Have Mercy: A Grateful, Vegan Thanksgiving

What are you thankful for?
No, really.  Right this minute, can you rattle off some things you’re grateful for?  Go ahead and do it.  I’ll wait…

Didn’t that feel wonderful?  Perhaps you count your blessings on the regular, or maybe you think you’re too busy to ever reflect on the many gifts – big and small – in your life.  Whatever the case, gratefulness is the reason for the season, and science has shown that a consistent gratitude practice can not only change the trajectory of your day, but the course of your life.  As many of you know, I have the privilege of writing for Vegucated (have you see it yet?  It’s awesome!), and this is one of the posts for the Schoolhouse Online Community and Vegucated’s amazing network of compassion-minded folks.  While we’re tackling your most pressing holiday questions and talkin’ feasting in today’s blog, we’re also focusing on the real reason for the season.  Besides, everything tastes better with a heaping side of thankfulness.Be Grateful.  Everyday!
Question #1: “How do I deal with all the questions I’ll get from my family and friends when I show up as a vegan on the most food-focused holiday of the year? How do I balance being proud without sounding preachy?
This is a common quandry at the GetVegucated Schoolhouse Online Community, and it’s one with a response that only you can refine and perfect over time.
  • For starters, offer to bring your own food.  That way, you can eat and be merry and be considerate of your host, while also showing your pals how delicious the vegan lifestyle is.  I usually bring both a sweet and a savory dish to show the versatility of meat-free fare, and I always bring plenty for sharing.
  • Secondly, try to look at inquiries about a vegan lifestyle as an opportunity, rather than a defensive trigger.  Sure, there are misconceptions out there, but people usually ask because they’re genuinely curious.  Honor this curiosity and give them an affirming response with a dash of proactive education like: “That’s a great question. I became educated about how animals we eat are treated and I realized that I didn’t want to be part of that. I still get to eat fantastic food, too.”  You know your friends and family best, so whether or not you want to engage in a more detailed conversation is your choice.
Vegan Thanksgiving Feast

Question #2: “What do I make and/or bring to the festivities that everyone will enjoy?”

Gobble Day is an excellent opportunity to BLOW PEOPLE AWAY with your delicious food.  While Thanksgiving is commonly associated with a Turkey leg, any seasoned (pun intended) Gobbleday gobbler will tell you that the meal is all about the sides.  Of course, there are amazing recipes for cruelty-free main dishes, too.  Whether you’re the chef, a dish-toting attendee, or a grab-and-go party goer, the suggestions below will make you the most popular person at the gathering.  And don’t forget your local veg-friendly restaurants and grocers who will likely have awesome grab-and-go and order ahead options:

Question #3: “Beyond the food, how can I put my compassion in to action?”
Get To Know A Turkey: In addition to all the blessings in my life, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to visit the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY earlier this year.  It was there that I met my first turkey and it was the most transformative animal encounter of my life.  In addition to having the wise, inquisitive stare of Sophia Petrillo from the “Golden Girls,” she beckoned for massages under her wings and made little cooing noises when you massaged the right spot.  Lemme tell you, it’s a real mind-blower when you feel the downy feathers and the little bones (ya know, the ones people eat) expanding and contracting with each breath.  I already hadn’t eaten meat for years, but that encounter completely changed how I looked at Thanksgiving.  Visit or volunteer at a local sanctuary and get up close and personal with these fascinating creatures.
Sponsor a Turkey: On a holiday where 45 million sensitive and inquisitive turkeys are slaughtered just to fill our plates, it’s a pretty great time to sponsor a gobbler and save a life.  Farm Sanctuary has a wonderful “Adopt a Turkey” Project that aims to generate support for the Sanctuary’s many rescued turkeys.  The campaign boasts supporters like Ellen Degeneres and Shannon Elizabeth, so you’ll be in excellent company when you donate.
Mercy For Animals Spare a Turkey Campaign
Attend a Vegan Meet Up: No family in town?  No problem!  Join a vegan meet up, attend a dinner at a local veg-friendly restaurant, or attend one of the many “Gentle Thanksgivings” being held around the country.  Farm Sanctuary is also holding Celebrations for the Turkeys at their New York and California shelters.  If you’re the boozier type, Vegan Drinks has various events going on around the country.  A great way to meet like-minded people – new friends to be thankful for!
Get Your Gratitude On:  Make a list of what you’re thankful for.  Yes, it’s that simple. Check it out: Your words have beautiful power.  Writing down and declaring your blessings is an awesome way to put positive momentum into your life.  Struggling to find something?  Here’s a start: Are you breathing right now? Are you warm and dry? Are you living in a war-torn country? Do you have friends? Are you living a lifestyle that lessens suffering in the world?  Sounds like you’ve got a bounty!
Do For Others: Nothing gets you feeling more grateful than doing good for those less fortunate.  Volunteer with Food Not Bombs to serve nutritious vegan meals to the homeless and victims of Hurricane Sandy, donate a warm coat to someone sleeping outside, walk (or sing to – just sayin’) animals in your local shelter, visit with or invite a lonely senior to your meal, give one of the 400,000 children in foster care a memorable gift (November is National Adoption Month, after all).  The point is – every little bit matters and means something big to someone, and the options are really limitless.  My awesome friend, Marla, gets her son in on the action by having him save up his allowance for a trip to the thrift store.  There, he chooses gently-used blankets and sheets, which he then donates to a local animal shelter.  Teaching the kiddos about fiscal responsibility, compassion, and giving back?  Now, that sounds like the real spirit of gratitude.
Have a favorite Thanksgiving recipe or tradition you’d like to share?  What are you thankful for?  Spill in the Cafeteria Section of the Vegucated Schoolhouse Community Forum!