A personal tribute to Turkey Day
Why I'll never give Thanksgiving the bird: A vegetarian look at Turkey Day
Ah, Thanksgiving! It’s one of my very favorite holidays. I realize that hardly puts me in the minority—after all, plenty of people love Thanksgiving. And why wouldn’t they? It serves as the opening ceremony for the entire winter holiday season. It’s not a religious holiday so you don’t have to listen to any silly arguments about whether there’s a war on Turkey Day. No one has to hurry off to church. And, of course, the entire day is dedicated to cooking and gobbling up a bunch of delicious food. Check and check.
Because I’m a vegetarian, however, some people find my fondness for Thanksgiving surprising. But it is precisely because I’m vegetarian that I love this holiday so much. Let me explain. Most holidays involve a certain amount of work, and in most evolved families, all able-bodied adults are expected to pitch in and do their share. In the case of Thanksgiving, the work comes down to planning the menu, fighting your way through the grocery store, hours and hours of cooking, going back to the grocery store to pick up what you forgot the first time, more cooking, and finally, endless cleaning. In other words, there’s a considerable amount of work involved to pull the whole thing off.
But because the mainstay of the Thanksgiving meal is turkey, when it comes to vegetarians, garden variety carnivores end up feeling a little sheepish about the whole affair. The fact that the main course is meat leads carnivores to give vegetarians a hall pass on all of the heavy lifting. As a vegetarian, you aren’t expected to cook because you can’t eat the main course. And if you can’t eat the main course, no one expects you to do the cleaning either. Double score.
The irony here is that separate and apart from the turkey, there are usually a dozen other delicious dishes that are typically found on the table in any given house on Thanksgiving Day. Mouthwatering items like stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie, sweet potato casserole, green beans, pie, asparagus, rolls, pie, cranberry sauce, fruit salad, green salad, and even pie. I love each and every one of those, but because the holiday is defined by the turkey, guilt leads carnivores to insist that vegetarians like me not worry about bringing anything at all. While it makes sense that we would not be expected to cook the turkey, there’s really no reason why we shouldn’t be responsible for at least one of the other dishes. But if my not cooking helps to ease everyone else’s conscience, well, I’m more than happy to do my part—especially if doing my part means not doing any part at all.
Another benefit to being a vegetarian on Thanksgiving is having an excused tardy for dinner. Everyone else gets in trouble for being late to Thanksgiving dinner since it holds up the meal for the whole family. If a vegetarian is late to dinner no one dare cries foul. Because for vegetarians, being late is actually the polite thing to do. Carnivores get uncomfortable around vegetarians when it’s time to carve up the turkey, so by rolling up after the meal is in progress—or even when it’s over—you give them one more thing to be thankful for.
Not only is it okay for you to be tardy, you can actually skip the whole affair altogether and not ruffle any feathers. And because Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday each and every year, you can easily parlay that into four days off in a row—plenty enough time to take a little vacation to the destination of your choice. Catch a plane on Wednesday after work, return home Sunday night. No explanation is required for being a no-show—after all, you’re vegetarian.
So, Thanksgiving is to vegetarians what Mother’s Day is to mothers; it’s the one day of the year when we can do whatever we want from coming to dinner, to coming late to dinner, to not coming at all. And if we do decide to come, we can eat all the delicious food we want and not even lift a finger. Turkey may be the reason for the season, but vegetarians are the ones who benefit the most. When it comes right down to it, it really shouldn’t be called Thanksgiving or even Turkey Day. It should be called Vegetarian Day.