Thanksgiving and Vegetarians

I don’t think meat-eaters fully appreciate how many Thanksgiving rituals revolve around the bird. The turkey determines when dinner is served. The turkey occupies the center of the table. The head of the household displays his or her carving excellence in cutting the turkey. Everyone fights over the wishbone. The turkey causes everyone to be sleepy after the meal. And then we talk about turkey leftovers for weeks afterwards.

Vegetarians often feel excluded from these rituals, so Thanksgiving often has different connotations for vegetarians. However, I’m not suggesting that meat-eaters shouldn’t enjoy their turkey-related rituals. On the contrary, let me suggest three ways that meat-eaters can accommodate vegetarian guests like me at Thanksgiving:

1) Please don’t do anything special for me. It breaks my heart when someone invites me to their home for Thanksgiving, cooks up a storm, and then feels like they have to something extra just for me. The ironic part is that there is always so much vegetarian food at the table that I don’t need more. So don’t fret about whether I’ve had enough to eat. I prefer not to be the center of attention, and as my expanding spare tire attests, I rarely go hungry.

2) Please give me accurate information about which dishes I can eat. Many Thanksgiving recipes unexpectedly contain meat, so I often don’t know what dishes I can and can’t eat. A quick narration of dishes helps immensely. But sometimes the narrator doesn’t understand what on my verboten list; if in doubt, this should be discussed.

3) Please don’t feel guilty about enjoying your rituals. The last thing I want to do is undermine the experience for you.

I’m often surprised how much the food distracts from the spiritual aspect of Thanksgiving. To me, Thanksgiving is about realizing how blessed we are and sharing that realization and the experience with loved ones. If this happens, I have a wonderful Thanksgiving regardless of who eats what.