Give Thanks — for Veggies — This Thanksgiving

Options for going meatless for the holiday.

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Karolina | Kaboompics

Say “Thanksgiving” to any American, and it instantly conjures up the image of family and friends gathering together around a traditional fall-harvest meal — the cornerstone of which, of course, is a giant roast turkey. But, in 1621, when the Pilgrims of Plymouth celebrated the nation’s first Thanksgiving with a festive fall dinner, turkey may not have been on the menu. (A firsthand account of the meal, written by colonist Edward Winslow, made no explicit mention of the bird.)

And that’s just one of the reasons why we should consider some turkey alternatives this Thanksgiving, says Ethan Brown ’08. Brown is the founder of Beyond Meat, a maker of plant-based proteins that transform veggies like pea and soy, through a heating, cooling, and pressure process, into something that mimics the makeup of real meat. Given a 2009 report that found that the meat industry accounts for 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, the emphasis on plant-based proteins is only expected to grow with time.

“Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on everything that we’re blessed with and everything around us. What is around us is the earth — and [we need to take] care of that earth. A big part of that is to switch from animal meat to plant meat,” Brown says. “What a great way to celebrate that principle by [going meat-free during] Thanksgiving.”

But hosting a vegetarian Thanksgiving doesn’t mean sacrificing taste — or tradition. “It’s entirely possible to have a completely satiating and enjoyable meal without having the actual bird,” says Brown, who’s particularly partial to stuffing and gravy himself.

What if you have trouble winning over any steadfast carnivores in your group?

“We always talk about ‘plant-based meat,’ trying to get consumers to not think about meat as coming from a chicken or turkey or pig, but to think about meat for its composition: the assembly of proteins, fats, and water,” Brown says. “If [Beyond Meat products] can do that in the same architecture, who’s to say that’s not meat?”

Read on for some favorite vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes — recommended by Brown and the editors at Columbia Business School — and don’t forget to make enough for leftovers. “Making different sandwiches out of [them] is really fun.”

Beyond Chicken Apricot and Caper Stuffing

Beyond Chicken Apricot and Caper Stuffing

From The Dirty Hippie & the Bohemian Girl

Cranberry-Apple Relish

Cranberry-Apple Relish

From Sara Alaica

Flaky Biscuits with Beyond Meat Herbed Gravy

Flaky Biscuits with Beyond Meat Herbed Gravy

From The Dirty Hippie & the Bohemian Girl

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

From The Minimalist Baker

Ultimate Vegan Lentil Walnut Loaf

Ultimate Vegan Lentil Walnut Loaf

From Oh She Glows

Beyond Beef Shepherd’s Pie

Beyond Beef Shepherd’s Pie

From The Dirty Hippie & the Bohemian Girl

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash

From Sara Alaica

Lentil and Rice Loaf

Lentil and Rice Loaf

From Forks Over Knives

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