At dinner with my sister and mom
My sister, brother, and I at the rehearsal dinner
Dancing with my dad at the wedding reception
There are few greater things in life than the feeling of immense gratitude. Whether it's the warmth experienced after being treated kindly by a stranger, the smile that arises after a family member expresses their love, or the comfort of a full belly after eating a homemade meal, gratitude can come in many wonderful forms. For me, the experience of my first vegan thanksgiving has instilled within me enough gratitude to last an entire lifetime.
The table ready for a Thanksgiving feast...
A gift from Steve's mom to help me get going...
Mello's adoption certificate from Farm Sanctuary
Both Steve and I have been blessed to have families that love and support us wherever we are on our journey in life. We also happen to have families who are very real with us - if we're down, they'll do whatever they can to cheer us up; if we're confused, they'll set us straight. What has probably been the greatest challenge for our families has been the introduction of a new lifestyle into their lives - our vegan diet. Steve has been successfully living vegan for about three months now, and I've been at it for over a year now, as most of you know. But with this change has come an issue that I think a lot of vegan (and even non-vegan) eaters can relate to - the change of a time-honored tradition. I'm in the middle of reading Jonathan Safran Foer's new book, Eating Animals, and in it he poses the argument that being a socially responsible person does not always translate to being a socially acceptable (or accepted) person. Since food can be tied to so much more than the simple act of nourishment, approaching a tradition in which the food is inextricably linked to the event needs to be done with much care and consideration. I'm sure we all have or know that mom, dad, grandpa, aunt, or other family member who cooks for us abundant meals when we visit for the holidays or at other points during the year - and to refuse it on the basis of eating preferences (or ethical standards) can prove to be a tricky task.
Once Steve and I had the idea to host Thanksgiving, we began to envision which traditions mattered the most to us. Food was at the top of the list (as it always is for me), family followed, and after that was gratitude - gratitude for having a family who had just spent the previous month devoting their time and efforts to helping us get married in the most beautiful, loving way possible. We wanted our families to come to our home on Thanksgiving and receive the gift of not only our love and gratitude, but also a feast of delicious food. We wanted to provide everything, so that they didn't have to worry about anything - it was a chance to allow them a break from always being the Thanksgiving hosts each year. For us, the tradition of consuming turkey or any kind of animal products on Thanksgiving just wasn't something we wanted to compromise on, so we planned instead to prepare vegan dishes that were comforting, yummy, and reminiscent of Thanksgivings past. Not the easiest thing in the world to do, but if anyone knows me, they know I love a good challenge! After hours of researching the best holiday recipes I could find, carefully shopping at Whole Foods, and stocking up our kitchen, we were ready to go.
Our fridge was stocked!
So was our oven!
Steve working on the cutlets...
It was a day full of stress (the good kind), a very hot kitchen, and balancing a million things at once, but somehow, like magic, everything came together. We had more food than we knew what to do with: traditional stuffing, sausage and apple stuffing, country fried cutlets, vegan meatloaf, mashed potatoes, stuffed shells, cranberry sauce, gravy, pumpkin pie, roasted banana cheesecake, and coconut whipped cream. If that wasn't enough, Steve's mom made a veganized version of one of Steve's favorite holiday dishes - sweet potato casserole, complete with vegan marshmellows.
the chair table.
My biggest hopes for the day were surpassed after watching a large majority of people clean their plates - Steve's dad, who is usually more meat and potatoes than tofu, said he was most surprised by the vegan meatloaf, which he said tasted just like meatloaf! In the end, this meal was a very important one, in that it showed a lot of my family that eating vegan can be a fully satisfying and comforting experience.
All in all, this past holiday taught me that, yes, it may be difficult to change up a tradition, but it's the people who share that tradition with you that really matter.
And a very lovely P.S.:
As if Thanksgiving weren't enough of a gift, I've recently found out that Steve's mom has decided to devote one day a week to vegan cooking, and my brother is on day three of Kathy Freston's Vegan Cleanse!