Written by the Donat a/k/a the Vegan Hubby
A brief guide for helping you survive a family Thanksgiving while maintaining your relationship with your vegan significant other.
So you’re dating a vegan. Life is tricky enough as is. And then Thanksgiving comes around just when you thought you were starting to get the hang of this vegan business. Sure hosting a vegan Thanksgiving is not too bad, but you and your significantly vegan other have been invited to a family Thanksgiving dinner and you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Your family will likely only have non-vegan food leaving your bf/gf hungry and cranky, which does not bode well for you. On the other hand, messing with your family’s traditional dishes will also likely irritate your already disapproving family; “Turkey isn’t even meat!” they will say. To survive this delicate situation, you will need to do some planning and prepping well ahead of time.
This should be no surprise that Thanksgiving is traditionally not a particularly vegan-friendly holiday with the table full of turkey, stuffing, gravy, buttered-up mashed potatoes, etc. If your family is anything like mine they go all out and make enough food for a small army, basically forcing people to take leftovers with them at the end of the night and removing their need to cook anything for the next week. However, more likely than not, there will be nothing vegan other than pickles and olives. A word from the wise: a typical vegan person will not be in the best mood when all they had to eat was pickles and olives while having to sit through the holiday with your family. This holiday can make or break your glorious relationship. Fear not though because there are a number of things that you can do to make it through this potentially rough evening.
Plan ahead and substitute: the burden falls on you to make sure you and your partner will have food at the table so plan ahead. Talk to you parents or host to let them know about the situation. Hopefully they are reasonable people and will help you out here. See what meals can be easily modified to be vegan such as gravy and mashed potatoes, there are dozens of great recipes online so just pick one. If the host insists on using butter, bring them a few sticks of Earth Balance vegan butter to use as a substitute. They will taste it, say it’s not bad, and then ask what it’s made out of (short answer: palm oil). My mom has this horrible aversion to the word margarine, which Earth Balance is not as there is no trans fat in it, so let them know that as well. She also kept asking me, “But is it healthy??” (short answer: “Is butter healthy?”). Unsweetened almond milk is a great substitute for any milk or cream that they use in recipes and nutritional yeast can be a great cheese imitator (and is also great for conversation). If the host wants to still have their traditional recipes, have them split the dishes in half so that one is the vegan version and one is not. It’s also fun to sometimes see the vegan version be the one to get eaten first, allowing you to gloat and grin a little.
Do some vegan cookin’: The host probably has their hands pretty full between all the planning, cooking and coordinating so help them out and let them know that you are bringing some of your own vegan meals. They will be glad that there will be a vegan option, it’s one less thing for them to cook and they are probably interested in trying some. Make sure to let them know what you are making so that they can plan around it and not make the same dish (they might not want to make extra gravy if you are going to bring a bunch for example). Plus if you personally cooked the vegan option, you will get bonus points from your significant other, double points if it’s actually good! It also helps non vegans to see that vegans do in fact eat “real” food as many people do not have a realistic understanding of what vegan food looks like. In my case, it helped my family be reassured that we are (a) able to cook, (b) take care of ourselves and (c) be nutritionally healthy.
Come prepared (mentally): Brace yourselves ahead of time for the onslaught of vegan questions, inquiries and debates your family is about to throw your way. Don’t come in looking for a fight but rather try and be as light and jovial about it as possible. There will undoubtedly be a number of statements/comments/opinions that you will have to just let go, nod and smile. It’s fine, it’s normal, this is just the natural way people react when they encounter something so different than what they are used to. Be a vegan ambassador and show people that a very rational, well-adjusted adult chooses and thrives on a vegan diet.
Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful and happy, and if you are being invited to a Thanksgiving dinner you have a lot to be grateful and happy about. Sure it can be stressful and frustrating sometimes, but the main point is that this is a great opportunity to introduce a whole new world to your family and friends. As long as you plan ahead, try substituting some ingredients/meals, do some of your own cooking and come mentally prepped, there is no reason why this can’t be an excellent holiday for everyone.
Do you have any tips for surviving a Thanksgiving dinner with your vegan counterpart? Let us know in the comments!