Food for Thought: Save the Turkey; Bring on the Desserts!

Food for Thought is my periodic series on healthy cooking, nutrition, food trends, and related subjects. I’m a passionate cook and kitchen tinkerer, sometime vegetarian and sometime not, and trying to live as green a life as possible. The articles appear… well, whenever the mood strikes. A surprising find while perusing political blog sites served as this installment’s catalyst.

Op-Ed News, whch normally features editorial pieces on current events, domestic and world affairs and the like, offers an article about food. “A Compassionate Thanksgiving Dinner: It’s Easy and Delicious!,” includes a recipe for pumpkin pie. Imagine my surprise.

That isn’t to say the subject matter isn’t political. To the contrary, nearly half the piece is an almost grotesque and obviously politically motivated play-by-play of what happens to too many birds around this time each year. Just a wee taste:

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, 50,000 turkeys are slaughtered each day at just one Butterball plant in Arkansas. Desensitized slaughterhouse workers routinely punch live turkeys in their heads, grab them by their legs and bang them against walls, and throw them on the ground and stomp on them. And this plant is not unique: Such conditions exist at slaughterhouses across the country. And those are the lucky turkeys.

The rest is pretty intense; sensitive people should consider themselves warned. Still, it seems only fair — and a penance to the faithful fowl Americans will consume by the millions tomorrow — to see exactly what it takes to bring the birds to our holiday tables. (If you need more, feel free to view a video of Sarah Palin’s recent and ill-advised visit to a turkey farm.)

Author Gail Davis (no relation, I assume) is, of course, beseeching us to eschew the turkey and to embrace a vegan Thanksgiviing dinner instead. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve enjoyed my share of both savory faux turkey (made of soybean-rich tofu) and the noble fowl and can appreciate all sides of the argument. But I have to tell you, her description of the turkey-slaughtering process made me think twice about the turkey I’ll begin preparing shortly.

Davis softens the blow with some gorgeous bits of food soft-porn, her own mouth-watering Thanksgiving menu for 2008, and the aforementioned pumpkin pie recipe. This respite could not have come at a better time: Pie always makes me feel safe, warm, and altogether happier about life.

The reverie caused by a photo of a golden brown pie covered in daubs of whipped-cream snowcaps and desserts from Thanksgivings past. Definitely: We love our main entree of choice and stuffing, and I’ve said before that side dishes are my favorite part of the meal, but my favorite after-meal treat is dessert. And making them is a big part of the magic. This year, our family’s T-Day dessert will be a peach cobbler, a re-worked version of my late father’s classic pastry. In honor of Gail Davis, I’ll make it palatable to vegans (no worries, the carnivores will love it too).

Vegan Peach Cobbler


1 cup all purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

1 cup unflavored soy milk

dash of cinnamon

dash of nutmeg

1/4 cup vegan margarine

3 C sliced organic canned peaches in natural fruit juice (if this were summer, I would use fresh organic peaches instead)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place all the dry ingredients (except the spices) into a large bowl. Add the soy milk and follow with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly until the batter is lump-free.

Next, put the vegan margarine into an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Place the pan into the oven and allow the margarine melt completely. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. Once the margarine is liquified, remove the baking pan from the oven — don’t forget oven mitts! Take the batter and pour it over the melted margarine. Carefully spoon the peaches, along with the juice, on top of the batter and place the whole back into the oven.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the cobbler is golden brown and bubbly. 

Serves eight peach-pie aficionados and makes them happy, just in time for football or a post-dinner nap.
And now, da-da-da-DAH! — here is that quick and easy pumpkin pie recipe from — wow — OpEd News:

Gail Davis’ Cruelty-Free Pumpkin Pie

1 1/2 cups soy milk (vanilla or plain)
4 Tbsp. cornstarch – or – arrowroot
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin 
1/2 cup raw sugar or other sweetener
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. cloves
1 ready-to-bake pie crust shell 

In a large bowl, whisk together soy milk and cornstarch or arrowroot until smooth, then blend in remaining ingredients.  Pour into pie shell.  Bake in a preheated 375° oven for 45 minutes. Cool before cutting. Top with Soyatoo Whipped Topping or Purely Decadent Made with Coconut Milk vanilla ice cream.

Need more vegetarian holiday recipes? Check out PETA’s VegCooking site.

However you decide to observe Thanksgiving and no matter what you have on your dinner table, count your blessings, be thankful, and observe the day in the spirit of peace and love.


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