Happy Tofurkey Day: Jess Wallin Shares Her Vegan Thanksgiving Experiences

Thanksgiving is all about the turkey. Graciousness and family too, of course, but the turkey is the real star. For me, the turkeys in question are the ones the President officially pardons on the White House lawn. I watch this event with the same unabashed glee usually reserved for children catching a glimpse of Santa at the end of the Macy’s parade. It’s admittedly a little unusual. But I’m vegan, so I’ve had to put my own spin on the holiday.

I’ve been vegan since fall of 2009. I had long flirted with vegetarianism, and in the wake of Skinny Bitch and Food Inc., I knew that I had reached critical mass. There was no turning back. Undoubtedly, I seemed a most unlikely candidate. My mother grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota, my father was born to family of New York Italians from Naples (the birthplace of pizza), and my brother is a butcher-in-training. I didn’t know any vegans at first, though I knew they were rumored to exist in large numbers in places like San Francisco and Portland. It’s not that my family and friends weren’t supportive, but they were skeptical. What was I going to eat?

As Thanksgiving approached that first year, I was terrified of missing out on a lovingly prepared three-course meal. What would Thanksgiving be like without heaps of gravy, or creamy pumpkin pie? Was I being somehow un-American? Was I turning my back on one of our most beloved traditions as a country? What would my family say if I sat down on Thanksgiving and didn’t eat?

Once I stopped panicking, I knew that the best solution would be to make Thanksgiving dinner myself. I’d host my friends and family the day after the holiday and prepare a meal of my own. I had never taken on such a large cooking project before, but soon enough I was carefully basting Tofurkeys, mashing potatoes with soy milk, and pouring loads of vegetable broth over sage-soaked stuffing. I loved it. I loved the smells that filled my kitchen, and my happy, well-fed guests. I relished that moment when they leaned back in their chairs, tugged at their waistbands, and started thinking about dessert. It was everything that Thanksgiving should be.

Despite all my initial fears, I still love Thanksgiving. The holidays are a really great time for me to show off all that cruelty-free cooking has to offer. Tomorrow, I will be celebrating my third annual Vegan Thanksgiving, and I can’t wait to prepare and enjoy some great food with some really wonderful people. And as far as finding acceptance as a vegan, I find that the way to the heart is most definitely through the stomach.


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