Vegetarian Advice: Family Thanksgiving Wars

Vegetarian Refuses to Eat Meat at Family Thanksgiving

Food Fight

Thanksgiving dinner seems to arrive faster and faster each year.

I have been married for 2 1/2 years and we rotate Thanksgiving visits to our families, last year was my mom's house, this year is hubby's aunt's house.

I am the only vegetarian in both families (been veg since late-college) and have difficulty eating anything at the Thanksgiving meal.

At my husband's aunt's house, her stepfather cooks several types of meat and even throws meat in with the veggies. His family knows I don't eat meat and his aunt tried explaining this to her stepfather beforehand, but he doesn't like to alter his menu.

The first Thanksgiving dinner with his family resulted in hurt feelings because I brought my own vegetarian plate to have something to eat along with everyone else.

This year I will refrain from doing so, but am concerned as to how to (politely) respond to hubby's family why I am not eating anything (besides rolls) at their Thanksgiving table. Please help as Thanksgiving dinner is quickly approaching! - M.J.

Savvy Vegetarian Advice

Dear M. J.,

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This is one of the toughest situations that vegetarians face: Traditional family dinners where the menu is set in stone, and so are the relatives!

The SV Report Veg and NonVeg Eat Together deals with this subject at length. It could be worthwhile for you to read and get some ideas.

Nobody seems to have considered your feelings! So you'll have to do some tactical planning to get what you need. It's hard because to the rest of the family, you're the one who's being unreasonable (can't she just pick out the meat?) for insisting on following your veggie diet on Thanksgiving. The harder you push to have food included that you can eat, the more resistance you'll encounter. They're trying to ignore you into submission, but you have a few choices.

1) You can cave in and just eat the rolls and hurt the feelings - been there done that, didn't work the first time.

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2) You can bring your own food, again with hurt feelings (aka emotional blackmail!).

3) Instead of either of the above, confer with the main movers and shakers, and get them to help you. Give them a chance to make suggestions and help you solve your problem.

Let them know that you don't want to hurt feelings and spoil the Thanksgiving meal for others, but make it firmly clear that it isn't an option for you to eat anything with meat in it.

Offer several options:

a) You don't eat, making everbody uncomfortable

b) You bring your own plate, making everybody uncomfortable

c) You quietly insert a vegetarian Thanksgiving dish that will satisfy you, blend with the menu, and that everybody else can eat. This could be veggie stuffing (call it low cal or non-allergenic), bean salad, soup, rice pilaf or salad, with cheese or nuts or beans in it. Green beans with almonds.

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The main principle is to plan and strategize. You wouldn't go into any contest, job interview, or performance unprepared. This is no different. Size up the opposition, line up your allies, make a plan which has some chance of success, and go for it!

Depending on the response, carry out whatever option seems reasonable. If nothing else, after a few years of watching you eat the pickles and rolls, they'll get the idea! And when it's time for you to have Thanksgiving at your house - that's when the shoe will be on the other foot!

Of course you wouldn't dream of making any guest uncomfortable. Make sure that point is subtly and delicately conveyed to the intransigent relatives NOW!

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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