What’s it like to be a vegan or vegetarian during Thanksgiving? Turkey and other holiday roasts seem like such an important part of the holidays that for some, like me, the idea of permanently giving up the bird is just too much. I asked a few staff members and one shareholder who are committed vegans and vegetarians if they have any particular recipes they make or things they do to compensate for not being able to participate in the meaty part of this annual festivity. Greg (Deli supervisor) for one shared a great recipe for Chickpea Cutlets that he and his partner sometimes bring to their Thanksgiving potlucks, which I’ve included along with a couple other recipes here. As the author Isa Chandra Moskowitz says, “they taste great smothered in gravy, and put your steak knives to work.”
One thing that surprised me was that by and large the group I spoke to seemed completely disinterested in the idea of coming up with some kind of celebratory roast replacement. When I asked about a special recipe or festive holiday entrée, the general response was a refreshing “I don’t care.” By and large they seemed be a pretty iconoclastic bunch, without attachment to centerpiece proteins and traditional menus. In a couple of cases they were even against the whole idea, like Lili: why copy something that she fundamentally disagrees with (eating meat)? For Bren, since an early age Thanksgiving has not held much importance, and he said his family has always totally understood, seeing as they come from an Indigenous background and the whole Thanksgiving thing just doesn’t hold much water for them.
Many of the people I spoke with had more to share than just a simple recipe. They had big ideas: about health vegans vs ethical vegans, about the sacredness of every meal, about how we should reconsider how much protein we think is necessary for a healthy diet.
Mark, Co-op board member and the head of Curbside operations, pointed out that most traditional side dishes (sweet potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole) can be made without animal products, using vegan butter and such things…I mean, that’s 90% of the meal anyways, right? Who cares about turkey when you’ve got stuffing with (vegan) sausage and a mountain of mashed potatoes in a pool of (vegan) gravy? Mark also told me he once made a vegan Turducken, though he didn’t seem ecstatic about it. He was ecstatic about a vegan bacon cheese panini he makes for himself at home. He creates DIY vegan bacon using a panini maker and a marinade that includes tamari, agave, and liquid smoke, which yes, we do sell here at the BFC (aisle 3 top shelf near the hot sauce).
This was also a theme in the responses I got: a deep appreciation for delicious foods cooked in the everyday way of things, not just as an annual specialty. Lili said that, for her, every meal is a sacred celebration, whether it’s morning oatmeal or a cup of freshly made drip coffee. Greg shared that instead of the more labor-intensive Chickpea Cutlets, he and Alice sometimes make their own sesame tofu recipe for Thanksgiving, which they “just had last night.” It sounded like a delicious and incredibly simple recipe, so I’ve included it here. Another quotidian suggestion for the Thanksgiving table, from shareholder Richard S., was falafel, which could be quite nice served on a platter at a holiday meal. Richard’s other suggestion was pie (Richard is not a health vegan). He also sang the praises of our Co-op’s Korean Spinach (as did Mark), and informed me that Senator Corey Booker is vegan. Who knew?!
Speaking of pie, Denise, Board member and cashier, shared her Pennsylvania Dutch family’s recipe for shoofly pie, which I’d never heard of before (in her family they call it crumb pie). This is an “accidentally vegan” dessert that her family makes every year at Thanksgiving.
Denise also wrote me this great note:
For me and my family, Thanksgiving went from a holiday celebrating with specific foods to a holiday celebrating togetherness and thankfulness with family and friends. Sometimes we have a Tofurky or Celebration Roast or other ‘centerpiece’ dish, or have a potluck…There’s a tradition among vegans to call the holiday ‘Thanksliving’ because no beings had to give their lives for us to enjoy this day!
I hope you enjoy these recipes, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore. I’m grateful to all the folks who contributed their experience and wisdom and recipes here – and I’m grateful to you for reading this piece! Happy Thanksgiving.
-Ruth, Shareholder Services
Denise’s “accidentally vegan” family recipe for what’s more commonly known as shoofly pie
• 1 ½ cups flour
• 1 cup sugar
• ¼ cup shortening
• 1 cup molasses
• 1 cup boiling water
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
1. Combine flour, sugar and shortening in one bowl, use pastry cutter till combined.
2. Add boiling water to molasses and baking soda in large bowl, stir fast, it will foam.
3. Into two pie crusts, alternate layers of molasses mixture and crumbs, starting with molasses and ending with molasses. Denise: “I spoon in the liquid, then sprinkle crumbs till you don’t see the liquid layer, then add more liquid, etc.”
4. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
Makes two regular pies (for deep dish, she increases ingredients by about one third).
Greg and Alice’s Sesame Tofu
• about a pound of tofu cut into slabs, maybe ½ to ¾ inch thick
• about a quarter cup each of tamari and sesame oil
“Alice says she never measures. It always comes out right, though.” – Greg
Roast in the oven at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, flip the steaks over about half-way through.
Doublebatch Chickpea Cutlets
From The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, with very slight adaptations.
For pictures and slightly more in-depth instructions, view it on Moskowitz’s website: https://www.theppk.com/2010/11/doublebatch-chickpea-cutlets/
Makes 8 cutlets
Total time 1 hour
1 can chickpeas (about 15 oz), rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for pan-frying
4 garlic cloves, pressed or grated with a Microplane
1 cup (or slightly less) vital wheat gluten
1 cup plain breadcrumbs, store-bought preferred for consistency
¼ cup vegetable broth, purchased or homemade, or water
¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
In a mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas together with the oil until no whole chickpeas are left. Use an avocado masher or a strong fork. Alternatively, you can pulse the chickpeas in a food processor. We’re not making hummus here, so be careful not to puree them, just get them mashed up. You can also sneak the garlic cloves in here instead of grating them – just pulse them up before adding the chickpeas. If you’re using a food processor, transfer to a mixing bowl when done.
Add the remaining ingredients and knead together for about 3 minutes, until strings of gluten have formed.
Divide the cutlet dough into two equal pieces. Then divide each of those pieces into four separate pieces (so you’ll have eight all together). To form the cutlets, knead each piece of dough in your hands for a few moments and then flatten and stretch it into a roughly 4-by-6-inch rectangle. The easiest way to do this is to form the rectangle in your hands and then place the cutlet on a clean surface to flatten and stretch it.
Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-low heat. If you have two pans and want to cook all the cutlets at once, go for it. Otherwise you’ll be doing them in two batches.
Add a thin layer of olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Place the cutlets in the pan and cook on each side for 6 to 7 minutes. Add more oil, if needed, when you flip the cutlets. They’re ready when lightly browned and firm to the touch. I’ve found that they cook more thoroughly if I cover the pan in between flips. I also use my spatula to press down on them occasionally while they’re cooking, to help them cook more evenly.
Now let them rest for 10 minutes or so and serve!