I've had enough of the Thanksgiving articles and listicles about what to make for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner, how to make it flawlessly, and most of all, how to "handle" the people we apparently most dread coming to our Thanksgiving tables. You know the people I mean. The ones who show up to dinner with their dietary restrictions: the vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free-ers.
Silly me. I thought Thanksgiving was the holiday where we got together, regardless of differences, to share in a feast while letting our gratitude shine so brightly that our Puritan forefathers would be embarrassed for us.
On Thanksgiving (or any other day), if our family of three is eating the same dinner, we are eating gluten-free vegetarian fare. And I've been thinking a lot about why we, who make a point of being on time, helpful, polite, and never arriving empty-handed, qualify as some of the most dreaded guests anyone could have at their Thanksgiving table. I've come up with four possible reasons why people like us, with dietary restrictions, are so dreaded. Only one of the reasons seems irrefutable: we pose a threat to tradition. We don't eat a lot of what has become accepted as the traditional recipes for Thanksgiving dinner, and people don't like other people fooling around with their annual eating traditions. I get it. And if you're into following tradition for tradition's sake, you probably should continue not to invite us to your Thanksgiving gathering.
But if you dread vegans, vegetarians or gluten-free-ers because we make you feel a little guilty, it's time to let that go. Maybe you're really altruistic and would feel sorry for us because we were missing out on amazing food. Or maybe you'd worry we'd be hungry because you don't want to disappoint all the other guests who are counting on your traditional menu. Either way, you may actually be concerned about being an inadequate host. As someone who admires and occasionally strives for perfection, I totally understand that concern. But we who have dietary restrictions are the last people who would ever accuse you of falling short of being the host(ess) with the most(ess). Remember that we are used to avoiding foods everywhere we go, and many of us even happily bring our own cupcakes to birthday parties. In short, it's really no big deal to avoid certain foods or bring more than the usual number of dishes to Thanksgiving dinner.
In all likelihood, though, you dread us because we threaten to require extra work, and you don't need extra work, especially on Thanksgiving. I suppose we do require some extra attention, but it's only because you care. And we care, too. Thanksgiving menu planning articles always manage to leave out how we "dreaded guests" are fully aware of what a pain in the ass it can be to cook for us. And the menu listicles also always ignore the fact that we can help with your menu woes. We have so many recipes! And work-arounds. And not only would we be willing to share how we do things so you don't waste time experimenting, but we'd be eager to make and bring things to your table that would be not only great for us to eat, but also delicious for your other guests to share. Let us help solve the menu problem and not add to your load (by much).
"But," you might exclaim, possibly with your index finger in the air, "it's Thanksgiving! It's about togetherness, sharing, and leftovers! We should all be able to share and enjoy the same meal!" Absolutely. I agree one hundred percent. Joining friends and family around a Thanksgiving dinner table is really special. And it would be so nice and easy if everyone ate exactly the same meal. But did an American family ever sit down to a home-cooked dinner on a Thursday where every family member ate all the same things, and no one complained about anything on their plate? I suspect that Thanksgiving dinner is probably not going to be any different in that respect, regardless of whether you have vegans, vegetarians, or gluten-freers in your midst.
It may be time for us to try embracing the imperfections in our guests and in our feasts. It could make the whole affair more enjoyable for everyone. And if it backfires? You can always fall back on tradition another year.