Thursday, November 15, 2012

Give Thanks for a Meatless Thanksgiving?!?

The American holiday, Thanksgiving, is synonymous with many images and traditions. For my family, it's watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, having a delicious home cooked meal, spending time with family and giving thanks for all that we are blessed with; and of course, as religious New York Giants football fans, praying that the Dallas Cowboys lose horribly to whomever they are playing. 

But there is also another iconic image and tradition that surrounds Thanksgiving, and that is of course, "the bird"; and by that I mean, the Thanksgiving Turkey. For many families, it is one of the main aspects that really represents what Thanksgiving is all about. It's the center of the dinner table and either the pride or curse of the kitchen preparation (there is actually a turkey hotline to help resolve issues that surround turkey preparation and disasters). 

But eating turkey on Thanksgiving has even broadened beyond our family traditions, and has really seeped into the fabric of our culture. The iconic image of Norman Rockwell's "Thanksgiving", portrays a family gathered together to share a meal, with a big turkey; as not only the focal point of the meal, but also of the entire painting, as well. There's the famous Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special where Lucy is outraged when Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving dinner does not include a turkey. And finally, there's even an annual, national tradition where the presidents "pardons" a turkey on Thanksgiving Day to save its life from becoming a meal later that day.

So, when I suggest that the traditional and iconic turkey be excluded from the holiday Thanksgiving feast, I already know the type of reactions I am provoking. "What no turkey on Thanksgiving?!" "Why that's sac-religious?" Yes, yes I know. This suggestion definitely goes against tradition and is a bit controversial. After all, these blogs are usually centered around Meatless Monday, and Thanksgiving is on a Thursday, so why I am still here talking about a Meatless Thanksgiving, you ask? 

Well, I think it's important to address the idea of "eating turkey" as a tradition. Modern day Thanksgiving is centered around the "turkey feast" as one of its main traditions. But, did you know the first and original Thanksgiving dinner, did not include turkey? That's right, there are many differences between how Thanksgiving is celebrated today and how it was originally celebrated. Some of the original traditions include; the original celebration was not limited to a dinner, but went on for three days. The dinner was held outdoors instead of in a closed structure. And it probably only included only men-sorry ladies! And turkey was not on the menu. Other varieties of meat were used; probably deer meat or other foals, like duck. 

So when did the turkey come into the picture? Surprisingly, not until much later. Over the years, the "protein" of the dinner, has changed from everything from roasted goose to pheasant. It was only a gradual and slow change that led turkey to become the main "star" of the Thanksgiving dinner.

So, what are some reasons not to eat turkey or meat on Thanksgiving? Ethically, eating turkey on Thanksgiving is supporting an industry that raises animals with intent to only kill them and use them for food. Every Thanksgiving a whopping 45 million turkeys are killed and eaten for Thanksgiving dinner-that's for one day alone! This is a crazy huge number and while I don't have the exact calculations or numbers, I know that a huge number like that, has got to have an even larger environmental footprint also.There's all the transportation fossil fuels, not to mention all of the polluted runoff and groundwater affected by raising farm animals.

So, thinking about having a Meatless Thanksgiving? 
Here are some tips!

1. Start a new tradition! It may be hard to not eat meat on Thanksgiving when you feel you are missing out an something special. But, if you create new meatless traditions, you have something else to get excited for!

2. Have meatless alternatives. Tofurkey is an excellent alternative to real turkey. Or try other proteins, like fish!

3. Have family that still want to eat the bird? Have plenty of other meatless options for you eat, like lots of vegetable sides or fruit dishes, like apple sauce. Then, you won't feel deprived when everyone else is passing the turkey and you won't be left with a bare plate. 

Other "green" Thanksgiving Day Tips!

1. When preparing the rest of the Thanksgiving day feast, try to use local food products. One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving, is my mom's homemade pumpkin pie. It's always made from real pumpkin, which we get from local farmers.

2. Use real silverware, instead of plastic. It looks nicer and will have a much smaller environmental impact instead of all the petroleum used to make the plastic kind.

3. Compost food scraps! Less waste=better for the environment!

Still hooked on the idea of having turkey for Thanksgiving? Compromise and do your homework. Buy a turkey that has been humanely housed and killed; like buying free range turkey or even better, buying turkey from a local farm.

There's a lot to be thankful for this holiday season and one I am most thankful for is the beautiful planet I am able to live on and enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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