By Lyndsey Hafer-Williams
“The Liberal Lesbian Vegan Asheville Aunts Go to Thanksgiving Dinner” is always a can’t miss show, but this year it was Oscar-worthy. As it’s our second plant based Thanksgiving, my wife, Lori and I were packing plants and munching kale as we happily arrived on my sister-in-law’s doorstep. We were locked and loaded with the entire CFDG Thanksgiving Plant Fueled Meal Plan ( #givethanks18 ) perched precariously in our arms. We may have been novices last year, but this time we were ready. We were full of plant based knowledge and a healthy dose of B12. We were armed with information and a wealth of facts. We were hopped up on hope for humanity and filled with the spirit. Let the games begin!
We were welcomed with cheers of delight and open arms. You would think after 12 years of this Production we wouldn’t be such a novelty to our conservative yet loving family, but here we are. As we happily joined the chaos (and by that I mean Lori tossed me all the food and made a beeline to the football game while I tottered into the crowded kitchen juggling everything from tofu cutlets to plant based pumpkin pie) I could hear the comments building…
Notorious MIL threw down the opening gauntlet hard and fast: “I know for a fact you ate everything in sight when you went to Paris, so I know y’all are going to eat some of this here turkey!” My SIL immediately followed up with: “Now, mama, leave her alone. You can plainly see she’s gained weight and you know how hard she’s trying to stay on her diet.” Then an older set of great aunts joined in the conversation with these gems: “I just don’t understand why you have to be homosexual AND vegan. Isn’t one thing enough?” And: “This world is going to Hell in a handbasket, but before it does I need the cheese grater…” I could feel the plastered smile on my face beginning to crack as I started a major hunt for the wine. Where in the hell was the corkscrew? With wine found and a big glass securely fastened in each hand, I casually slipped out of the cackling hen party and joined the men (and Lori) in the living room. I believe the discussion meandered around such fascinating topics as roofing, fan belts, heating costs, and Christmas tree lights. I’m not really sure, as my ears pretty much went numb somewhere between a serious discussion on the merits of a particular socket wrench and a new water heater. I continued to smile as I politely backed out of the room.
I checked my watch, we were scheduled to eat at noon, it was currently fast approaching three. Right on time. I took a deep, cleansing breath and spoke lovingly to my hungry tummy about patience and of the delectable things to come. Both wine glasses drained, I wandered into my teenage niece’s room and was fully schooled on Taylor Swift, cosplay, and the merits of living art as necessary to modern civilization. After spending an eternity swimming in the depths of angsty young adulthood, I heard my sweet little nephew in the next room. I surreptitiously unlocked my jaw, unrolled my eyes, and decided to go read a book to him. That’s what a cool aunt does, right? Maybe Charlotte’s Web or The Hardy Boys? I don’t know what kids read these days, but something, anything, to bring a little holiday cheer and buoy my sagging spirits.
I was hit with a flying stuffed monkey and a neon green ball the moment I walked in the door. I think the word “Nerf” might be permanently emblazoned upon my cheek. I was knocked down into a giant bean bag with a game controller promptly shoved into my hands accompanied by a zillion word monologue on rules of some sort. Was this an Atari? I play a mean Ms. PAC MAN! Apparently, it was a video game where we randomly blew up shit, hunted down bad guys, and perilously searched for hidden points attached to assault weapons. I was drained. My 45- year-old brain was already soft from The Menopause and I wasn’t sure how much more of this alarming nonsense I, or my liberal sensibilities, could handle.
Once free from horrifying war games, I put on my best toothy grin and headed back into the kitchen for a couple of aspirin and to heat up our food. Confession: I already knew how everything was going to taste because Lori and I had eaten our first Thanksgiving meal for breakfast. We’re extra special like that.
It started out as just a slice (or two) of the wickedly good Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Topping and then, like a pile of toppled dominos, everything came tumbling out of the fridge and into our eagerly awaiting mouths. The Rosemary-Maple Roasted Brussels and Butternut Squash had called me by name and I answered like the addict I am. The combination of sweet squash and savory Brussels blew the top of my head off with taste sensations. And, oh great gods! The Holiday Meatloaf with Peppered White Gravy was so fucking hearty I’m confident that it would satisfy a burly longshoreman for a week. Holy shit. When paired with the Green Beans Almondine and Orange-Infused Cranberry Sauce it was out of this world mouthgasmic! The Cauliflower Mac n Cheese was so creamy, dreamy, and succulent that it hit every sweet spot and scratched every itch that I had.
Lori and I also had a hissy fit over the Savory Stove-Top Stuffing and ate four helpings between us. (By the way, in the South, it is called “dressing” and would be considered the height of heresy to call it by any other name. And, as we all know, I cannot be a lesbian, a vegan, AND say “stuffing,” or I would risk complete exile. Talk about the last straw. But I digress…)
Back to our Thanksgiving dinner shenanigans…
As we all gathered round the big table, I heard various loud, passionate, and heated conversations surrounding religion, current events, and politics. There may’ve been possible fisticuffs between two uncles of different generations, but I tried not to look. Lori caught my eye from across the room and vigorously shook her head. Shit. I knew what that meant. She was silently beseeching me to keep my mouth shut, stay calm, breathe, and not get worked up. I also noticed she was frantically looking for my wine glass which meant she was genuinely very worried that I might cause a scene. My FIL (who had removed his hearing aids for some unknown reason) and brothers-in-law were gesturing wildly at this point, and even the cats had ganged up on the poor obese dog. I’m pretty sure they were fat shaming him.
But then, as we all sat down, something beautiful happened as it always does within my diverse, hysterical, looney-tune, Southern family. We gave thanks. As cliché as it sounds, it is my favorite time of the entire holiday season. We get quiet. We listen to one another. We go around the table and each give voice to the simple gratitude that we have for each other, our lives, our loves, and for the deep beliefs we hold dear. We each place our hand in the one offered next to us and say a prayer of thanksgiving. Simply, we come together. Old, young, male, female, gay, straight, conservative, liberal, Christian, agnostic, omnivore, herbivore, introvert, extrovert, healthy, and differently-abled. We closely connect. We hold each other up. We open our hearts. We love. Then someone farts. Possibly me. The sacred moment passes and we laugh uproariously, riotously chattering all at once, as we dig into a big, beautiful, blessed feast of fabulous food. They even tried some tofu cutlets. And if that ain’t a holiday miracle, I don’t know what is!
Lyndsey, my heart is now warm and fuzzy. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your world.
Do you have a family that isn’t always on the same page? How do you find common ground during the holidays? Talk to us in the comments below!
Sweet Potato Chocolate Pudding with Nut Crumble Topping (plant based)
Sweet Potato Chocolate Pudding with Nut Crumble Topping
Makes about 2 cups
Sweet Potato Chocolate Pudding Ingredients
- 4 cups chopped sweet potato, leave the skin on (515g / about 1 large sweet potato / 1-inch chop)
- 4 dates, pitted and left whole
- 1/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (60ml)
- 1/4 cup raw cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder (25g)
- 2 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon tahini
- pinch of salt
- Nut crumble topping (recipe below)
Nut Crumble Ingredients
- 1/4 cup raw nuts or seeds of your choice (about 35g / pecans, walnuts or almonds work well, and if you have a nut allergy, sunflower seeds will work)
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped dates (40g)
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Sweet Potato Chocolate Pudding Instructions
Place the sweet potato and dates into a medium-sized pot and cover with 2 cups of water (470ml) water (make sure to take the pits out of the dates). Turn the heat to medium, place a lid on the pot, and set a timer for 15 minutes. Make the Nut Crumble while your potatoes / dates are cooking.
Transfer the sweet potatoes and dates to a strainer and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
Add the cooked sweet potato and dates to your food processor, along with the milk, cacao powder, maple syrup, tahini and salt. Process until super creamy and smooth and allow to cool before you store in the fridge.
Serve the chilled Pudding with some Nut Crumble sprinkled on top.
Nut Crumble Instructions
Place all of the ingredients into your food processor and process until the nuts and dates are a small, crumbly texture.
Store in sealed container in the refrigerator.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with coming together and connecting beyond the surface.