Students switch up celebratory cooking

 

It’s that time of the year again, when you’re bringing that special person home for the holidays.

This is a big move and, in the midst of the awkward, drunken dinner table scenarios running through your head, you made a big whoops — you forgot to warn Mom that your lady friend became a vegan upon arriving at UVM, where, Urban Dictionary claims, “hippies reign freely and the ’70s will never die.” 

In Vermont, we have a skewed perception that these lifestyles are of the norm, but in the Mid-Atlantic and the South we are reminded that the population of people with alternative diets is incredibly dense here. 

Fortunately, people have been accommodating various diets for years and a large database of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes exist. The holidays have a shrine to which all foodies bow down — the dinner table. For this, we don’t want anyone to be left out of the gluttonous enjoyment.  

A great resource is “Vegan Holiday Kitchen: More than 200 Delicious, Festive Recipes for Special Occasions” by Nava Atlas or “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food” by Mark Bittman, one of my all time favorite writers and clever New York Times food columnist.

 Even Martha Stewart, goddess of all things domestic, is onto this trend. She is posting vegan and vegetarian recipes on her website.  

Some simple tips and trade-offs include: 

Don’t put all the stuffing inside the turkey: Put some in a casserole dish to avoid all the turkey’s juices. The vegs will appreciate this big time. 

Avoid making piecrusts with lard or butter. Use vegetable oil instead. Pies are generally safe, so go pastry crazy and bake the classic pumpkin, apple and pecan varieties. 

If you’ve got a vegan on your hands, you can opt for a tofu pumpkin pie: Replace the condensed milk with silkened tofu, coconut milk or cashew cream. Crust also becomes an issue for those avoiding gluten — pumpkin pie with a coconut-pecan crust is a safe, delicious gluten-free option. 

Give vegetables a prominent presence at the table. Think leafy greens — spinach, kale and colorful Swiss chard are great sautéed with onions and garlic and provide a healthy side dish. 

Hearty root veggies are in abundance this time of year and are so earthy and wholesome that you’ll instantly feel grounded. 

And lastly, how could we forget the Pilgrims’ favorite — squash. Winter squash varieties are perfect steamed or roasted and teamed with sweet or savory flavors. 

A personal favorite is butternut squash soup, with a hint of ginger and jalapeño pepper for a kick. Pair that with some warm sourdough bread and you’ve died and gone to taste bud heaven. 

I also asked some fellow UVM peers about their gastronomic plans for the season. 

Sophomore Danielle Desroche responded with her intention to whip up some of her favorite Thanksgiving treats.

 “Sweet potato black bean casserole, cranberry squash millet and pumpkin spice dough balls -— all vegan and all delicious,” Desroche said.  

Sophomore Nick Loeb said he stands firmly with his turkey choice.

 “I love meat … that’s not going to change,” Loeb said. “What the hell is ‘tofurkey’ anyway? That’s ridiculous.” 

Senior Kristina Zontini said, “I’ll be foraging for all my Thanksgiving food.” 

Whatever style of holiday meal you’ll be enjoying, it’s essential to remember the purpose of our festivities and reflect on how much we have to truly be thankful for. The accumulation of warm smiles on the faces of family and friends, a bountiful feast and fascinating conversation account for absolutely everything. So let the food coma-inducing laughter and family sing-a-longs begin.