Monday, November 22, 2010

Veggie Thanksgiving

This question came up at dinner tonight, and I thought I'd put it to all of you: if you wanted, for some reason, to serve a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner, how would you do it?

This isn't the same thing, mind you, as serving a Thanksgiving dinner at which some vegetarians will be present. Nowadays, my folks get a free-range bird for Thanksgiving from Griggstown Quail Farm (they ain't cheap, but it's only once a year) so that I can partake, but before they started doing that, I used to manage quite nicely on the potatoes and veggies and dressing and cranberries and salad and, of course, pie. I never ran any risk of going hungry. But supposing that you had to accommodate a crowd composed mostly of vegetarians, or that you yourself didn't want to serve any meat, how would you go about it?

Would you try to create a new, vegetarian centerpiece for the meal to take the place of the turkey? (This is the approach a lot of vegetarian magazines seem to take, which gives them an opportunity to shoot gorgeous cover photos of some show-stopping dish.) Or would you have just the traditional side dishes that usually surround the turkey, as described above, but without the bird? Or would you throw out the whole idea of the traditional Thanksgiving meal and do something else entirely?

I think my favorite approach is a sort of middle ground. I wouldn't scrap the traditional Thanksgiving menu entirely, but I wouldn't be limited by it. So rather than trying to construct a meal with one big main dish and a bunch of sides, I'd serve several hearty, seasonable dishes that would complement each other: butternut squash soufflé, succotash, "half baked" potatoes (i.e., cut in half and then baked, so they get nice and crispy), and of course, cranberry sauce. Probably some sort of green veggie, too, like that wonderful sesame spinach someone brought to the last Folk Project Evening of Music (note to whoever it was: if you're reading this, please send me the recipe). I might do some sort of dressing (you can't call it "stuffing" if it's not served in the bird) in place of the potatoes, since that's normally my favorite part of the meal and I think I'd miss it if it weren't there. On the other hand, it's really not the same without any gravy. Perhaps I'd just make a mushroom gravy to serve with it.

What do y'all think?
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