Not so long ago there was no Black Friday or Black Thursday evening, just family and friends sitting around a large turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy, veggies and sweet potatoes with a pumpkin or pecan pie for desert. Some people even caught their own turkeys. But it has all become much more complicated.
Even though my daughter, Cathy, managed to serve 18 without any special orders, not everyone got away that simply. An article appeared in our newspaper from the Associated Press by Candice Choi writing about someone in Suffern, New York who had 18 people for dinner and had an experience similar to ours.
Our son, Hunter, visited us from Los Angeles with two of his friends and we made the “mistake”, which is today “de rigeur”, of asking about food allergies and preferences. Well, one was vegan, another ate gluten free, and the third (our son) was lactose intolerant and wanted make sure that the turkey was free range and had lead a good life before being slaughtered!
We made an effort before they came having bought soymilk, a tofu turkey, known as a Tofurky and gluten free bread. I wasn’t even entirely sure what the definition of vegan was. At first I thought it was synonymous with vegetarian but it is a much more demanding diet. Not only does the vegan not eat meat or fish but also nothing that is derived from an animal such as butter, eggs or milk.
What is quite incredible is that this has become so common that restaurants and food shops accommodate this diet. In fact the subtitle of the Associate Press article is, “Food Industry being reshaped by those at the holiday table”. Thank goodness Whole Foods was open Thanksgiving morning. Did you know that there were three brands of Gluten Free beer? In addition more root vegetables were purchased to go with the Tofurkey as well as Brussels sprouts that are always in order on Thanksgiving.
Of course, there are other individual food foibles. One of our other guests does not eat onion or garlic so a separate dish of stuffing was necessary. Then I have this sweet potato recipe that includes mashing in milk and butter with marshmallows baked on top. Needless to say, that required one dish made with just soymilk and another dish for the person who does not like marshmallows but wanted my sweet potatoes. The easiest person to accommodate was the one who doesn’t like sweet potatoes… no dish.
Some people celebrate Thanksgiving at lunch and some in the evening. We have always had our Thanksgiving celebration at dinner. Well one of our guests can’t eat dinner at too late an hour. Sounds like a simple request except when you have a 17 lb. Turkey in a finicky oven at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Then one must also take into account the size of the oven and that you have to accommodate the Tofurky for an hour as well as a half hour for the marshmallows to melt on the pre-prepared sweet potatoes. Chopping the sweet potatoes to put up to boil also caused a minor mishap. As Hunter said he loves sweet potatoes with just a touch of Dad’s finger. The cut turned out not to be serious but it put me out of some dinner preparation.
We also were the beneficiaries of generous contributions from our guests of mushrooms cooked with wine, and roasted Brussels sprouts brought and cooked by guests. Have you been counting? How many dishes and what logistics this takes? Thank goodness my wife forgot to make the string beans because we would have had to buy an additional table just to accommodate the food. As it was it was spread far and wide on the table and all the counters.
We had one more vegan challenge over the weekend our vegan friend had a birthday to celebrate and that required a baker’s dozen of phone calls plus a couple of visits to bakeries. Some bakers did not know what vegan was, and others only made vegan cake in chocolate (which was not on), and still others were not able to get us a cake in time because of the holiday. In the end, just when we were about to give up, a bakery at a spa in town came through and it was absolutely delicious.
Today, this is all part of family and friends. In Santa Fe you find lots of vegetarians, and those who eat gluten free, and even once in a while a vegan, but it is rare that they come together. On the other hand it was also fun and required a different way of thinking. I must say I was so amused by it all that I could not stop laughing, to myself.