Last week I was chatting with my neighbor at a party about our holiday plans. Her extended family – including several vegans – is coming for Christmas. She was trying to figure out what to cook.
Although I am not a vegeterian, I do cook a lot of vegetarian dishes and I own a lot of cookbooks. (I still have my original 1970 copy of The Tassajara Bread Book.)
I promised to give her a recipe I had just seen in Yoga Journal for a vegan bundt cake. I also lent her my favorite vegetarian cookbook – 3 Bowls : Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery.
In my conversation with my neighbor I also realized that many people try to make vegetarian or vegan dishes that are “just like” non-vegetarian dishes instead of focusing on the qualities of vegetarian dishes.
And the worst possible time to try to make a taste-alike vegetarian dish is around the holidays. Holiday dishes are filled with tradition and memory. Substituting tofu for turkey or soy milk in the mashed potatoes probably won’t satisfy anyone.
Instead, try creating new traditions. To quote the final issue of Gourmet, “A vegetarian Thanksgiving can be inspiring not daunting. When you’re freed from the constraints of traditional holiday recipes, a new world opens up, on in which Fall’s finest produce takes center stage. The results are wildly colorful, deeply delicious, and so simple to put together.”