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How to survive Thanksgiving as a vegan

Thanksgiving is hell for vegans.

It is essentially a meat-driven holiday revolving around the ritual slaughter of turkeys — a celebration of cultural and animal domination. But, sometimes boycotting isn’t an option, especially when your family celebrates in style. Instead, why not try to subtly manipulate your family and friends into eating delicious vegan food and enjoying a turkey-free feast.

I dream of one day attending a Thanksgiving where everyone is vegan, but for most animal lovers, this is not a reality. Instead, I offer you a survivor’s guide on how to maintain (and possibly enforce) your vegan ways at Thanksgiving. First off, prepare yourself for countless jokes coming your way about your turkey-free values. People have a tendency to focus on veganism at holiday dinners for some reason. I choose to respond by cracking a meat-eating joke or ignoring it all together. Only if someone seems genuinely interested in my choice to be vegan, do I decide to talk about it.

The next step is to bring your own food with you. There is no need to sit there looking sad with an empty plate of salad come dinner time. This will also give people the opportunity to try good vegan food, proving that most vegans do eat in a godly fashion. It also allows you to enjoy your delightful meal and stick up your nose at meat eaters (one of my favourite pastimes).

However, I do not recommend making Tofurky. It is an odd moulded blend of soy protein and often doesn’t taste good. Instead, why not ditch imitation meat-filled turkey and make another meal entirely? For the last couple years, I’ve made an apple, fennel and sage lentil loaf, and it is mouth-watering. Another option is a vegan lentil shepherd’s pie, which combines your protein option with mashed potatoes. So yummy! Pair either option (or whichever protein option you opt for) with a vegan gravy to make everyone jealous.

It is very difficult to find pre-made vegan gravy in the store, which is a blessing in disguise. Store gravy is full of preservatives and fats. To make it at home, add vegetable stock with a variety of spices, olive oil, garlic and shallots, and that’s it! As for side dishes, try to coordinate with the host prior to the holiday to inquire whether they are willing to ditch butter for the mashed potatoes and instead use olive oil or coconut butter. If not, make your own and don’t let the host have any. Vegan green bean casserole is another easy side dish, with coconut milk in place of cream.

Finally, dessert! One of my favourite foods in the entire world happens to be pumpkin pie. I remember my first thanksgiving as a vegan before I figured out that I had to make my own food and I sat nearly in tears while everyone around me chomped down on their slice of pie. Thankfully, there is a vegan option you can make that is easy, healthy, and delicious. It uses pumpkin puree, coconut milk, and oats. If you want to opt out of making the crust, they have a vegan option at Whole Foods that is surprisingly affordable.

When I was younger, I dreaded holiday events. Now, I look at it as an opportunity to help other people realize that vegan food can taste delicious too. It also sparks a conversation about eating meat — a conversation people would otherwise not be having. The other day, I ended up talking with my boyfriend’s 11-year old cousin at a family event about being vegan and why. You never know the impact you could end up having, and it is important to eat with non-vegans for this very reason. Good luck, and remember you are saving a turkey’s life. That alone is enough to make me feel a little better on Thanksgiving.