Cultivating Happiness

I love Thanksgiving because it celebrates the things we have. Friends, family, food - it's about just being happy.

However, Thanksgiving is also about excess - a gigantic meal, epic shopping deals, orchestrating the perfect day. When the excess is the focus, the holiday becomes burdensome, not celebratory.

And - we choose our focus. We can choose to focus on the excess or we can choose to focus on the humble gratitude.

Thanksgiving is typically touted as a day that leaves out vegetarians. People are often flabbergasted that I, a vegetarian of 17 years, love Thanksgiving, a meal that celebrates a dead bird.

I choose to focus on being with family.
I choose to focus on contributing delicious vegetarian dishes.
I choose to focus on humble gratitude.
I choose to be happy.

Happiness is not something that just happens; happiness is something we cultivate.

This blog celebrates the little things that sustain us, the adventures that inspire us, the moments that cultivate happiness.

So, yes. I love Thanksgiving.

Since, I'm always searching for new adventures to inspire me, I am thankful to have experienced two such adventures recently.

Pie Crusts and Poems

Pie baker and poet Kate Lebo demonstrated at the Mill City Museum how to make the perfect pie crust while reading poems from her new cookbook. Poetry? I'm there. Pie demonstration? I'm there. Combine the two? I'm in bliss.

She was a great demonstrator, and I left feeling like I could make a earth-shatteringly delicious pie crust as soon as I got back home.


The picture on the left shows what the crust looks like after the butter has been rubbed into the dry ingredients. The picture on the right shows what the crust looks like after the water has been added; it is now ready to be chilled for an hour before rolling out.

I loved Kate's unpretentious approach to making pies. She didn't reproach anyone for wanting to use vegetable shortening instead of butter or vodka instead of water and so on. All those approaches work - use them if you want. There is no one perfect way to make a pie. I appreciated that reminder because I'm often on the search for the one perfect dish, and I need to remember that there are often multiple perfect versions of a dish, not just one.

Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck

The second inspirational adventure I had was attending a Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck. Never before have I seen so many vegan dishes at one meal.

The potluck was coordinated by the nonprofit Compassionate Action for Animals, which aims at cultivating empathy toward animals and helping people eat a more plant-based diet.

I didn't really know what to expect at this potluck. About 75 - 100 people participated in the potluck. Dishes ranged from soup to sauerkraut to mac and cheeze to sweet potatoes. None of the dishes were too complicated (e.g., nothing like Cabbage Rolls with Cornbread Stuffing).

Unfortunately, quite a lot of processed foods were used in the dishes. I tried to avoid most of them, but I did take the opportunity to try Stuffed Tofurkey with gravy. It was ok. Fake meat is a good way for people trying to become vegetarian to adjust to a new diet. However, vegetarian dishes should celebrate vegetables not the meat replacement.

The barbecued tofu was fantastic. I brought Pumpkin Crumb Cake, which was gone within minutes, even though we showed up an hour after the event started.

On the Splendid Table this week, the author of The Moosewood Cookbook, Mollie Katzen, discussed how to make Thanksgiving more vegetarian/vegan friendly. I was fascinated at her comment about how vegetarian cooking has evolved since she first published The Moosewood Cookbook in 1977. At first, it was all about finding a replacement for meat. Over time, vegetarian cooking has become a celebration of vegetables.

I think this vegan potluck is a great way to develop more delicious, satisfying vegan dishes to celebrate Thanksgiving. The menu has enormous potential.

Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

I usually make vegetarian gravy using flour, butter, and vegetable broth for Thanksgiving. But, this year, I am going to experiment with Mollie Katzen's mushroom gravy recipe. I can't wait to try it!

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? What dishes are your favorite? How do you cultivate happiness?

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