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Wayland Student Press

The student news site of Wayland High School

Wayland Student Press

The student news site of Wayland High School

Wayland Student Press

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Turkey day, but without the turkey

Join+WSPNs+Fiona+Peltonen+as+she+outlines+her+typical+Thanksgiving+dinner+as+a+vegetarian.+
Credit: Fiona Peltonen
Join WSPN’s Fiona Peltonen as she outlines her typical Thanksgiving dinner as a vegetarian.

Thankfulness, family and turkey are common on Thanksgiving for several families. However, as a vegetarian, turkey is not in the picture during my Thanksgiving celebration, which can add some challenges to the holiday season. My Thanksgiving meal isn’t ruined due to the absence of meat, as mostly everything I eat on Thanksgiving is already vegetarian, but my Thanksgiving dinner isn’t exactly conventional.

According to my friends and many Americans, a typical American Thanksgiving dinner consists of potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce and the main entree, turkey.

Fortunately for me and other vegetarians, most traditional Thanksgiving dinner sides are plant-based. Corn, green bean casserole, potatoes, cranberry sauce and rutabaga, a Finnish tradition in my family, are all vegetarian, making the main dish the only part of my meal that I cannot eat.

Turkey is clearly not vegetarian, but that’s not the only part of the main meal that contains meant. Sometimes, stuffing is cooked inside the turkey, which leads to cross contamination, but turkey giblets (the heart, liver and neck) are frequently added to stuffing to enhance the flavor. Gravy is also made out of turkey giblets and fat, making it an immediate pass as a vegetarian.

So how can you have a Thanksgiving dinner without the entree? Realistically, nothing that is currently available is going to taste exactly like turkey. Everything is going to have a slightly off-putting taste and texture, but that doesn’t mean vegetarians should give up and resort to something basic, like cauliflower, as a main dish. There are plenty of substitutes and meat-free options, but it can be hard to know which ones are the perfect choice for each vegetarian. I’ve had my fair share of meatless Thanksgiving dinners, and after years of getting creative with plant-based meals, I think I’ve perfected my meat-free plate.

Credit: Fiona Peltonen

Turkey Substitutes:
While the Thanksgiving sides can be delicious and often make a good, balanced meal, Thanksgiving dinner isn’t fully complete without the entree. I’ve tried three different turkey substitutes throughout the years, and my favorite by far has been the Gardein Turk’y roast. In my opinion, this soy-based substitute is perfect for any vegetarian or vegan when the holiday season rolls around.

Stuffing:
Just because you aren’t cooking the stuffing in the turkey doesn’t mean it’s meat-free. Most stuffings have “natural flavoring,” which frequently refers to chicken broth. When shopping for plant-based stuffing, it’s good to be on the lookout for products that only include dried bread and spices in the ingredient list. My family’s favorite is the Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing by Pepperidge Farm, which is one of the very few companies that doesn’t use natural flavoring.

Gravy:
Most vegan roasts come with vegetarian gravy, and while I’m not a huge gravy person, my family speaks very highly of it. However, if you’d rather make it yourself, there are various online recipes that include substitutes like onion and mushroom. I haven’t made vegetarian gravy from scratch, but I have taken some of my favorite vegetarian recipes from this website, so the Delish Vegetarian Gravy will likely meet my vegetarian standards.

Other Entrees:
If you don’t eat meat because you don’t like the texture and taste, there are a lot of vegetarian entrees that can fill in for the turkey and leave you just as satisfied. Some of my favorites are vegetarian lasagna, vegan stuffed acorn squash and portobello steaks.

Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for vegetarians, since it can be a lot harder to enjoy the holiday while having to make several food alterations, but that doesn’t mean vegetarians should have to stick to side dishes. Fake turkey roasts, among many other vegetarian and vegan options, can be put together easily. Fake turkey can also be found in most grocery stores, and are a recent development that makes plant-based holidays a lot easier.

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About the Contributor
Fiona Peltonen, Staff Reporter
Fiona Peltonen, Class of 2027, is a first year reporter at WSPN. She does the school musical. Outside of school she likes to skateboard, swim and spend time with family and friends. Contact: [email protected]
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    Amy P.Nov 27, 2023 at 12:55 AM

    Nice article! This Thanksgiving we really enjoyed the vegetarian roast “goose” recipe from this beautiful cookbook: The Vegan Chinese Kitchen: Recipes and Modern Stories from a Thousand-Year-Old Tradition.

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