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Vegan on Campus: Power Through Thanksgiving

If you’re like me and you’re a vegan whose entire family eats meat, you know how traumatic Thanksgiving can be. You’re surrounded by slabs of meat covered in gravy that smell so good, but you know you can’t touch. Even the sides, which have been your companion at many family meals, have turned against you; it’s a horror show: sweet potatoes with marshmallows, stuffing with chicken stock, and green beans with a creamy sauce. Everything good has been taken and smothered in meat or dairy! And then, there’s your lovely family. They ask you the same questions all year round, but it’s as if on Thanksgiving they decide to let out all of the thoughts they have been holding in:

“Why not try just a little bit of turkey? It’s Thanksgiving; you can cheat.”

“Are you sure you’re getting enough protein?”

“I heard that if you don’t drink milk, your bones will be so brittle they will just crack one day.”

Thank you everyone for your lovely opinions, but I think I’ll stick to my cruelty-free, cholesterol-free, hormone-free meal, if that’s alright with you, of course. If you’ve faced any of these annoyances, I am here to make Thanksgiving a little bit easier. I have been vegetarian since I was 13, but this will be my first Thanksgiving as a vegan. I did some research, so I could be armed with solutions to the Thanksgiving-funk. Here are my tips and pieces of advice for you all you plant-based folks out there:

Find a substantial protein

This year, I didn’t want to just eat a bean salad. I wanted to find a savory protein that would remind me of all of those Thanksgiving flavors I love. Gardein is one of my favorite vegan protein substitutes. Usually, it’s flavor is so good, that you can’t even tell what you’re eating is plant-based. It also fills you up and doesn’t leave you feeling like you have a hole in your stomach. I discovered that Gardein had come out with a “Savory Stuffed Turk’y.”

This is essentially a vegan turkey filled with cranberry stuffing. It even comes with a gravy packet! I know that this is definitely what I will be making this Thanksgiving.

Volunteer to cook side dishes

If you enjoy cooking and know how to make food that will impress your family, this is a really good option. Offer to make a stuffing from scratch or a green bean casserole. This will ensure that any side you prepare will be made without any animal products. No need to put trust in your distant Aunt when she swears to you that she didn’t put any butter in the vegetables. If you cook, you will know for sure and you will definitely have things to eat.

When it comes to spuds, put some aside

If your family is planning on making mashed potatoes with a cream base or sweet potatoes with marshmallows, ask them to put a potato or two aside for you before they do. This way, you can roast it in the oven. You can bake the entire potato whole by just wrapping it in tin foil and letting it go for an hour. Or you can cut it up and roast it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. The options are endless!

Stay true to your beliefs

I know it can be tough when your entire family is bothering you for your lifestyle choice. Just remember that you made this choice for a reason and no one else’s opinion matters but your own.  Thanksgiving is a tough day to be a vegan, but, if you prepare ahead of time, it’ll make your life so much easier. We all know there are delicious vegan foods out there and I hope you will get to enjoy them this holiday!

This is your Friendly Neighborhood Vegan, signing off and wishing you a happy and safe holiday season!

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Ali Senal

Muhlenberg '18

Muhlenberg '18 Grad with a BA in Theatre and Jewish studies. My hobbies include sleeping, movies, and spreading vegan propaganda. Former Editor-in-Chief of Muhlenberg Her Campus.
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