Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the upcoming Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday, October 12th and the American Thanksgiving on November 26th  are  North American traditions based on the history of the settlers, explorers, pilgrims who came to (invaded) this continent centuries ago. The Canadian tradition dates back to 1578, while the American one to 1621. Both modern day traditions celebrate the bringing in of the harvest. For the sake of clarity, I looked up the definition of harvest:

… the season when crops are gathered from the fields or the activity of gathering crops.

As you can see, in this definition there is no mention of any animal, aquatic and/or land. However, William Bradford, Plymouth governor in the United States  writes of the 1621 harvest:

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, …. were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. …and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached. And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to the proportion.

Bradford’s recounting is all about fish, fowl, wild turkey and venison with a mention of one plant crop, Indian corn. This is one account, as other settlers may have had more crops on which to survive, thereby sparing other species from being hunted. But for the purposes of this article, we can see that some and perhaps  many American settlers did rely on the flesh of animals to survive the harsh winters.

The genesis of the Canadian Thanksgiving appears to come from a first sermon delivered to Frobisher when his ships and crews were spared devastation and death from dangerous  ice and freak storms.

Mayster Wolfall, a learned man, appointed by her Majesties Councell to be their minister and preacher, made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for their strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places …”. They celebrated Communion and “The celebration of divine mystery was the first sign, scale, and confirmation of Christ’s name, death and passion ever known in all these quarters.

Years later, French settlers began celebrating Thanksgiving in a more traditional sense having “brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash”.

...to this!
…to this!
From this....
From this….

So here we are today, in “modern times” marking, with a lavish repast, our thankfulness for the bringing in of our own harvests. The main guest at this chowing down event is almost always a turkey, with ham and pork a close second, followed by squash, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and whipped cream, applesauce, ginger cake, apple pie, cranberry sauce. The list is endless.

Pumpkin & Lentil Shepherd's Pie
Pumpkin & Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
Roasted Beets a L'Orange
Roasted Beets a L’Orange

Of course, like most consumers, we have nothing to do with hunting the game and bringing in the crops. We go to the grocery store for the “meat” and outside markets for the fruit and vegetables, where we ooh and ah over the colorful abundance piled in heaps for our perusal and purchase. Then we get cooking. And we put on a feast that leaves our bellies aching from overindulgence, too bloated to even consider moving about. When the leftover food is refrigerated and the kitchen cleaned up, the ginormous roaster goes to the back of the cupboard until Christmas when we haul it out to do the same thing again, maybe with different veggies and fruit.

And what does our over indulgence and insistence on eating the flesh of other species cost the poor traditional turkey?  In the United States in 2013 46 MILLION turkeys were consumed at Thanksgiving. In Canada in 2014, 3.1 MILLION turkeys “graced”  🙁 👿 our dinner tables at Thanksgiving. Now in my view, one turkey is too many, but these numbers are staggering when one considers the life and fate of these turkeys who are wrongly defined as a necessary food for humans.

Plant Based Goodies
Plant Based Goodies
Dancing, Dancing, Dancing!
Dancing, Dancing, Dancing!

Consider this my friends: If you love the color, taste, smell, and feel of the the glorious plant foods at this time of the year, please make them and not the poor turkey and pig the main event at your thankfulness fest. Place your thankful radar on the people in your lives and on those who have much less. Looking for stuff to do? You could visit a farmed animal sanctuary, go for a walk in the woods, go apple picking, play a game of tag, touch football or Frisbee, dance in your living room with friends and family, spend time with a senior who is alone for the holidays.

If you are wondering what plant based dishes to make, here is a list of some of my favorites for this time of year.

1) Quinoa and Bean Stuffed Peppers

2) Coconut Rice with Beans, Corn and Sausage

3) Roasted Beets a L’Orange

4) Pumpkin and Lentil Shepherd’s Pie (or Sweet Potato if your prefer)

5) Harvest Cornbread

6) Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies
Substitutions: Use 1 Tbsp ground flax seed whirred up in 3 Tbsp water to replace the egg.
Use coconut oil to replace the butter and add 2 Tbsp of water to whipped oil and sugar.

7) Molasses and Ginger Chew Bars

Annie’s Vegan View

Kindness, compassion and justice are not a matter of convenience.

Traditions can have their genesis in historical events that may or may not have anything to do with the our modern day celebrations.

Break out of the mold, do something new, do something fun, do something plant based and let us all leave the poor turkey alone.

May all beings be happy and free.

Anne
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A Vegan talks Turkey and Thanksgiving

10 thoughts on “A Vegan talks Turkey and Thanksgiving

  • October 9, 2015 at 2:23 am
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    Thanksgiving was such a fun holiday for me (and so many others, of course) when I was a kid. I stopped participating in it long before I even became vegan. It’s just such a sad, sad day for those of us who can realize it for what it is. Of course being thankful is not the problem and is a great thing. But for families to gather and be happy and celebrate and have it be based on so much cruelty….it’s just so very sad. And that cruelty is by now willingly ignored by most. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of folks left who don’t know the truth about the lives and deaths these poor souls have. The “it’s just a turkey” mentality makes me alternately so angry and so very sad. Lucky for me, I live outside North America and don’t even realize it’s Thanksgiving again until it comes up in a post or something. I don’t begrudge folks this day, but I do wish that it would change into something more appropriate. Thanks for this thoughtful and informative post!

    I haven’t had a chance to make the stuffed peppers yet, but I’m aiming for this weekend!

    Reply
    • October 9, 2015 at 6:35 am
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      Hi Krissa,
      I think that you have hit the nail on the head here. I am not sure that everyone knows the scope of the cruelty, but because humans as a society think of other species as its, as commodities, we are closed to understanding exactly what we are doing. All of our death for profit industries have done a bang up job of couching the truth in lies and deception, even making us believe that turkey is a wonderful low fat alternative to the flesh of other animals. I read an interesting article by Paul Watson, of Sea Shepherd who says that by far, our best best advocacy is to live by example. I like to call it being a pebble in the collective shoe of non vegans. The longer we do it and the more we stand together, the less we will be able to ignore. It is just so unfortunate and yes, very sad, for the animals who are suffering as we speak.
      So, here in Canada, I will continue to have my turkey and other animal free Thanksgiving with the focus taken away from the food and placed on being with loved ones. My grandchildren are coming over a day early. We will make some cookies, play outside and set the table. When my daughter and son in law arrive, we will go apple picking(hope the weather co-operates) and when my son and daughter in law arrive, we will have a wonderful plant based meal with the focus on being together and sharing.
      Thank you for sharing your memories of Thanksgiving and let’s hope that in North America this year there will be fewer turkeys sacrificed and that in the years to come there will be none. That is my goal and my most fervent wish.
      Take care, Anne

      Reply
  • October 9, 2015 at 9:55 am
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    What a great post, and thank you so much for including some of my recipes! It’s a bummer that people feel the need to have a poor turkey on the table to celebrate. I always do my best to bring some vegan deliciousness to show you can have a delicious feast without the cruelty.

    Reply
    • October 9, 2015 at 9:59 am
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      Hi Sam,
      Welcome to my website and you are most welcome. I am glad that you enjoyed my post. I use your recipes often and appreciate and admire your perspective and advocacy. Have a wonderful plant based, cruelty free Thanksgiving with your loved ones. I will do the same. That is my kind of thankfulness!!!!
      Take care,
      Anne

      Reply
  • October 10, 2015 at 8:50 pm
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    Family gatherings are great and all. Or at least they should be. Or gathering with friends you consider to be family, but these days like a lot of things, as we know, it’s just about tradition, not actually wanting to have a good time with your family or be thankful or anything.

    I get really annoyed sometimes watching people eating things like meat and cheese. Not just because of what it is, but that blank expression on peoples faces as they do it. It really is like they’re having their addiction fix.

    So indeed. Have a proper celebration. You can still have great food, but don’t make it about tradition, or highly addictive overly fattening food. Make it about family, and just maybe consider that you don’t have to make a dinner of death.

    Reply
    • October 10, 2015 at 9:14 pm
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      Hi Liam,
      Welcome to my website. Your points are well taken. The biggest tradition in our household is that making new traditions is fun!! And we always try to do something fun together. Tomorrow we are going apple picking. Today my grandchildren came to visit a day before their parents and we played outside, cut some of the last summer flowers and gathered some leaves and made a centerpiece for our Thanksgiving table. And we made the dessert for tomorrow. It is my hope that they will remember the fun times spent with me as being an integral part of our family celebrations.
      Take care,
      Anne

      Reply
    • October 13, 2015 at 5:07 pm
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      Happy belated Thanksgiving to you and yours too!!

      Reply
  • October 7, 2016 at 3:51 pm
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    Great post, Anne. The recipes look fantastic – I will most definitely be trying the Lentil Shepherd’s Pie, at the very least! Thank you!

    Reply
    • October 8, 2016 at 9:47 am
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      Hi Tannia,
      Glad that you enjoyed my post. I have two other articles about Thanksgiving and will re-publish when American Thanksgiving rolls around next month. I served all of the included recipes at Thanksgiving last year and they were very well received.
      Take care.
      Anne

      Reply

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