26 November 2011

The Re-cap

By virtue of my position as sole vegan of the family, I'm essentially in charge of making sure there is something animal product-free on the table at family gatherings (including the obligatory holiday meals) if I expect to eat. Thanksgiving is the perfect example of the family food dynamic at work. My family is perfectly content to practice the enduring tradition of preparing the same, dairy- and poultry stock-laden dishes year after year on this day of epic gluttony. They are actually quite rigid in their insistence upon including those aforementioned items, so my assistance in preparing the usual sides is both unneeded and unwanted; the assumption is that animal-friendly adaptations to preciously preserved quantities of butter, cream, and turkey stock will diminish the flavor of said dishes--an unfortunate way to indulge, it seems. Consequently, any culinary contribution I choose to make is, by default, superfluous.

Although I would have been perfectly fine with preparing an ordinary, single-serving meal for myself, I opted instead to make some effort in not completely isolating myself from the rest of my family, preparing a few items to add to an already complete Thanksgiving menu. Some of it was prepared in advance, effectively reducing my risk for a sort of social claustrophobia that I have come to associate with the holidays while leaving more space for others to go about their cooking. Indoor lighting unfortunately made for some poor-quality images, but the food was actually quite good.

My contributions created a "vegan corner" at the buffet table. Yes, that is just what I made for the feast (i.e., a mere portion of the entire spread). Talk about having more than enough food. Clockwise from top left: barley mushroom casserole, pumpkin cinnamon layer cake, pear frangipane tart, whole wheat rolls, sauteed kale, and roasted Brussels sprouts. My mother actually prepared the pomegranate-glazed Brussels sprouts, using this recipe and reserving that wee portion you see here for yours truly, before tossing the rest with non-vegan, vanilla-scented butter. In my humble opinion, the fruity flavor of the butter-less sprouts was just fine.
My barley mushroom casserole was an adaptation of a recipe from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet. I threw in several additions to give the casserole my own spin--namely, reconstituted dried mushroom blend (porcini, shiitake, and trumpet); fresh crimini mushrooms, assorted herbs, and orange juice; smoked paprika; and chopped, blanched spinach. A drizzle of black truffle-infused oil was added to the casserole after it finished baking, giving it a deeper, richer mushroom flavor. My family seemed to enjoy this dish a great deal.
Vegetable broth-sauteed Tuscan kale was a last-minute dish. I simply couldn't have a proper meal without greens. This simple side dish included sliced onion and garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and a touch of nutmeg.
To avoid complications with securing oven space, I baked whole wheat rolls the day before Thanksgiving. They were as good as fresh after being reheated in the oven--soft interior with a thin, crisp crust and hearty wheat flavor. A recipe is in progress until I can get the flavor and texture just right.
In yet another moment of failed self-restraint, I made not one, but two desserts for Thanksgiving. The pumpkin cinnamon layer cake is an adaptation of this recipe (with unsuccessful cinnamon swirls hidden by maple "cream cheese" frosting). I took the liberty of making spiced, pumpkin ale-glazed pecans and walnuts (adapted from this simple recipe) to decorate the cake. The cake in its fully decorated state was understandably sweet, but acceptably so when consumed in small quantities. My family didn't seem to have a problem with it, or any decent, vegan cake, for that matter.
The Pear Frangipane Tart was my favorite of the two desserts. I adapted the recipe from Isa and Terry's latest gem, Vegan Pie in the Sky. The recipe was also posted to The PPK, but I've only just noticed that it is slightly different from the one printed in the cookbook. The PPK version of the recipe mentions using apricot jam to glaze the tart, which I didn't do, because that step is absent in the book version. No matter; the tart was absolutely delectable without the glaze. When I answered my mother's inquiry about the crust by telling her it was shortbread, she replied enthusiastically, with apparent surprise, "It really does taste like shortbread!" I'm not sure what she expected it to taste like, but I'm glad she approved.
That, my friends, is how I went from one end of the food prep spectrum to the other, nearly forgoing any culinary contributions to basically cooking what could have been a full menu on its own. And so continues yet another tradition: a holiday season marked by indulgence. It's as good a time as any to mindfully reflect upon the true feelings of gratitude for being able to enjoy this sort of thing.


  1. That tart looks so beautiful!

  2. Dirtanddolls11/27/11, 12:13 PM

    My husband and I are the lone vegan's as well. My mom semi respects us by using vegan butter and soy milk where she can. We have learned to split the cooking and I take over all the things that must be cooked specifically for me and she does the things I either won't eat or have no chance of being contaminated. The only think I'm forced to tolerate is the bird at the table. 

  3. How long did all of this take you?? I made 3 dishes and was totally panicky down to the last minute. It's a sad state often for vegans but you put it so eloquently - that our dishes are superfluous. It may seem like we bring a lot but we really just need to eat too! I remember once my sister eating some of my salad and I got all huffy like, "You know this is my entire dinner, right?" Luckily, my family is getting more understanding and even asked me to bring vegan butter so I could make a dish there that everyone could eat.
    Will Christmas be any different for you?

  4. I, too, am the only vegan in my family. I get called a lot of things when we all have to sit together and eat. It's really difficult. 
    I wish you would come over to my house for dinner, though! All of this food looks fantastic. I'm sure not even my family could complain if you came over with all of that food!

  5. Farrah Pileggi11/29/11, 7:23 AM

    That cake is so beautiful! I want to make that this weekend. WOW!! Beautiful spread. :)

  6. wow. gorgeous meal! I wish my thanksgiving dinner had been like this.
    my MIL kindly made me a vegan shepherd's pie, which I (and everybody else) enjoyed and I'm very thankful for her extra efforts. but it'd be nice to have a full course vegan dinner like yours someday - and two desserts!!

  7. lynn_eva_barber11/29/11, 2:28 PM

    I used to make all sortsa veggie heavy things for family gatherings and realized that my hub's family does not eat veggies. Now, I just what I can there and stop making so much effort. LOL! You tart looks awesome. So pretty!

  8.  Love your corner of the table! Can I come over and hang out there next time? Everything looks super tasty! and 2 desserts! Oh my! :-)

  9. That cake. That pie! The story about your family reminds me of my MIL. She won't eat my cookies because they are made without butter. If I ever celebrate Thanksgiving I want to celebrate with you!


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