You'd have thought I said I was a terrorist or mass murderer from the reaction I got from friends. It wasn't that I said I was going to blow up the Empire State Building or the post office. My crime? I said I was looking forward to having a vegan Thanksgiving.

Everyone gasped as if I'd said I were a spy for the Russians. Turncoat. How un-American.

Well, I too may have thought that at one time, having extremely fond memories of turkey, mashed potatoes and sausage dressing filling the kitchen on Thanksgiving. That was our family tradition. Had been for 50-some years.

But now my daughter has turned her attention to organic farming and is herself vegan, which means she doesn't eat any animal products. No dairy, no eggs, no meat. I looked forward to having her cook. Not getting up early to chop celery, fry the sausage, slice onions, toast the bread and mix the spices for the dressing and hefting a 20-pound bird around to stuff it, I could relax and let her do all the work.

My daughter Brooke came home with a large yellow flat of squash and vegetables that put the normal cornucopia to shame. Delicata, acorn and spaghetti squashes, onions, garlic and greens filled the kitchen with abundance.

The menu featured acorn squash stuffed with bread cubes, pine nuts, onion, garlic and spices. Brooke also stuffed a large pumpkin-like squash with a variation on the same theme. The view into the oven was mouth-watering, orange and colorful.

We still had mashed potatoes, using soy milk rather than cow's milk. The gravy was made of tasty mushrooms. For a salad, we had fresh greens with red onions, sliced pears and pecans.

At the last minute, I realized I didn't have any of the poppy-seed dressing I liked for that salad. "Brooke, what can we do for dressing?" I asked "Just mix up some balsamic vinegar with maple syrup." What?

That sounded downright weird. But, I couldn't believe how delicious it was.

For dessert we had huckleberry tarts with berries we'd picked in summer. Instead of butter, we used Earth Balance, a vegan type of margarine.

The switch came easily for my family because everything was so delectable.

As I began worrying about overcoming bronchitis, I went to Dr. Edwin Gibbs in Seaside on the recommendation of a neighbor. He's a chiropractor and acupuncturist who uses Chinese medicine and other techniques for natural healing. For bronchitis, his advice was to do lung exercises. Cut out sugar, dairy, alcohol and eat organic foods.

No big deal, I thought, until I realized he also meant cutting out caffeine. There went my four-cup-a-day habit of the magic dark brown elixir. The morning coffee, the afternoon cups of tea and lattes. In fact it took me several weeks to embrace the thought of facing the morning without that instant jump-start.

Over time, I came to enjoy the nutritious sips of Inka, a barley, chicory and beet root brew that has some nutritional value to start the day.

Organic brown rice, beans and kale replaced turkey sandwiches. Herbal tea replaced black tea. A pear replaced brownies.

By the time Christmas rolled around, my family was happy to eat the vegan treats. Brooke and I made pies and sweet rolls, using soy milk. We had the traditional turkey, but with the addition of stuffed squash and other vegan dishes. Everyone was satisfied.

You've probably heard it before, but the amazing thing about eating healthy organic foods is your cravings go away. Now when I eat sugar, I tend to clench my teeth, feel an urge to eat more unhealthy food. I begin to feel anxious. When we eat nutritious food, our bodies respond with a feeling of satisfaction.

We can continue traditions and still form our own innovative trademarks. Now my family looks forward to a vegan Thanksgiving.

I admit I'm still working on these changes, it takes time and planning - a kind of vigilance.

For St. Patrick's Day, maybe I'll make a vegan stew with potatoes, onions and carrots and have some sauerkraut on the side with homemade spelt bread.

- S.E.C.

Sue Cody is deputy managing editor of The Daily Astorian.


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