nearly every mother’s nightmare: preparing a lavish
Thanksgiving dinner of turkey with all the trimmings and
being told, “Mom, I can’t eat that. I’m
a vegetarian now.” This holiday season, that age-old
question of “to turkey or not to turkey” rages
on – and can cause potentially uncomfortable social
“It can be hard blending meat-eaters
with vegetarians at Thanksgiving,” said Paige Newman,
founder of the Durango chapter of the Vegetarian Society
Newman became a vegetarian at age
four when she found out where Oscar Meyer baloney came
from. She became a vegan, or vegetarian who also abstains
from all dairy and eggs, about 10 years ago, and says
she founded the vegetarian group this year because it
can be a challenge to be vegan in Durango.
Still, it’s harder to be vegan
in other places, she said. For example, when she lived
in a Mormon community in Arizona, she was once introduced,
“This is Paige. She’s a vegan.” The
person replied, “Where’s Vega?”
“They thought I was from another
planet because I was a vegetarian,” Newman said.
Nancy Pollock, a deli assistant at
Nature’s Oasis, has been a vegetarian for six years
and a vegan for about a year. She became a vegetarian
after seeing a movie on how chickens were raised. “It
was really disgusting and kind of scared me,” she
She said it was initially challenging
to spend Thanksgiving at home because her parents are
“full-on meat-eaters” and would ask her to
eat meat-based dishes and “just pick out”
the meat. She had an ally in her vegetarian sister until
her sister got pregnant and started eating turkey again
last year, leaving Pollock alone to eat sides like stuffing
and mashed potatoes.
This year, Pollock will forgo meat
substitutes like Tofurky and stuff a butternut squash
with steamed asparagus and a raspberry-tahini dressing.
She’ll also prepare more traditional dishes like
stuffing, pies and mashed sweet potatoes.
According to Lou Steele, general manager
at Nature’s Oasis, many vegetarians don’t
want to “pretend” to eat turkey and make their
own meal, like Pollock. He said the store will probably
sell only 10 or 11 Tofurkys, which have to be special
“That’s not a lot compared
to 150 turkeys or so,” Steele said.
The projected numbers are similar
at Durango Natural Foods, said Ron Englander, the store’s
grocery buyer. Englander said the store will sell 140
fresh turkeys, but only 10 to 15 Tofurkys. He said it’s
usually “transitional” vegetarians who want
to eat something like a Tofurky that mimics the taste
of meat, though he added that the seasoning in Tofurky
dinners is pretty good.
Full Tofurky dinners include vegan
“giblet” gravy, tempeh drummettes, as much
stuffing as will fit inside the Tofurky (about the size
of a softball), and even a Tofurky jerky “wishbone.”
Englander has been a vegetarian on
and off for 40 years and doesn’t support the meat
industry but will eat local meat. He said that in the
natural foods industry, the fastest growing sector is
natural and organic meats, as opposed to the vegetarian
demand of the ’70s and ’80s.
“We cater to everybody,”
Maggie Cowing, a Wells Fargo bank
teller, said she was a vegetarian for four years until
a turkey proved to be too tempting one Thanksgiving. She
had gradually phased meat out of her diet because it had
started to “gross me out,” but then she went
to an FLC professor’s house for the holiday.
“That turkey looked so good,
and I was like, ‘You know what? There’s got
to be a reason (it looks good).’”
Cowing said she never tried Tofurky
in her days as a vegetarian. “The first time I saw
it, I thought it was a joke.” But she said a friend
in Durango recently slipped her some Tofurky deli slices
and she liked them.
“I was pleasantly surprised.”
Then there’s carnivore extraodinare
Jon Leonard, night manager at Wagonwheel Liquors, who
friends say rarely eats fruit or vegetables and plans
to attend a Thanksgiving dinner in Durango that will feature
a deep-fried turkey.
“It’s the best way to
eat a turkey, so tender and juicy and good – I wish
I was eating one right now,” Leonard said.
Still, he said he could see himself
eating Tofurky one day “just to say I’ve done
“As long as (vegetarians) aren’t
preachin’ to me, I can respect their gig,”
Leonard said. He said a lot of his sister’s friends
are vegans, but it doesn’t create problems.
“We just laugh at each other.”
Jeremy Fuller, a woodworker who has
been a vegetarian for 15 years and a vegan for 12, said
laughter and tolerance can be the key to otherwise awkward
social situations. One secret to a smooth evening is listening
to the same meat-eater jokes he’s heard for 15 years
and pretending it’s the first time he’s heard
them, like when friends knowingly offer him a hamburger.
“They always think it’s
hilarious,” Fuller said. “They don’t
realize I’m laughing at what they eat 85 but as
long as we’re both laughing it’s all good.”
He said that it is important for people
concerned about eating healthy to also consider the health
of their conscience in eating animals.
“Healthy conscience, healthy
mind, healthy body,” Fuller said.
At least there’s one point of
agreement between vegetarians and carnivores this Thanksgiving:
the time has come to gorge ourselves. Bon Appetit!