The Vegan Beef: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Nobody. (Vegan Entertaining)

by Erika Stern.

There was a time, not too long ago, when friends and family used to be thrilled to be invited to my house for dinner. I was one of those people who loved planning dinner parties. I’d spend days going through cookbooks and painstakingly piece together exactly the perfect combinations guaranteed to surprise and delight my guests. And I think they were (mostly) surprised and delighted. These days, however, when I invite people over to dinner there is always a perceptible pause while they take just a moment, I’m sure to contemplate the many tasty virtues of tofu and seitan, and longingly think back on past meals I’ve set before them. Yeah, I would whip out salads and side dishes as well and plentifully as the next cook, but let’s all just admit it, shall we: these gatherings were essentially just epic meat-fests. How could anyone throw a Super Bowl party without ribs and chicken wings? Or a summer barbecue without burgers and dogs? What about the ham at Easter? Or…Thanksgiving Turkey??? Apparently, nothing brings loved ones closer together than tearing flesh from the bone with your teeth.

A-Country-Peasant-Wedding-Feast-or-Feast-Day-largeSo here I find myself again, face-to-face with my second Thanksgiving as a vegan. In a few weeks, 22 people will be seated around my table, and all of them, with the exception of my husband and I, will be expecting to eat Turkey. (I wish I could spell for you the anxious, whimpering noise that just came out of me.) No, I get it. I do. I totally get it. I had turkey for 52 Thanksgivings before I…decided not to anymore. (For me it was always mostly about the gravy, really, but look, there’s Vegan Gravy!!!!! (I’ve made this often–it’s truly delicious and readily passes the Young Smern Test.) So, I’ll make a batch of veggie gravy this year, but I will also accept that not everyone at the table is as gravio-centric as I am, and that for most of them (as it was for me for all those years) it’s not really about the dead turkey, it’s about Tradition.

Yes, everyone would still have a lovely Thanksgiving if I made a whole mess of fabulous side dishes surrounding a meatless “Celebration Roast”, but they will have a better time with a few slices of turkey on their plates. So what to do? This is a really tough one for me. In my mind, no one should be eating turkey. Period. Not one turkey should be slaughtered on Thanksgiving just to uphold Tradition. But, as my husband is always telling me, “You can’t re-educate all the idiots in the rotary.” (Nothing personal, I’m sure all of you you fully understand and abide by Massachusetts’ fine rotary laws). I don’t want to be The Angry Vegan, or The Radical Vegan, or The Righteous Vegan (well, maybe a little bit righteous) and so although I can’t bring myself to personally do it, my husband-the-vegetarian will cook a turkey. For our families. Whom we love. And I will make meat-and-dairy-free versions of all the other standbys. I might even make a Green Bean Casserole, if I can get my mother-in-law to unhand her can of french-fried onions. The other issue that I wrestle with (as you can tell, there’s always a good amount of wrestling going on inside my head) is whether to actually tell my guests that the mashed potatoes are made with Earth Balance, not butter. It’s a question of disclosure, really. Peoples’ mindsets are funny. I find that often, if I don’t tell people that what they’re eating isn’t precisely what they believe they’re eating, then everyone is happier. Is that terrible? I mean, I’m not going to lie if questioned about ingredients, but often a Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy is the best stance for vegan entertaining.

samosa_potpie_800_slice

I promise you that dinner parties can still be a wonderful experience for both a plant-based host and her meat-eating guests. Just last Sunday I made a lunch for family that showcased this fantastic Indian Samosa Potpie (name me one thing with Piecrust that isn’t fantastic) paired with a light and wonderful tomato salad, with fruit salad and a big plate of glazed doughnuts for dessert.

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Now that doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Not too scary. I think everyone was still a little surprised and delighted. Unless they were all lying to me.

Erika Stern is a wife and mother, an artist, a kitchen designer and a new food blogger with no professional experience whatsoever with either food or blogging.  But her mother is French and her father is a poet, so everything should work out just fine!  She lives in Duxbury with 3 dogs and 23 chickens.

About eSS&SC

The South Shore and South Coast has been home to hunting, gathering, fishing, farming––and great eating––for over 10,000 years. We are committed to identifying, devouring, and sharing all that Southeastern Massachusetts has to offer today and preserving local options for future generations.
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8 Responses to The Vegan Beef: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Nobody. (Vegan Entertaining)

  1. Pete Stern says:

    As an expected member of the 22 guests, I would be happy to enjoy a Thanksgiving made purely of your wonderful vegan creations!

  2. Erika Stern says:

    I’m jumping back in because I want to reply to both Fred and Hippyma, and mostly what I want to say is that I completely agree with both of you. (And thank you, HM for your very kind and continuous support!) I might be wrong, but I think we’re all on the same page here. I’m not living out my life in the Vegan Closet or anything here! Everyone knows I’m vegan, and why. I try to educate whoever is interested on the manifold reasons I practice this. And I feed them kind food whenever I get a chance. Whenever I see a chink in a carnivore’s armor, believe me, I’m going in! But as they say, “An open-door policy doesn’t do much for a closed mind.”
    I never said I didn’t want to change the world. Of course I want to change the world! I want everybody in the pool, Fred! My husband has joined me, and we’re (hopefully) planting the seeds in our 13-year old son. But my father-in-law just ain’t coming in the pool.

  3. Fred says:

    I’ll throw my two cents in. The thing is that there are all levels of involvement in any endeavor, belief or practice. I used to own a yoga studio and some would come 5 days a week, some would come once a week, some only every so often and some would do one class and never show up again. That’s great!! It’s not what’s going on inside your head that’s important. It’s not your opinions that matter. Your actions are what’s important. For me the important point is to practice NOT harming beings who are on this planet to experience life. By “adopting a vegan lifestyle”, contrary to what Erika said, you are indeed changing the world whether you want to or not and no matter what your level of involvement is. If you influence only one person to adopt a non-harming mind then you’ve changed the world. If you only start someone thinking about vegan and non-harming then you’ve changed the world and there’s no turning back. They’ve put their toe in the water and have raised it a little. The level will never be the same. Some like to jump in with a full body cannon-ball splash and see the level surge. We get enough people putting in toes, fingers, bodies or leading an army of body splashers then the level rises. All are welcome! Just get wet!

  4. hippyma says:

    Erika,
    I am a very happy omnivore, (totally gluten-free, lean towards Paleo & quite often do eat vegetarian/vegan), we also have our own free-range organically fed chickens and try to grow as much of our own food as possible, and what we don’t we try to buy organic & local. My husband & both boys are also meat eaters, the Holidays, whatever they may be are about getting together with family. If I was going to someone’s house that was Vegan, while I would respect their choice, I can definitely say my family would be disappointed, we would be polite, but I would know that I would have to have another entire meal cooked & ready for when we got home. It’s just the way it is, others might do the same. I feel it’s completely your choice, you are NOT a cop out, you are trying to please people who don’t follow your lifestyle & I have noting but respect for that! It’s your home, it’s your choice. People can also choose (who disagree with you) not to host, if you don’t want to cook a “traditional” meal, then don’t host is a simple answer as well. PS – a lot of people don’t realize the first Thanksgiving included seafood, not what is now the traditional turkey, it was more like a modern day clam bake. Point being, no one has a right to tell you what to do, or to call you a cop out, it’s rude & disrespectful. You do what you’re comfortable with, I completely understand your point. We make sacrifices for our family & friends, everyone does, it’s compromise, it’s life. You do what you feel is right.

  5. Erika Stern says:

    Well, I made the decision when I first adopted this lifestyle that I would happily educate and inform anyone in my circle who was interested in learning more about my choice, but I do believe that this is ultimately My Choice, and thus very personal. Yes, of course I feel that the world would be an indescribably different and better place if no one ate animals, but I also feel that this is a very spiritual and political choice, and therefore not one that I’m comfortable forcing on others, any more than I would force my own spiritual or political beliefs on anyone.
    I do want to defend myself a little by saying that I did not “simply assume that no one would be interested” in a vegan meal–these are not 22 strangers, they are close family members. And while not true for all of them, I know for a fact that some of them have ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST WHATSOEVER in a vegan diet. I’m a great cook, and will make many delicious vegan dishes on Thanksgiving, but I am 100% positive that for some of them there is not remotest possibility that one solitary vegan dinner, no matter how fabulous, is going to convert them to a plant-based diet. Thanksgiving without turkey would only confuse and disappoint them, and that isn’t going to create a clear path towards enlightenment for anyone. We’ll be getting a humanely-raised and slaughtered turkey, and while it is far from my first choice, it is the compromise I’m making. Yes, as the hostess I do get to decide what to serve my guests, but I also get to decide whether I want to “miff” anyone, and for this meal only, I choose not to. I don’t serve meat at any of my other dinner parties, and while I don’t think I’ve converted anyone yet, as I said, no one’s left my table hungry or unhappy yet.
    The point you bring up sort of throws into a nutshell everything I’ve talked about in my last 4 entries, which is: IT’S NOT ALWAYS EASY. As a matter of fact, it’s hardly ever easy. But we all have to do what works for us or else it’s always going to be impossible, right?

  6. Fred says:

    I don’t agree with the vegan author of this article!
    https://ediblesouthshoreblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/the-vegan-beef-guess-whos-coming-to-dinner-nobody-vegan-entertaining/
    I will be going to Ohio to my mom and dads for thanksgiving and they’ll cook a large turkey for about 16 or so people. I won’t be eating it, Leah won’t be eating it, and not Jenae or my nephew James, who are both vegetarians. That’s 1/4 of us! I think, as a vegan, I have just as much right to “not” offer a turkey for Thanksgiving (if it were at my house) as anyone else does “to” offer a turkey. In either situation someone might be miffed, but as the host or hostess- you get to decide what to have for dinner. I think she (the woman in this article) and her husband are copping out, so to speak. Instead of focusing on making a delicious all vegan feast for their guests, they’ve caved in to the same old peer pressure that keeps them in the same old patterns of believing that turkey must always be part of the tradition. And as we all know traditions are not always in our best interests and can change and evolve as time goes on. What a great opportunity for her to have 22 people for Thanksgiving and share a cruelty free delicious meal! You never know who might fall in love with vegan food and decide to change their diet. She has assumed that no one would even be interested in what she has to offer. ~ Kathy ~ Virginia

    • Jen says:

      I have to agree with Kathy, we have standards that we hold ourselves to and usually it’s about more than our health, it’s about the world around us. We have to uphold those standards at all times or it just makes us hypocrites. I believe that the holiday/tradition is about family and thankfulness and not about killing and if someone is welcomed into my home for dinner and they’re not satisfied at the end of the day they can go back to their own home and cook their own turkey. Cooking turkeys just doesn’t happen in my house.

      • Erika Stern says:

        Clearly emotions run a little high around the holidays. Again, my choice to not eat meat is a Personal one, and this tiny little blog is my way of sharing some of my Personal dilemmas. I never expected that adopting a vegan lifestyle would change the world. Just my world. I apologize to those who find that hypocritical or offensive.

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