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Taking Sides: A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

The New York Times food section recently featured a fun face-off between writers Kim Severson and Julia Moskin over what you might call a silly question: What's more important on a Thanksgiving table, the turkey or the side dishes? Moskin wrote an article titled "Show-Off Sides to Rival the Pull of...

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The New York Times food section recently featured a fun face-off between writers Kim Severson and Julia Moskin over what you might call a silly question: What's more important on a Thanksgiving table, the turkey or the side dishes? Moskin wrote an article titled "Show-Off Sides to Rival the Pull of a Drumstick," while Severson insisted that "After the Bird, Everything Else is Secondary."

I'm with Moskin on this one. I'll probably eat a few bites of turkey this Thursday, but I'm much more interested in the side dishes. That's probably because I was a total vegetarian for about a decade—and since my family's not, that usually meant a plateful of sides WAS my main course.

Even though I eat poultry now, I'm conditioned when it comes to Thanksgiving. I've gotten used to earmarking veggie-centric recipes in cookbooks and food magazines, drooling over things like maple-glazed Brussels sprouts or stuffed squash, and simply shrugging while my mother frets over how long to cook the turkey. In the beginning, at her urging, I would prepare some sort of alternative protein-based main for myself: a veggie burger with gourmet cheese, a "nutloaf," even a Tofurkey (not a fan). But I stopped after realizing that this only displaced valuable real estate in my stomach—I'd rather have room for more all those tasty vegetables, and of course, pie!

Courtesy Flickr user Lawrence OP

For those of you who are vegetarians—or will be hosting one—here are a few sources for recipe ideas:

1) Gourmet magazine is no more, sadly, but you can still enjoy its gorgeous online gallery of vegetarian Thanksgiving mains, like potato-kale galette, chickpea-eggplant tarts, and pumpkin stuffed with vegetable stew.

2) The Washington Post's food blog, All You Can Eat, has a great post today on vegetarian entrees for the holidays.

3) Ever since I saw Molly Wizenberg's recipe for Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding in Bon Appetit magazine, I've been dreaming of how good it will taste on our Thanksgiving table this week. You can find more vegetarian recipes in the recipe index of her lovely blog, Orangette—a few of my favorites include her dreamy white beans, cream-braised brussels sprouts and French-style warm lentil salad.

4) Blogger Leigh Angel's "Veggie Might" column rounds up some classic Thanksgiving sides, like sweet potato casserole, and includes an original recipe for roasted winter squash and kale. She also has some interesting etiquette tips for hosts, such as this: Make sure there's plenty for everyone. Carnivores may be so attracted to the novelty of fake meat that they don't leave enough for the actual vegetarians! (In my experience, not a problem with Tofurkey; my family members looked genuinely afraid of it.)

5) The vegetarian recipe index at 101 Cookbooks, one of my favorite food blogs, includes treats like roasted corn pudding in acorn squash, double broccoli quinoa, and orange pan-glazed tempeh.

And I'm sure you all have some great ideas to share, too...let's hear 'em!
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About Amanda Bensen

Amanda Bensen is a former assistant editor at Smithsonian and is now a senior editor at the Nature Conservancy.

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