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No Turkey, No Problem: A vegetarian provides some meatless alternatives for your Thanksgiving feast 

Meatless alternatives for a vegetarian feast.

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I love Thanksgiving.

How odd, you may think, for a vegetarian to love a holiday that encourages the mass slaughtering of millions of innocent turkeys. Well, I'm sorry, but I hate turkeys. On the other hand, I'm also not evil, so I don't want them to die.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday primarily because I'm partial to any day of the year on which you may consume as much food as humanly possible without having to face any judgment. (Not surprisingly, the Super Bowl is my second favorite holiday.)

It may also be the last remaining holiday that doesn't require you to buy stuff (aside from delicious food) in order to celebrate. You don't need presents, or costumes, or chocolates, or fireworks or anything else to celebrate like a real 'merican.

I think another reason that I love Thanksgiving is that it is also my dad's favorite holiday. So it was much to his chagrin when I announced my intentions never to dine on another winged friend for the rest of my days. There was wailing, there was gnashing of teeth and there most certainly was the reoccurring nightmare of Tofurky.

Lucky for my dad, Tofurky is gross. Oh! What's that you say? You've never had Tofurky? Well, here is what you're missing: tofu that has been compressed around weird rice faux stuffing, by what I can only assume is a bowling ball-making machine (if, indeed, such a machine exists). This delightful tofu ball is then doused with so much salt that you'll feel as if you've been drinking salt water for a month after one bite.

The disgustingness of Tofurky, however, raises a very important question. If you don't eat turkey, and you don't love eating things that taste terrible, what do you have for a main dish at Thanksgiving?

Of course, we all know that the side dishes alone at Thanksgiving are enough to feed an entire army of Orcs, but a main dish sets the tone for the rest of the meal. It acts as the focal point around which all the other dishes congregate. And it signals to your Orc army what type of wine and side dishes they should bring. In other words, the main dish is the rug that really ties the room together, dude.

Alternatives to Thanksgiving entrees can be a bit tricky, because you don't want to end up feeling like you're just eating a goulash of your side dishes, but you also want the main dish to marry well with the sides. There is also the perception of comfort and simplicity that surrounds Thanksgiving food, so you don't need to prepare something gourmet for this holiday.

So here are a few main dish ideas that I think fit all of the criteria, and that should be relatively easy to make, given that I have made all of them and I have also nearly cut my finger off twice while cooking.

The first is an asparagus, leek and mushroom lasagna. This recipe was featured in Bon Appetite (which I'm pretty sure is French for "Food Porn") and is a great option for a smaller Thanksgiving dinner, as it can be baked and served individually - which makes everyone feel special and not sad that they can't have a giant dead bird.

The second dish is stuffed pumpkin. I like this dish because it is reminiscent of a Thanksgiving turkey - only without gizzards and necks and giblets. It also provides a beautiful focal point for your table. There are tons of recipes for stuffed pumpkin, but whatever you choose, I recommend throwing a little veggie sausage in your stuffing for protein. But hell, I'm not coming to your house for Thanksgiving, so do what you want.

The last dish is a vegetarian shepherd's or potpie. These types of dishes are hearty and comforting. Add mushrooms or sneak in a little tofu (obviously as part of the larger vegetarian plot to turn all carnivores into tofu-loving sissies) for protein, keeping the rest of the ingredients fairly traditional. Since shepherd's pie has a mashed potato top, you may want to substitute a side, like baked squash or yams.

Good luck with all your Thanksgiving celebrations. I hope that you have a lot to be thankful for. And I hope that no one at your Thanksgiving forgets to bring dessert and makes your mom say the "F" word.


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