant-based as in no butter or cream in the pie, no dairy in the stuffing or mashed potatoes, and -- and this is a big one -- no taste-tempting turkey.
Think about that one. No turkey means more than no turkey, It means no roaster scrapings for the gravy, no giblets for the stuffing, no fights over the crispy brown legs.
Plus: no turkey sandwiches for the supper that followed a leisurely walk, embarked upon because by late afternoon stomachs were still too full for some evening grazing.
Full disclosure: when son Levi and daughter-in-law Bethany first announced plans for a plant-based Thanksgiving dinner, we willingly accepted the challenge.
One dinner wouldn’t kill us, we figured, and Bethany explained how a diet without animal fat and cholesterol could actually make us live longer.
She reads up on this kind of stuff, and explains that eating plants instead of animals can lower your risk of cancer and heart disease, prevent the American scourge we know as diabetes, and reduce our country’s top health problem, obesity.
As we started passing the serving bowls, it became clear that the menu for a plant-based holiday dinner wasn’t that much different from traditional fare.
There was mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, garlicky-citrus green beans, cranberry-grapefruit sauce and even bread.
We had the traditional pumpkin pie for dessert, with the always-important option of substituting pecan pie for pumpkin.
It’s just that everything was made with a bit of a twist.
Potatoes were mashed with soy milk instead of butter and cream and the difference was barely noticeable, especially once drenched in gravy.
Ah, the gravy. With no pan drippings available, Bethany mixed nutritional yeast with the water to give it a buttery sort of flavor. Toss in some soy sauce and soy milk, made from soy beans like those grown by North Dakota farmers, then add sauteed mushrooms, Italian seasoning and corn starch to thicken, and voila! Fat- and cholesterol-free gravy.
Oh, but the stuffing? No problem. Start with whole grain bread cubes, use vegetable broth, non-dairy margarine (Earth Balance has several varieties), onion, celery, mushrooms, cashews and seasoning. The key is to bake it up good and crispy.
For pie, the crust comes out OK using Earth Balance instead of Crisco. Pure maple syrup is the cat’s meow for natural sweetening, and for the pumpkin variety, everything else is just what Grandma used.
Pecan needs more creativity, relying on those soybean farmers for soy milk and silken tofu. Topped with coconut-based Cool Whip, any sweet tooth is satisfied.
But no turkey? Bethany’s substitute was quinoa loaf.
Quinoa is a super nutritional grain. Mixed with celery, onions, mushrooms, soy sauce and some ketchup and formed into a loaf pan, it tastes, well, OK.
To me, its value was not taking up much space on an already overfilled plate.
Because, after all, everyone knows that Thanksgiving dinner is for overeating.
Even when it’s plant-based.