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A Bird-Free Thanksgiving Feast

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A Bird-Free Thanksgiving Feast

I love birds. I love to see them flying by, perching on branches, trotting across a meadow. Seeing one in a roasting pan or splayed out on a Thanksgiving platter? Not as much.

But the thing about a holiday turkey is that it is the iconic symbol which screams “festive!” “tradition!” “abundance!” It’s the centerpiece of the table, the flashy dish for which all sides revolve around. Can you have a Thanksgiving feast without a big bird in the midst of it all?

Yes, yes you can. And the scheme doesn’t have to involve a tofu turkey. (Although I am truly charmed by the concept of faux fowl, I’ve just never taken the leap from amusement to tofu turkey on the table.) A meal providing a parade of pretty side dishes will hardly miss a turkey–but you can also make a stately non-avian main course to take center stage. We’ve featured a few feast-worthy vegetarian main dishes over the years, each of them gratitude-inducing in their own ways:

Pumpkin Tamales with Cherry Mole
Acorn Squash with Jeweled Wild Rice
Spicy Sweet Potato Patties with White Bean Stew

I have made all of these, and can attest to their crowd-pleasing capacity; ooohs will happen. But I have to say I have little power to resist a recipe from Gourmet magazine, Roasted Pumpkin Cheese Fondue. As is, it’s on the gooey heavy side, but I have played around with it a bit making it a little lighter, click on for the recipe.

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Read more: All recipes, Entrees, Food, Holidays, Life, Thanksgiving, Vegan, Vegetarian, , , , , , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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8:49AM PST on Nov 23, 2011

This sounds very strange but I'd try some.

4:35AM PST on Nov 22, 2011

Thanks for the great recipe. Agree with Sheri, it's easy & fun to have a "bird free" Thanksgiving..

2:17PM PST on Nov 9, 2011

wings are for flying not frying

8:05PM PST on Nov 8, 2011

Awesome! If only I was one of those vegetarians who love to cook! But, I haven't the patience....I need a vegetarian cook..I really do. I do make a delicious veg sage dressing with veg boullion and great mashed garlic potatoes, and traditional fruit salad...otherwise, it's Tofurkey or VEGECYBER for this year.

7:51AM PDT on Mar 20, 2011

thanks for sharing

3:31AM PST on Jan 23, 2011


1:39AM PST on Dec 26, 2010

This is great article

1:39AM PST on Dec 26, 2010

This is great article

4:46PM PST on Dec 2, 2010

Great idea! Don't like turkey anyway!

7:27PM PST on Nov 29, 2010

It is TOTALLY easy to have a "bird free" Thanksgiving. In place of turkey, I love to make a casserole from stuffing mix and mock turkey slices. I don't think I have ever had turkey for Thanksgiving in all my 40 years...and I've never missed it.

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