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The story of the first ever Thanksgiving dinner is so shrouded in mystery as to be almost a legend. We do not know exactly how roast turkey earned its “place of honour” on the table during the traditional American celebration held in November. The letters and records of the first American settlers reveal that when in 1621 they sat down to eat with the Indians of Wampanoag, the menu consisted of beef and poultry; a letter from the pilgrim Edward Winslow also describes a turkey hunt that took place shortly before that meal.
What we do know for sure is that, ever since then, roast turkey with stuffing has become an authentic icon of United States cuisine, starting from the home-made versions based on family recipes, to the gourmet renderings by international celebrity chefs, with turkey being identified worldwide as the symbol of Thanksgiving. Suffice it to say that an estimated number of 254 million turkeys were served up for the 2013 feast: a figure which certainly confirms the success of this dish but has also led followers of a vegetarian or vegan diet to identify new ways of celebrating a turkey-free Thanksgiving. In fact, for those keen on sticking to a cruelty-free diet, changing the rules of a century-old tradition does not at all amount to reneging the past, but consists in searching for new ways of celebrating an historical event and giving it a fresh contemporary meaning.
Numerous activities have been organized by associations intent on promoting an ethical diet: starting from one of the most publicized in which Sir Paul McCartney plays an important role in supporting the slogan “Say no thanks to turkey!”. One of the most interesting new ideas has been presented by the New York Times in its online section of Well magazine: it invites readers to submit their own recipes for celebrating a Vegetarian Thanksgiving, together with photos and a story explaining the reasons for their choice. “Did you discover your favorite vegetarian stuffing recipe when your teenager quit eating meat?”, the NYTimes prompts: “Did you decide to go vegan after an illness or perhaps a New Year’s resolution? Did a family health issue like celiac disease or a food allergy change the makeup of your Thanksgiving table?”. The editors will select the most significant stories in order to create an online vegan and vegetarian Thanksgiving recipe book which serves to outline a new image of the American dining tradition associated with Thanksgiving: in a country which, without ignoring the importance of this feast with its connotations of sharing and conviviality, is increasingly oriented towards a lifestyle that embraces vegetarianism and veganism.
Fine Dining Lovers provides you with an easy recipe for a tasty tofurkey roll with mushrooms. Of course, for those unable or unwilling to slave over a hot stove, for some time now the market has come up with ready-made alternatives such as “tofurkey”: a tofu-wheat protein blend roast complete with stuffing that indulges a nostalgic longing for stuffed carved roasts and gladdens the most convinced vegetarians. The same Tofurky brand also promotes the Tofurky Trot marathon, scheduled to take place simultaneously in Pasadena and Portland next 27 November.