How does a vegetarian celebrate Turkey Day?

I’ve been a vegetarian for a stupidly long time. And stupidly is the right word choice here; I do not recommend it. I mean, if you are one for animal rights reasons or health reasons and it’s working out, that’s totally valid.*  But I am a vegetarian because I was a picky child. That’s it. My picky-ness just had a name that I liked saying to lunch ladies to make them think I was a smart six-year-old (we vegetarians are a notoriously snobby people), and I never grew out of it. Now, I spend a lot of time in dive bars surrounded by burgers and I love the smell of Dome Dogs, but if I try to eat meat I become immediately ill. After 24 years, my vegetarianism is essentially a food allergy.

Luckily, being a vegetarian has not interfered with my favorite past time: eating. There are so many delicious options out there for someone with an eclectic palate (I just pinned a recipe for kale quinoa pilaf and I am legit excited by it; how do I even have any friends). The world at large and the Cities in miniature are becoming more veggie-friendly. My friends and family are more or less used to me saying “Can I get that without bacon?” But there is this one time of year where it gets just a wee bit annoying.

This. This is that time. The week before Thanksgiving. People will talk about Thanksgiving or “Turkey Day” plans, and then shoot the vegetarian a look of pity. I call it the “Sad Turkey Side-Eye.”  Honestly, I don’t really think I’m missing out because Thanksgiving involves about fourteen side-dishes I can eat, and do (and how!). Also pie. So much pie. When I get the Sad Turkey Side-Eye, I find it best to respond with “I Will Be Eating Your Share Of Pie While You Are Taking an L-Tryptophan Nap” smirk.

I’d also just like to state, for the record, that I’ve never had Tofurkey.  I actually don’t know (or remember) what turkey tastes like. But I will not go near Tofurkey out of fear that it will taste like tofu, which I only enjoy if it’s completely masked by foods that taste like actual food.

tofurky package

If this looks appetizing to you, seek help.

Again, I’m totally cool just eating grandma’s jello salad and mom’s sweet potatoes and everyone’s pie. I am not missing out and neither, really, are the other vegetarians.**

Here’s the thing: Thanksgiving is not about turkey. It’s not even about pie. It’s about giving thanks for what we have, and I sure have a lot: a nice job, great family, wonderful friends, sweet apartment, lovely life, and the ability to turn my nose up at proffered food. This last one gets to me, particularly at this time of year, which is why I’m doing the Walk To End Hunger again this year. Thanksgiving morning, my mother and I will be up at the crack of dawn*** walking around the Mall of America. The funds we raise will be split among 12 local hunger charities.

Walk To End Hunger Logo

Half of us have far too much to eat on this one day, I am more than happy to continue; but let’s make sure every Minnesotan has enough to eat every day.

So how does a vegetarian celebrate Turkey Day? By confronting every Sad Turkey Side-Eye with a link to my fundraising page. By giving thanks. By Walking to End Hunger. And by eating the hell out of some pie.

*Unless you are a vegan. That is just crazy.
**Vegans are, though. Vegans are missing out on life.
***7 a.m. is the crack of dawn on holidays; also vegans are the worst.

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The day after World Food Day and #bad2011

Yesterday was both World Food Day and Blog Action Day; probably it would have made more sense for me to write what I’m about to yesterday — but after an especially disturbing Vikings loss it seemed like a better choice to put it off and cheer myself up with Beverly Hills Cop.

Procrastination, football, and Eddie Murphy aside, I actually did make an effort to mark World Food Day: I volunteered at another special food packing session for the horn of Africa at Feed My Starving Children.  I brought along four friends who absolutely made my day by joining me, and the whole group of 103 volunteers packed enough food to feed 55 children for a year – in two hours.  That is completely amazing and I’m so proud to work with that group.

However.

Over 30,000 children have died in the past few months in the Horn of Africa, and over 13 million are in crisis.  I can’t even comprehend that kind of loss and suffering in the “read about it in the history books” kind of way — but this is happening right now.

Sorry if you find this PSA offensive, I know not everyone likes Bono. (cheap shot)

But really. F*** FAMINE.  No matter your religion, politics, or nationality, if you are a human living on this planet, you need to care about this.  And you need to get involved in whatever way you can.

I’m going to keep dragging my (wonderful, amazing) friends to Feed My Starving Children.  I’m going to keep writing about this for all six of my “fans.” And I’m also going to keep volunteering locally — we may not have a famine, but hunger is a problem in every part of the world.

Which is why I just did this.

Walk to End Hunger logo

It was a rash decision to sign up for this, and once again my memorized credit card number has come into play late in the evening, but I think it’s a good thing for once.  Besides, Thanksgiving is usually just the holiday where all of my friends and family make jokes about Tofurkey at my expense.  I’m fighting poverty and hunger on my holiday time; TRY AND TEASE ME NOW, TURKEYS.

Well.  I absolutely can’t end on that note, so let’s pretend I’m not mean to the people who love and support me and am actually more like Mother Teresa, who said:

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”