We haven’t traveled anywhere for Thanksgiving since we moved out to Massachusetts. This is mostly due to the fact that we live across the country from family, and Thanksgiving prices for flying are outrageous. But as the years have gone by and our family has grown from two, to three, to four, we have come to cherish our special Thanksgiving day rituals, just us in our home. We wake up and make muffins or pancakes. Usually the weather is nice enough for a walk, or sometimes even a short hike. The G-man and I make a conscious effort to stay away from our computers, and we let the kids decide on the things they want to do as much as possible. Around 1 or 2 the kids have nap or “quiet time” and we start preparing dinner. We make our a delicious seitan roast recipe and round it out with mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, pumpkin biscuits and mushroom gravy. For dessert we have chocolate cream pie, because no one in our family is as in love with pumpkin pie the way we love our chocolate.
Our dishes have shifted over the years. I used to make a super time and chopping-intensive roasted vegetable main dish until we swapped that out for the seitan roast that requires lots of time, but much of it inactive. I made a vegan version of my mom’s amazing stuffing for years, until we realized that the G-man and I could only eat about 1/8 of what I would prepare before we went into carb overload, and often ended throwing out most of it when it went bad a few days later. We discovered a love of roasted brussels sprouts that our children share, and now we need to make two pans of them in order for make sure everyone gets their fill. We finish the meal with chocolate cream pie, because all of us love chocolate way more than pumpkin. It’s weird, but it works for us. I used to feel like I needed to make our little family Thanksgiving mirror the one I grew up with, until I realized that we could make our own rituals, traditions, and enjoy them just as much as the ones I remember from childhood.
If you asked me fifteen years ago if I would ever skip eating turkey on Thanksgiving, I might have scoffed. To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of turkey, but I like the fanfare of it coming out of the oven, the slicing and serving. A few short years later I was vegetarian and didn’t miss eating the turkey at all, although I still enjoyed the ritual of the seeing this main dish. Fast forward another few years, and I found myself cringing at the thought of a whole bird on a table in front of me as I ate my Tofurky roast. Over time I had become more sensitive to the idea that meat was real animals who were then killed for consumption. But I always understood the importance of the ritual, of the celebration that the fool signified as the family came together.
My own experience has changed dramatically over the last fifteen years, both related to the food I eat, but more importantly to who I celebrate with. I love the fact that, even with just our little family of four, we enjoy the celebration of coming together to feast, the excitement of the G-man slicing the seitan roast, and the tradition of taking a family picture and then letting the kids see it on the computer. What I have learned through these changes is that Thanksgiving is not about the actual symbols themselves: the turkey, the long drive, the harvest-themed tablecloth, etc. Instead, Thanksgiving, as with all holidays, is about the meaning you make out of these symbols. Our vegan feast symbolizes togetherness, celebrating a life of plenty, and enjoyment of the fall season. We could replace the symbols with new ones soon if our taste for seitan and sprouts wane, but the meaning would remain. And that is what Thanksgiving is all about.
Well, that and chocolate-cream pie 🙂