Giving Thanks: Family & Friends, Turkeys & Tofurkeys

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“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” — Dalai Lama

It never fails. Every Thanksgiving I’m always asked by one person or another, “What’s your favorite part about Thanksgiving?” My answer this year, while making the trek up 81 North from Sewanee to the D.C. area, was, “I really enjoy figuring out where I’m going and who I’m going to be with.”

Since my family has always been scattered around the country (some on the east coast, some on the west), and around the globe (some in the Caribbean islands, some in the Pacific), the question was always, where do we spend the holidays? But, wherever we went and whoever we were with, we always had an exciting time – the traveling, the reunions, the cooking, the food, it was all goodness. All good.

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This year, my partner and I spent Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle in southern Maryland. Auntie Ann and Uncle Don (as they’ve affectionately been called for 22+ years), are both retired from their careers in the DC metro area. Though they often travel back to the city for friends, events, and the arts, their Maryland home is a place of peace for them. A place of quietude and relaxation. It is also where I’ve spent many summers and school breaks over the past 10 years.  With upcoming plans to sell their house in the next year, we decided to take a road trip to spend the holiday celebrating our family, our memories, and the season of thanks.

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We were welcomed with a full menu of organic produce, homemade apple and pumpkin pies, oyster stuffing (in true Maryland fashion), autumn root vegetables, pear and blue cheese spinach salad, and homemade cranberry sauce and chutney. Did I miss something? Oh, yes. There was also a beautifully plump turkey, and a very interesting box of Tofurkey for the vegetarians in the house (Auntie Ann and I).

Many vegetarians and vegans I know told me stories about their families serving them Tofurkey for Thanksgiving, but I always wondered why those who choose not to eat meat for whatever reason, would want to eat something that smells like meat and has the same texture as meat? Maybe that’s just a little gap in my logic, but who knows. In any case, Auntie Ann went on a hunt, 1 part out of love and 1 part out of curiosity, for the famous Tofurkey. After searching through Safeway, and finding nothing (though, admittedly she didn’t even know what the thing was supposed to look like), she asked one of the employees to join the hunt. Still, nothing came up – until she was walking through the doors when she heard over the intercom,  “Will the lady who wanted the Tofurkey please come to the produce section.”

So, we got a Tofurkey. The men joked as they prepped and cooked the turkey, while the Tofurkey box sat on the counter. In the box came a tub of “gravy”, a short, fat, plastic wrapped “Tofurkey”, and a postcard with picturesque farm animals wishing us a “Happy Tofurkey Day.” A true box of wonder! The official ingredients are as follows:

“Our feast contains:

  • One Tofurky® Roast (made with organic non-genetically engineered soybeans) – now 20% larger
  • Savory Gravy
  • Wild Rice, Whole Wheat Bread Crumb Stuffing
  • Happy Tofurky Day card & coupons”

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The preparation called for 1 hour and 15 minutes of cooking time, and during this time we enjoyed many a laugh about the short round Tofurkey roast in the small casserole dish sitting next to the large bird on the roasting rack. Though the jokes were many, I still had good faith it wouldn’t be that bad.

After a day of cooking, cleaning, watching football, telling stories, sharing hugs, and simply enjoying the company of each other, we sat down at the table to share our Thanksgiving meal, with both turkey and Tofurkey in tow. With piles of delicious and vibrantly colored vegetables on my plate, my contrasting rounded slice of Tofurkey was a slightly darker color of beige than the actual turkey. I put some caramelized onions and cranberry sauce on top, and prepared myself to take a bite. And I did. And It wasn’t that bad! Auntie Ann concurred. Uncle Don, not so much. The texture was similar to actual turkey, though admittedly a little chewier, and it tasted, well, kind of like a turkey.

In any case, it was an experience and an experiment wrapped into one, and I can definitely see the appeal to veggie-eaters who would like a meatier tasting meal for the holidays, but I think this experience will suffice for holidays to come.

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After eating our fill of vegetables, turkey, tofurkey, and apple and pumpkin pie, we sat down with cups of tea to relax from the day. While we watched the Seahawks and 49ers running up and down the screen, I sat there and smiled out of contentment. My stomach was quite content, as I thankfully did not over eat (though some would say this rendered my meal unsuccessful), and my heart was too. The intention that went into picking wholesome and local ingredients, minimizing potential waste, cooking the food, and setting the table, as well as the conversation and laughs that occurred round it filled me with gratitude. So much gratitude. For family, for good food, for love, for adventure, for memories. It was all good.

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Sunset on the Chesapeake Bay

Thank you to all the friends, family, and loved ones in my life. I am so very grateful for each of you.

– E

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