29 November 2010

How I survived this Thanksgiving with omnivores

"Pass the eggplant," said one of the guests.

I just gave a look. Since my somewhat strict upbringing, I have been taught to slightly ignore any requests missing their proper ending: please.

I rolled my eyes and then complied, concluding that the dish was obviously in demand. The proof could be found in the last couple of still perky pan-friend graffiti eggplant roulades topped with a roasted tomato-garlic ragout with lemon thyme and spiked with a kiss of pinot noir.

The sauce was almost consumed. Those around me copied an impromptu gourmand technique of dipping and slathering the sesame baguette directly onto the lonely traces of sauce still left on the classic white platter.

It was that good. A collaboration between my sassy mother and yours truly, the eggplant was pure triumph.

I am always leery about serving eggplant, as I am convinced the name itself deters some from adopting this fruit (it is actually classified as a berry) as a personal favorite. I propose we call it something sexy and refer to explant as aubergine or anything remotely foreign. Isn't that the reason filet mignon is popular? Because we sound like stuck-up boobs trying to say it, although it translates horribly with a southern twang. I live in Houston.

People want to be enticed by mouth-watering sexy descriptions. So, a plain turkey has really no chance next to a pan-roasted organic wild mushrooms with a toasted-walnut red pepper emulsion and salsa verde. Or a blood orange-infused coconut carrot bisque with indian aromatics kicks a ham's butt.

Because when food is darn good, no one cares that it doesn't have animal parts. I just have to get people to try it first.

Every other dish (other than my improvised spinach-roasted red pepper smoked paprika hummus and the vegan cardamon spiced pumpkin cupcakes with mango-citrus cream cheese frosting) could have used a little more love.

Even at a ritual event where folks expect their timeless favorites, if it's good, people will eat other things.
As I turn three (vegan years that is) I find myself getting even more restless with those that claim tradition (remember Fiddler on the Roof?) as a raison to never wanting to re-examine the holiday table menu. I am sure the 45 million turkeys typically consumed at Thanksgiving would appreciate a change in modus operandi.

Apple and Cider, otherwise associated with an over-spiced and often over-spiked beverage, are the names of the two turkeys pardoned by President Obama as part of a yearly custom in preparation of the holiday.

This year, my family followed suit. There was not a turkey (who we fictionally named Bertha) at our dinner table.

And no one complained.

The change was more out of necessity. a recent familial expansion reduced our available preparation time. See, my sister had just brought into the world twins and our attention immediately turned to all things baby.
We had something quite more meaningful than turkey to worry about.

Lessons learned?
  • Concentrate on celebrating the spirit of the holiday
  • Celebrate people and not things
  • Serve sexy and alluring dishes and no one will care about Bertha
  • If all else fails, have babies

Joel Luks | @joel_luks
Joel, a classically trained flutist and resident of Houston, takes a personal interest in developing vegan recipes that satisfy the vegetable lover and the carnivore alike, challenging the stereotype that vegans and rabbits share similar sustenance. Follow Joel at Vegan Good Eats and Facebook.

Photo credit: Joel