Should We Forgo Turkey on Thanksgiving? And Why?

You may think that a plant-based Thanksgiving is a blasphemy, and see no reason why we should give up the tradition of eating a turkey, replacing it with a stuffed pumpkin, tofurky, or whatever, but please hear me out.

As much as we like to stick to traditional way of doing things, and protest against changing anything for the sake of TRADITION—the most important criteria for keeping a tradition should be how well those traditions are serving us TODAY, knowing what we know, being who we are RIGHT NOW.

The most important criteria for keeping or changing a tradition should be—how well those traditions are serving us TODAY, knowing what we know, being who we are RIGHT NOW.

And right now our planet is in trouble. Scientists say we are heading towards planetary breakdown, and even if we ended fossil fuels today, our food system alone would send us over 1.5 degrees Celsius warming, with animal agriculture being the worst offender*.

With 8 billion of people in the world, and 80 billion of land animals and trillions of sea animals killed each year; we truly have a huge sustainability problem on our hands, and even switching to “free-range,” “cage-free,” “organic” meat and dairy, as some propose, will only make the matter worse.

Turkeys do not smile very much! Dang they have no reason, especially on Thanksgiving!

So, back to Thanksgiving.

It is generally believed that in 1621, the Pilgrims invited Wampanoag Indians to a feast in Plymouth Colony to celebrate their first harvest with turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.

Well, maybe it happened like that, but from what we know today, probably not.

Traditions that relate to certain events in the past often bear little resemblance to the actual events—and it’s okay.

FACT: Thanksgiving as we know it was created by ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ author—not the Pilgrims

Sarah Josepha Hale – does that name mean anything to you?

You may not have heard of her, but she is the woman who created Thanksgiving as we now celebrate it.

This may come as a surprise to you, because it’s a little known fact, but without Sarah Jessica Hale there would be no Thanksgiving as we know it.

Without Sarah Josepha Hale—later known as “the Mother of Thanksgiving”—there would be no turkey on the table, no gravy, no cranberry sauce, and no pumpkin pie.

Most importantly, there would be no Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

She was the one who conceived the idea, and then shaped the entire celebration—complete with putting together the menu items and the recipes that are now familiar to everyone across North America and beyond.

Yes, festive thanksgiving dinners were celebrated around the country, but not necessarily on the same day and not necessarily with the same food, and they were not given in the celebration of the 1621 feast.

It was Sarah Josepha Hale, an author, poet and magazine editor, a feminist, and an influential woman of her time (and the author of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) who conceived the idea of the thanksgiving celebration and making it into a national holiday.

She had a VISION, and she CONSISTENTLY and TIRELESSLY WORKED toward fulfillment of that vision. She wrote letters and articles, spoke to people, sent petitions to politicians and presidents—until they listened.

She wrote not one, not two letters—but probably dozens, maybe even hundreds. She did that not for a week or a month, but over the period of many years.

In fact, for forty years, she lobbied any and all politicians she could, ultimately appealing to President Lincoln himself.

She kept doing it, even though probably at the beginning nobody listened to her. But she had not stopped … until it worked.

Finally, in the summer of 1863, on the heels of the decisive battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, President Lincoln granted her wish declaring Thanksgiving a national holiday.

And Sarah Josepha Hale knew exactly how this holiday celebration should look like. In her 1823 novel ‘Northwood; or, a Tale of New England’, she devoted an entire chapter to one such dinner, describing it in much detail, complete with roast turkey, gravy, and pumpkin pie.

As a result of her commitment, her passion, her belief, she single-handedly accomplished a huge goal influencing the lives of millions. She created one of the biggest holiday traditions—Thanksgiving as we know it—which bears little resemblance to the original celebration.

Ironically, apart from the food that is served during this holiday, today’s Thanksgiving bears little resemblance to Sarah Josepha Hale’s vision, either. The rather solemn celebration, that was about giving thanks, helping the poor and feeding the homeless, turned into a thanksgiving extravaganza, complete with the Macy’s Day Parade, football games galore, and enough food wasted to sink a ship.

What Was Done – Can be Un-Done

Unfortunately, what Hale had created with good intentions is hurtful for the animals, for people, and our planet. As a result of her work, commitment, and passion millions of animals are bread every year for the sole purpose of being killed, baked and served as a centerpiece on the Thanksgiving table–while people gather around to celebrate and give thanks.

Unfortunately, that’s her legacy.

Quite depressing, really. Tragic, even.

So why do I even talk about it?

Because what she did – can be undone.

Today, we can create NEW TRADITIONS.

Traditions that are just and COMPASSIONATE, truly HUMANE and JOYFUL.

Traditions that don’t require hurting anyone and don’t damage our planet.

Today, it’s time for new Thanksgiving traditions.

Traditions that are about giving thanks, being gentle and compassionate towards all beings.

If you think that’s impossible, that it will be an affront to the original Thanksgiving celebration that took place in 1621—think again.

The way we celebrate this holiday has very little to do with what the original celebration looked like, and everything to do with a vision of one influential woman, whom we know little about today.

It’s okay to shape new traditions. It’s okay to change traditions. Sarah Josepha Hale taught us how.

That’s the positive part of her legacy.

We can follow in her footsteps—with DETERMINATION, COMMITMENT, and PASSION—to re-invent the Thanksgiving tradition, as well as other traditions around the globe.

And this stuffed pumpkin recipe is a good start.

stuffed pumpkins


According to the IPCC, the food sector is responsible for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. The report states that “food sector emissions alone could add nearly 1°C to global warming by 2100” 1The foods with the highest methane emissions are ruminant meat like beef and lamb, dairy products and also rice, accounting for 75 percent of the projected damage 1.

The report also suggests that reducing meat consumption could be an effective way to mitigate and adapt to climate change 2A study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, found that phasing out all animal agriculture has the potential to substantially alter the trajectory of global warming 3.



Stuffed Pumpkin As The New Thanksgiving Centerpiece

If you’re thinking about a plant-based Thanksgiving, you absolutely deserve a showstopping centerpiece for their main course, and this stuffed pumpkin recipe fit the bill perfectly.

Now you too can make a fuss around the centerpiece of the table, discuss cooking techniques, stuffings and their our secret method, and finally stop feeling like we’re missing out on something. Filled with delicious goodness, will have everybody asking for seconds!

The first time you pull a roasted pumpkin from your oven is transformative. Its fragrance drifting through the house will bring neighbors sniffing to your door. The whole squash looks handsome and autumnal on your table. And then you actually taste it. You take off the cap and scoop a spoonful of tender pumpkin and salty, creamy stuffing, and your eyes widen. You make a mental note to feed this to everyone you know.

It’s that kind of dish. Worthy of a Thanksgiving feast, or the most festive Holiday dinner. And it’s 100% plant-based.

There are many versions of the stuffed pumpkin (or squash) recipe, so take your pick.

A Wonderful Main Dish for Thanksgiving & Holiday Table: Roasted Pumpkin With Stuffing

So this year why not step things up and try this impressive dish. Something that is large, heavy and almost can’t fit into the oven. Something that involves carving and stuffing. Something that makes everybody say oooohh and aaaahh, when carried to the table. A salad rarely evokes that kind of reactions. But a large pumpkin does. Especially when it is brimming with delicious goodness.

Pumpkins are so versatile, the things you can do with them are endless! If you’ve never cooked one before, you’re in for a real treat.  Plenty of chefs have their own spin on stuffed pumpkin. The essential truth is that if you take a good pumpkin, hollow it out and fill it with some combination of herbs, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, bread, and any other delicious, savory thing you like, and then bake it in the oven, you will end up with something over-the-top wonderful to serve to your friends.

There is no need to be intimidated by the size of this vegetable – if you’ve ever made a jack-o’-lantern, you have the skills to prepare this dish and make it into a stunning centerpiece that it deserves to be.

Pumpkins vary greatly in size and thickness of flesh, so cooking times and the amount of stuffing that fits in the cavity will be approximate. The recipe and cooking method are forgiving and adaptable. heck the pumpkin flesh with a knife from time to time and stir around the stuffing with a spoon. When the filling is bubbling and the pumpkin flesh is tender when pierced, it is ready.

Wild Rice & Vegetable Stuffed Pumpkin

•    1 lb. wild rice blend (or white/brown rice)
•    2 lb. fresh spinach, stemmed
•    ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
•    6 cups sliced button mushrooms (1 ½ lb.)
•    1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
•    1 cup diced celery
•    9 cloves garlic, minced, divided (3 Tbs.)
•    3 Tbs. chopped fresh sage, divided
•    4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, divided
•    2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
•    1 ½ cups cooked kidney beans, or 1 15-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
•    1 cup chopped toasted pecans
•    1 6- to 8-lb. cooking pumpkin

1. Prepare rice according to package directions. Transfer to bowl.
2. Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in bottom of skillet. Add spinach, and cook 4 minutes, or until wilted. Drain, and cool, then squeeze dry, chop, and add to rice in bowl.
3. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onion, celery, 4 tsp. garlic, 1 Tbs. sage, and 2 tsp. thyme; cook for 10 minutes, or until all liquid has evaporated. Stir in corn and kidney beans, and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Stir mushroom mixture into rice mixture. Fold in pecans, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cut top from pumpkin, and scoop out seeds and pulp.
5. Combine remaining 1/4 cup oil, remaining 5 tsp. garlic, 2 Tbs. sage, and 2 tsp. thyme in bowl. Brush oil mixture over inside of pumpkin. Fill pumpkin with rice mixture, cover with top, and bake 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until pumpkin is tender when side is pierced with knife tip. Uncover, and bake 10 to 20 minutes more.

Serves 12