RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now to this side of the Atlantic, where many of us will be fighting off a very different urge - trying to pace ourselves through the annual gorge-fest that is the Thanksgiving dinner. Friends and family will gather round various dinner tables around the country. And if you happen to be in charge of the meal, there can be a lot of pressure. After all, people have a lot of expectations about what actually ends up on the table on Turkey Day. And these days, you could have at least one vegetarian on your guest list. And you wouldn't want to end up with criticism like this:
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING")
PEPPERMINT PATTY: What's this? A piece of toast? A pretzel stick? Popcorn? What blockhead cooked all this?
MARTIN: That, of course, is Peppermint Patty. That blockhead in Charlie Brown. She's complaining about her vegetarian meal in "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving." So, we don't want this to happen to you. To avoid that kind of dinner table outrage from meat eaters and vegetarians, we called up Dan Pashman. He's the host of The Sporkful, a food podcast and blog. He's at our New York Bureau. Hey, Dan.
DAN PASHMAN: Hi, Rachel.
MARTIN: OK. So, you've looked into this issue, how we can accommodate our vegetarian friends and family at Thanksgiving. I mean, this is not exactly a holiday that vegetarians look forward to, I imagine.
PASHMAN: Well, actually, that's not what I found, Rachel. The vegetarians I spoke with made it pretty clear that they don't need your sympathy.
PASHMAN: And some told me that it actually makes them feel uncomfortable when a host goes through extreme lengths to make something special just for them. I spoke to Laura Anderson. She is the food and drinks editor at Slate. She's a vegetarian, and also happens to be my friend. And here's what she told me.
LAURA ANDERSON: To me, the essence of Thanksgiving is not in the turkey itself. It's in having, like, a ton of dishes all together, way more food that you can eat, the promise of leftovers, a plate in which you have probably six or seven dishes all sharing room on the same plate.
PASHMAN: Many vegetarians I interviewed echoed her sentiments, that they're quite content with a side dish smorgasbord, assuming the sides are hearty and plentiful enough to end up, you know, as full as the rest of us.
MARTIN: You suggest that hosts shouldn't go overboard making everything meatless, but you do have centerpiece dish for vegetarians. Tell us about the veggieducken.
PASHMAN: That's right, Rachel. Now, I'm an avowed omnivore and I understand that vegetarians don't want or need my sympathy. But I happen to be an especially empathetic person, so they still have it. But to be clear, it's not because you need to eat meat to enjoy Thanksgiving, it's just because to me the turkey is such an event. You don't cook a whole turkey very often. It takes a long time. And while vegetarians can make a very nice meal with all the side dishes, you can eat those sides all the time. They don't have that big centerpiece dish that makes it a special day - until now. I give you the veggieducken.
PASHMAN: It's inspired by the turducken - that's a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey. And instead of the meat, it's yams inside leeks inside a banana squash with vegetarian stuffing between each layer. And a banana squash is about two feet long. It's one of the largest squashes money can buy. So, this thing is big, takes a couple of hours to cook. It is an event.
MARTIN: Wow, OK. So, if you're curious about the veggieducken, you can get the specifics of the recipe at our website. OK. Before we let you go, any more tips for catering to vegetarians at Thanksgiving?
PASHMAN: Well, watch for including things like chicken stock in your stuffing; gelatin, as in marshmallows, which ends up in candied yams. That will make that not vegetarian, so watch out for that. And those vegetarians out there, if you're going to an omnivore's house, you know, just like they should respect your food choices, you should respect theirs. You know, maybe you don't start a fight over the food at Thanksgiving. Bring a veggieducken. You'll win them over.
MARTIN: Dan Pashman hosts the Sporkful blog and podcast at Sporkful.com. You can find his veggieducken recipe at our website, npr.org. Hey, Dan, Happy Thanksgiving.
PASHMAN: Thanks. You, too.
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