"Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday." This is the first thing Joe Yonan, the food and dining editor of the Washington Post, tells me when I asked him about feeding vegetarians at Thanksgiving. Joe, a vegetarian himself, is in good company. For any of us who live a food-focused life, Thanksgiving — the most food-centric of the holidays — is the one we spend all year waiting for. It's the one time of the year you know with near certainty what will be on every table across the nation. There's a script at play and the opening scene begins with turkey and the final credits end with pumpkin pie.
But how does that traditional menu centered around turkey shift when your table includes vegetarians? For Joe, managing that shift is simple when you consider Thanksgiving a celebration of the season's harvest as well.
"It's easy to put too much emphasis on vegetarians at Thanksgiving," says Joe. "But it's the easiest of all the holiday meals for vegetarians because the focus is already on what's in season. It's not that hard to make vegetable dishes that everyone will want to eat when they're delicious."
So we can be sure there are vegetables and vegetarian-friendly dishes for everyone to eat, but what about a dish that's symbolic of the meal itself?
"As with the turkey, it's nice when there's something that's feels a little bit more intricate and constructed," Joe says. "You want to know the host took you into account and cooked with the same standards they used for everyone else. A dish like Roasted Portobello Mushroom, Pecan, and Chestnut Wellington does double duty because it feels special enough to be a centerpiece, but everyone — omnivores and vegetarians — will enjoy it," he says. "Just make sure the vegetarians have first crack at it."