Laurie Notaro's Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Wine-Free, Fun-Free, Vegan Thanksgiving

Categories: Seasonal

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​This year we're giving thanks to some of our favorite writers for sharing tales of Thanksgiving woes -- and joys. Today Laurie Notaro -- a Phoenician transplanted to Eugene, Oregon who frequently threatens to move home -- explains why she's got Thanksgiving PTSD.

Last year when my neighbor Louise asked us if we'd like to join them for Thanksgiving, I almost kissed her on the lips. But I had to get some vital information before I started to pucker.

"Is butter allowed?" I asked.

"Yes...?" she replied, looking a little puzzled.

"Are the rolls made out of rice flour?" I queried.

"Eww! God, no!" she answered.

"And other carnivores coming?"

"Of course!" she laughed. "Me!"

It was a huge relief, mainly because after last Thanksgiving, I was a little shell shocked. Actually, that was putting it mildly. I was so wounded that I couldn't pass sliced turkey in the deli at Safeway without getting shaky.

The previous year wasn't the first Thanksgiving I had hosted; I was a veteran at getting a huge dinner together for the orphaned and lonely graduate students and colleagues of my husband that made up our circle of friends in Oregon. But as we all counted down the years we had lived in Eugene, strange things began to happen. Things began to change.

At one happy hour, a friend ordered a Gardenburger. During a bowling excursion, someone refused the community cheese fries and then made a frowny face, shook their head and rubbed their belly. Another friend looked at the pizza that had just arrived at our table during a birthday celebration and said simply to the waitress, "I can't eat that! Can I just get a side of olives?"

This is what happens when you drink too much at social gatherings; you don't put the pieces of the puzzle together until you start inviting people to break turkey with you and you find out who it is they've become. At first, a couple of them converted to vegetarianism, which is fine, there's no meat in pumpkin pie and I just made more green beans. Then came the confession of intolerance, and in Eugene, that means no dairy, no gluten (also known as no joy in life, and it shows). Then the ultimate, which almost felt like a complete betrayal: "We are vegan, and that's with a capital V, thank you very much, pet eater."

I spent almost two days making three versions of each dish to accommodate all of our guests. Mashed potatoes with olive oil and garlic. Sweet potatoes with maple syrup and almond butter. Pumpkin pie with agave and rice flour pastry. I had to buy something with the word "namaste" on it. Did you know that gluten-free rolls are eight bucks a bag? Did you?

And you know what vegans bring to Thanksgiving? Hummus. Hummus and nut crackers, and believe me, when you look at your dining room table and there's 12 tubs of beige shit, it is very clear that you can easily have too much frigging hummus.

In the end, the bathroom was the most popular spot that holiday as the dishes got mixed up (or purposefully ignored) and the dairy-free people ate the real mashed potatoes, a green bean accidentally grazed a piece of dead fowl, and the rolls and the hummus went absolutely untouched. Then someone announced they were allergic to wine and did we have any Martinelli's?

Allergic to wine?

I made a vow then that if we were ever going to host another If there ever was another Thanksgiving, it was simply going to be a platter of Lactaid and Imodium AD.

So when Louise asked us to her house for the holiday, I breathed a sigh of relief. She had just saved me a big trip to the pharmacy and the urge to bludgeon a sulfite-adverse hippie with a wine bottle.

"We'll come to Thanksgiving," I told Louise. "If we can somehow find out how to add meat to pumpkin pie."

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17 comments
Betsy
Betsy

As a dyed in the wool carnivore with many vegan friends I can say it does get a bit tiresome jumping through the many hoops of people's special diets.  I don't see any vegan friends accomodating my possible desire for cheese.  Why does the sensitivity and understanding only go one way?  I don't even eat meat that often.  I find myself only having it once or twice a week.  But after yet another bland meal of lentils, hummus and meatless hot wings I feel compelled to go to a hamburger joint and buy a cheeseburger.  If it's forced on me, I feel the need to rebel against the hokey yoke of a cruelty-free lifestyle.  If left to my own devices without anyone asking, "Are you going to eat that FLESH??" I actually don't eat that much meat.  I just involuntarily find myself rolling my eyes and sighing "Puh-lease" in my head when yet another person waxes poetic about how they are adverse to this, or allergic to that.  People in economically challenged countries I'm sure would love the choices we have for our diet.  I'm sure they wouldn't be horrified at a cheeseburger.

solarama
solarama

I do have a gluten sensitivity. I'm not Celiac, but have another auto-immune disorder, and through a few years of trial & error, found gluten to be a trigger for me. I can eat a bite or two during the holidays of a cookie or sweet, but no more. I also understand that parties and meals don't revolve around me, so if someone asks I will tell them, but assure them I can bring my own crackers and salad if need be (don't eat much meat either), so as not to be an inconvenience, or have a small meal ahead of time. It is unfortunate though when people get offended, as though I am following some new fad and that's the reason I won't eat their famous butter cake. Trust me, if I could I would take that cake home and eat it with my hands :)

veryveg
veryveg

I've been a vegan for two months now, and I've never been happier. I've also never had better food in all my life. If anyone has ever eaten at the Chicago Diner, you know what I'm talking about. Just last night, I enjoyed an entirely cruelty-free vegan thanksgiving meal. Fresh green beans with walnuts, a sweet veggie/fruit salad, squash soup with curry, stuffed tofurkey (the best faux-meat I've ever had), mashed potatoes with lots of gravy, and other delicious sides. It's not as difficult as it seems, and its been a very fun, rewarding transition to a more compassionate lifestyle. Consumers have the right to know where their food comes from and how animals are treated before they reach their plates. This is a good, short video to watch about this topic: MeatVideo.com. Or visit ChooseVeg.com for information on adapting a more compassionate lifestyle.

Jen
Jen

LMAO I cracked up reading this!! While, I do enjoy vegan and vegetarian options even though I also eat meat...this couldn't have made me laugh more...thanks for sharing!!

Jennifer
Jennifer

As a 15+ year vegetarian can I just say..."You crack me up!"  :D  

TT
TT

As a vegetarian, I can absolutely say hummus has no place on the Thanksgiving table, and if that's all your guests can think of to bring, they are really crappy cooks. 

The whole gluten-free thing totally irks me because people claim to have a "sensitivity" when they really are just trying the latest diet fad. It's a slap in the face to those that truly suffer from Celiac's disease.  If eating a plate of spaghetti doesn't land you in the emergency room, shut up already and eat some pie.

Franciekelley
Franciekelley

I am the mother of a child with celiac disease.  This is a chronic autoimmune disorder that requires that you maintain a gluten free diet.  She was diagnosed 13 years ago.  I have hosted Thanksgiving for my family friends maybe 10 or 11 times in those years.  All of our feasts have been 100% gluten free and I have also accommodated other food sensitivities over the years.  Each and every time, no one has gotten sick, the food was delicious, and each holiday was fun filled - not fun free.  I know if you are not used to accommodating special diets it can be a bit overwhelming at first.  But making a huge holiday meal is also overwhelming the first time you do it.  Instead of looking at accommodating special diets at Thanksgiving a chore, you can look at the fact that you are healthy do not need a special diet yourself as one of those thing you can be thankful for. 

Pca2002
Pca2002

My oldest daughter went through the typical vegetarian phase as a young 20 something.  My worst Thanksgiving memory of all time is when we made her a "Tofurkey".  While I didnt want to examine this dyed-brown, plastic looking ball of tofu and rice too closely, I'm convinced further examination would have revealed this thing is some kind of crime against nature.

I'll stick with the fried turkey, extra grease, please.

Willamina Wonka
Willamina Wonka

I recently stopped eating meat, and I totally got fooled by a Gawker article about forming a turkey-shaped mound of lentils and soy as a make-shift turkey. After I realized it was satire and that my eating habits are stupid for a major holiday, I decided I should just eat some damn turkey. Your article has confirmed my decision.

Lori
Lori

 Laurie, I am having a vegan thanksgiving this year and I can tell you it won't include hummus! I'll be making biscuits, gravy, sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, etc. and it will all be amazing and meat/dairy free!!

Betsy
Betsy

This is a comment that makes me want to gag with it's self-rightous hippy dippy nonsense.  Well goody for you, I'm glad you didn't make anyone sick.

Julie Peterson
Julie Peterson

I am definitely thankful for good cooks who prove that sensitivity-sensitive cooking can be fabulous.

When I need to accommodate people, I usually just make a single, super-"special" version of something, or dishes with one ingredient, but I admire Laurie for trying. A lot of people have no idea what grains have gluten and which don't, so they don't serve any complex carbs (which messes up my eating habits), or they conflate vegan and gluten-free somehow (probably because they both complicate cupcakes), which can be a disaster either way . . .

It's less complicated for people who get used to being required to live with it, which is why it's polite and simple to offer to bring a dish or two oneself, IMO. 

guest
guest

Same here.  When I cut out meat and dairy, I put more effort into cooking new recipes, and now I can make an awesome vegan feast.  And I still drink wine, so Thanksgiving is just as fun as ever.

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