Recommended wine for today’s entry: With the rapid approach of Thanksgiving, I returned to Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher’s column in a recent Wall Street Journal for advice on a good wine to take to a dinner party. One of their recommendations is a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Chile or South Africa. A little online research led me to Stellar Organics Colombard/Sauvignon Blanc, which is described as “fruity, crisp and light.” Perfect for a meal where the food will be incredibly filling. Not only will its organic designation impress your vegetarian, but it’s also a Fair Trade wine.
The other day I reached in my mailbox and pulled out a half-dead wasp, a free maxi pad, three bills for things that we’ve already lost or broken, and this letter:
Dear Abby (or Ashley),
Help! I just found out that I am having a vegetarian for Thanksgiving dinner and I don’t know what to do! Does turkey count as meat? How do I accomodate a vegetarian? Will she be upset if I wear my leather shoes? Please help — I’m a bit high strung.
Baffled Boston Baster
Well, I thought you all might be interested in my reply. As a 30-year vegetarian, (please note that the word “old” was not placed in between “year” and “vegetarian” in that sentence … unfortunately) I thought many of you might find yourselves in a similar dilemma and I am happy to shed some light on entertaining a vegetarian.
Not to be nit-picky, but I am assuming that your first sentence meant that you are having a vegetarian AS A GUEST for Thanksgiving dinner, not the meaning I initially garnered, which involved an unpleasant conjuring of cannibalism next to the horn o’ plenty.
Now, if I’m correct and you’ll be hosting a vegetarian, take a deep breath. Your shoes are likely fine — unless of course, your vegetarian is one of the 1960’s versions. If she arrives in a VW Van and there’s a really … um … sweet smell about her, leave the shoes in the bedroom. Barefoot will work fine for her anyway.
Most modern-day vegetarians are fine with leather goods. Unless you launch into tales of slaying and skinning. That’s not usually too well received. While I’m on that subject, if your husband is a hunter, you may want to hide the deer heads. I know that is not as easy as it sounds, so here’s an idea: hang a clothesline across the room and clothespin your sheets right in front of anything deceased. Oh, and in case you planned to put sunglasses and funny hats on the deer heads, drop the idea. It is not going to delude the average vegetarian.
As for the menu, I have made some suggestions into an acronym for you. It is NO SWEAT. Very simple.
N – NIX the idea of a tofurkey. Vegetarians are not looking for a substitute for the shape of the turkey. I mean, in 30 years, I don’t recall ever sitting at the Thanksgiving table and thinking, “durn, I hate that I don’t get to eat anything with its legs tucked under it.” And besides, tofu tastes good if it’s soaked in soy sauce, and ONLY if it’s soaked in soy sauce.
O– Omit the recipes for “vegetarian entrees” you’ll find in your local newspaper. These concoctions, which generally consist of every single item in the grocery store except meat are, well, disgusting. Just because someone doesn’t eat meat, it doesn’t mean that they are craving a loaf made of squash/beans/cranberries/eggplant/Craisins/rice/ground nuts/Oreos. Oh, and gelatin to help mold it. It’s a lot of work, it’s certainly not going to appeal to the rest of the guests, and, quite frankly, it’s revolting. There was a recipe in our local paper that described it as a paste before baking. Eeks. I’d rather eat real paste. I would be a test pilot before I’d be the first to taste that crap.
S– Stop with the gravy. Before you ladle gravy all over the potatoes, serve the vegetarian. If one doesn’t eat meat, they rarely are open to tiny bits of gizzards or giblets or whatever is boiled down in that stuff. Turkey is a meat; all items derived from its entity are meat. Yes, even feathers.
W– Wine is the universal Thanksgiving staple. Even the Native Americans and Pilgrims shared a toast. Well, that might not be true, but had the Pilgrims not been Puritans, they would have. Fill your vegetarian’s glass extra full and she won’t miss the turkey.
E– Everyone loves green bean casserole. People who say they don’t love it are closet casserolers. Smell their breath … french fried onions? Right. They are just trying to sound classy. Double the recipe.
A– Avoid terminology and actions that conjure up visions of the turkey in its previous state. No, I don’t mean frozen; I mean alive. This includes, but is not limited to, doing a waltz with it prior to cooking (don’t laugh, my brother did this once) or even calling it “the bird.” Now I know that calling it “the bird” is quite commonplace, but you don’t cut up your kids’ steak and tell them to eat their moo cow, do you? Avoid. Along the same lines, no calling it Tom. No one wants to know his name.
T– Tricks. You may think that green beans sauteed in bacon grease or stuffing made with chicken broth don’t count as meat … but they do. Flavor derived from meat is a meat product. See S above. Better to let your vegetarian know about the trick foods. It is much nicer to allow them to avoid them than to spew them out on the fine china.
And so, Baster, remember NO SWEAT. As long as you don’t force her to watch you stuff “the cavity” or let your brother lead a waltz, the turkey is fine. She’ll just skip it. Ninety percent of the time, your vegetarian guest will be pleased to eat the side dishes, enjoy the conversation and maybe have a glass of celebratory wine or two.
Unless they arrive in a VW Van or carrying a bucket of red paint. Then you turn off all the lights and don’t answer the door.