Let me begin with a moment of honesty about going home to the Midwest for Thanksiving this year: I was excited to see family and slightly concerned for the non-vegan food available for the holiday dinner. After having lived in California for the last few years, this was the first time I had been home for Thanksgiving since 2006. I knew that I would be surrounded by turkey and ham, other meat-flavored dishes, and plenty of food adorned with butter. On top of that, the last time I had visited for Thanksgiving, I was vegetarian (not yet vegan) and had to navigate all the questions and comments about my lack-of-meat food choices; and therefore, as my father would call it, “un-American.” I decided to be pro-active as possible and bring my own food. I opted for my standard kale salad with a lemon-ginger vinegarette dressing tossed with black beans, cranberries, chopped apples, and homemade roasted walnuts coupled with VegNews’ Guilt-Free Mashed Potatoes. These garlic-infused potatoes were combined with a full heaping cup of cooked red lentils and veggie broth, adding a boost of flavor to the dish. The recommended fresh rosemary added a subtle hint of familiar holiday flavor that was much appreciated. Both of these dishes were full of flavor and coziness; they helped me feel at home at a table whose food selection had become uncommon to me.
Surprisingly, my family,even my father, accepted these dishes as part of the Thanksgiving spread. Placed between the buttered rolls and honey-baked ham, my dishes were welcomed as part of this traditional turkey and dressing celebration. Somehow seeing my large mint-green salad bowl and my garlic mashed potatoes at the table made me also feel welcomed. A couple of my cousins even sampled the vegan dishes; and one remarked that even though she hadn’t tasted anything like that before, she did like the kale salad. I was pleasantly surprised that the holiday was better than I had expected. It hadn’t centered on who was eating (or not eating) what but rather the shared gratitude of being with family. With a new baby cousin in the family, the attention, rightfully so, was focused on her.