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Think those daily choices, those acts of voting with your wallet don't make a difference? Let me tell you about my Thanksgiving dinner.

I've been eating Thanksgiving-style for weeks so I could develop recipes for the Cook for Good site. Ironically, after weeks of Chickpea Triangles with Mushroom Gravy, Jack-Be-Little Pumpkins Stuffed with Tomato-Lentil Sauce, and Pumpkin Pudding, I spent Thanksgiving itself away from my kitchen. Away from anyone's kitchen, actually, except the big one at the retirement community where my father-in-law lives.

Even just a few years ago, this would have meant having a peanut-butter sandwich before eating only the safe side dishes of a turkey-centric meal. But requests for vegetarian options are so common now that I can get a full meal even on "Turkey Day" in a retirement home!

The main-dish options were turkey, ham, and broccoli quiche. When the volunteer came around to ask whether I'd like light meat or dark meat, I said "no meat!" He looked a little surprised, but then just went off to heap up a plate: quiche surrounded by sweet-potato casserole, green-bean casserole, stuffing (giblet-free!), mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. No one asked for details or gave me a lecture.

What a relief. Flashback to Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house nearly forty years ago. I had passed the turkey platter to my uncle without taking any. He put some turkey on my plate. I put it back. He slapped more down on my plate and started reading me the Happy Holiday riot act. My dad told him to leave me alone and keep his eyes on his own plate. (Yaay, Dad! This is one of my favorite memories of you.)

Yet now, nearly everywhere I go, vegetarian options are offered as a matter of course. Sometimes they are odd options, like the two egg rolls that made up my main dish another night at the retirement community. Sometimes they are lacking protein or are heavy on the cheese or fake meat. Sometimes gaps occur where you'd least expect them, like the lettuce-only dinner I got one night at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Austin. (Pork belly is not a vegetable!) But progress is being made.

How did it happen? We asked for the food we wanted and we bought it when it was available. Voting with your wallet is key, but speaking up speeds change along. When a grocery clerk asks if you found everything you were looking for, ask for what you didn't find. Maybe local food, or non-GMO food, or more produce, or low-fat milk. When you register for a conference or go to a meeting, ask about the meal choices. Praise good efforts in the evaluations.

A silver lining in these tough times is that businesses and organizations are struggling to keep afloat. They want to make you happy. It's a great, practical way to make the world a greener place.

Context matters. Where the choice is between ribs and rude, such as at a private home where I can't just pass the platter, I'll eat a little meat without comment. On the other hand, I dropped my membership in my local Democratic Women's group in part because I was tired of paying $16 a month for meaty meals (chicken endless ways, bacon on the salad!) and that I think miss an opportunity to live our message.

Thanks to all of you who made this change happen, one meal at a time!

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Comment Preferences

  •  i remember a thanksgiving about 15 years ago (4+ / 0-)

    the last time i spent with my father.

    his wife was/is vegan and so was my step-sister and we had an entirely vegan thanksgiving meal.

    it was pretty tasty

    hope springs eternal and DAMN is she getting tired!

    by alguien on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 02:05:02 PM PST

  •  Wonderful - I'm happy that you had (5+ / 0-)

    a delicious option for your Thanksgiving meal.

    I have eaten vegetarian for 20 years and have always looked forward to entertaining on Thanksgiving. This year we served:

    - Roasted Carrot, Basil and Mushroom Loaf
    - Mashed Russet Potato
    - Mashed Roasted Sweet Potato
    - Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Minced Garlic
    - Braised French Beans with Toasted Slivered Almonds
    - Cornbread Stuffing
    - Mushroom Gravy
    - Fresh Cranberry Relish
    - Three Flavors of Pie

    Everyone happily had seconds.

    The Occupy movement is powerful, not because it is fighting for the rights of a few hundred people to sleep outdoors, but because it is fighting for the right of millions of Americans to sleep indoors. - Van Jones

    by Frank In WA on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 02:11:49 PM PST

    •  sounds delish (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KrazyKitten, Frank In WA

      i'd have added another loaf but then, i'm a glutton.

      hope springs eternal and DAMN is she getting tired!

      by alguien on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 02:38:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Do you have a recipie- (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe

      for the roasted carrot, basil and mushroom loaf?

      I did roast a turkey for those who wanted it.  We eat mostly vegetarian, but I did give into tradition for the holiday.  But all the sides were totally vegetarian, and most of the meal was actually vegan.  I made mashed potatoes without milk or butter (I did provide butter on the table) I cooked Yukon Golds in a veg stock, with rosemary and garlic and no one even noticed the lack of dairy.

      I did a great gravy with pureed roasted vegetables
      bourbon sweet potatoes
      green beans with walnuts and rosemary
      bread dressing, with celery,onion, and sage and veg stock
      honey-rosemary cranberry sauce- got the recipe from J-Town!
      Sour-dough bread

      There was vegan apple pie, and pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake that wasn't vegan at all.
      The food tasted terrific.

      Intellect and romance triumph over brute force and cynicism

      by Hill Jill on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 02:45:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Jill, please send me a message through the site (0+ / 0-)

        to remind me to send you the recipe.

        Frank In WA

        The Occupy movement is powerful, not because it is fighting for the rights of a few hundred people to sleep outdoors, but because it is fighting for the right of millions of Americans to sleep indoors. - Van Jones

        by Frank In WA on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 04:05:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  it's not easy trying to eat vegetarian... (0+ / 0-)

    ...although, like you, my Thanksgiving meal, at a restaurant buffet, seemed to have enough non-meat options to satisfy, especially the desserts (although their stuffing was made with chicken stock).

    One thing that's been an ongoing challenge is finding restaurants with vegetarian options; most have very few, if any, vegetarian entrees...although it's easier than it used to be.

    •  Yelp is your friend (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, wdrath

      I've used Yelp to sniff out great vegetarian food even in unlikely places, most recently along I-95 through South Carolina and Georgia. The only turkeys I saw there were five wild ones along side the road!

      And Yelp give us an awesome way to share praise for good food and encourage the owners. I've just started reviewing spots with good veg options, but hope to leave a trail of veg tip & reviews across the country.

      CookforGood.com: Save money. Eat well. Make a difference.

      by Cook for Good on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 03:05:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  One problem with vegetarian options is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wdrath

        cross contamination.  Say you go to a resturant and one of the things you order is hash brown potatoes but they are cooked on the grill where meat has been cooked.  The potatoes have grease/fat and perhaps tiny pieces of meat on them.  Not exactly vegetarian.

        How about the sub sandwich place?  Although the workers are willing to change their gloves that cannot undue the 20+ times beforehand when the worker put meat on a sandwich and then with the same gloves grabbed the lettuce.  Particles of meat and meat fat have already gotten into the bin of lettuce by the time a vegetarian sub is ordered.

        It's like that in the vast majority of resturants and makes it very hard for people like me who cannot tolerate even the smallest bit of meat or meat fat.

        Got Books? membranachristianbooks.com ........ Need computer cables? yourcablestore.com

        by sweettp2063 on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 04:29:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Cross contamination is an issue. (0+ / 0-)

          There is more such things. Most pizza joints slice the pizza using the same cutter that was previous used to slice meaty pizza.

          What to do? We try to eat out less and less. And choose pure vegetarian restaurants whenever possible.

          If an Indian restaurant has "udipi" in its name, it is likely to be a pure veg restaurant. (udipi is a district in some south indian state, it does not mean vegetarian. But udipi cuisine is vegetarian.)

        •  You're right ... and all the more reason to Yelp (0+ / 0-)

          Cross-contamination is a big issue as is the definition of what is vegetarian. A friend tells me that in Japan she was often served pork until she learned to ask specifically for no meat and no pork. Refried beans on the vegetarian plate may contain lard, rice is cooked in chicken broth, etc.

          All the more reason to ask for real vegetarian food and spread the word when you find it. If owners of a pizza restaurant knew, for example, that keeping a veg cutter (maybe with a green handle?) would increase sales, they might buy one, train the staff, and promote it. It would pay off in just a day or two.

          CookforGood.com: Save money. Eat well. Make a difference.

          by Cook for Good on Tue Nov 29, 2011 at 05:42:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  yes (0+ / 0-)
            Refried beans on the vegetarian plate may contain lard, rice is cooked in chicken broth, etc

            Always ask a lot of questions before ordering food and if the waiter does not know talk to the manager.  

            Got Books? membranachristianbooks.com ........ Need computer cables? yourcablestore.com

            by sweettp2063 on Wed Nov 30, 2011 at 04:24:58 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  awesome (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cook for Good

    I made vegan pumpkin pie this year and "accidentally" doubled the recipe so I had one to share and one to keep.

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