On Eating Meat at Thanksgiving Dinner

I once attempted to explain what the word “vegetarian” means to me. In doing so, I mentioned the concept of “cheating.” I said that I sometimes do “cheat” and one of those times was last Thanksgiving, when I ate a slice of Polyface turkey at dinner. I realized I mischaracterized my actions by describing them as “cheating.” Eating turkey on Thanksgiving is actually exactly in line with my food policies, as long as a few conditions are met:

1. The turkey was purchased directly from a local, sustainable, humane farm, like Polyface.

2. Said turkey was prepared (i.e. brined, stuffed) without any other meat-derived products not from such a farm.

3. All other meat-derived dishes and products of questionable origin are not commingled with the turkey on the serving platters, pots and pans or oven, or my own personal plate.

Now, I realize what’s problematic about this is the “picking and choosing” aspect: the other meat products (stuffing, gravy, etc.) at our table generally come from more traditional, and objectionable sources. How do I justify eating just one particular chunk and ignoring the rest? I’ve been told by some people that they’ve gotten their entire family to go local or go vegetarian for thanksgiving – why don’t I do the same? 

It’s very difficult to change someone’s views on food. I often find that it can come off as rude or snobbish if you try. It’s even harder to impose on someone what they may feel is a substantial financial or preparatory burden, particularly at such an important meal. I’m of the belief that, in some way, every little bit helps. Thus, by providing my family with a turkey from a local, sustainable, humane farm, I’m able to make a tiny dent in my family’s factory farming footprint. This allows for a more peaceful coexistence between my beliefs and those of the people at the table who may not agree with me, and allows me to participate in a tradition without proselytizing.

So, will I eat meat on Thanksgiving? Probably, but not much. I’ll save it for those at the table who can truly taste the significant difference in flavor and texture. My meat palate is just not that developed anymore.


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Categories: Food


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/courtney-marello/1a/375/b30 Tumblr: http://abarrelofoddsandends.tumblr.com/


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11 Comments on “On Eating Meat at Thanksgiving Dinner”

  1. candicepeak
    November 16, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    You say you eat mostly vegetarian, doesn’t eating meat after not eating it for a while make you sick? I have been vegetarian for almost 2 years and I have always wondering if I decided to ever go back (I don’t think I will) if my stomach would be able to handle it. Any thoughts?

    • November 16, 2011 at 9:46 am #

      I’ve only had meat a few times, and it’s usually just a few bites. I’ve never gotten sick, but that is a concern of mine.

      I have a feeling our stomachs are quite resilient, and I know quite a few vegetarians who have re-introduced meat without problems. My only advice would be to take it slow!

      • candicepeak
        November 16, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

        I think it would be interesting to see the difference in reaction when introducing red meat back into your diet as opposed to chicken or other white meats. I wonder if there would be any variations. Thanks for the information!

      • November 16, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

        I think that makes sense, too. Honestly, my gut tells me that being vegan and re-introducing dairy into your body might be even more harsh than re-introducing meat after being vegetarian, mostly because our bodies were never designed to digest milk from other animals in the first place. Might be an interesting study!

  2. November 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    I ask myself the same questions sometimes when I “cheat” and eat seafood. Usually, when it’s offered and occasionally at a restaurant with no vegetarian choices.

    • November 16, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

      Same. I always check the menu to see if it lists where their products come from.

      • November 16, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

        I’m not that good about it. Lol. Oops!

      • November 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

        Is where the fish comes from commonly listed?

      • November 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

        In some places. If it’s not listed and they won’t willingly provide its origin, I’m generally skeptical. But you can’t be perfect all of the time, and I’d rather eat fish than be the weirdo at the table that’s like, “Sorry, we’re not eating here. This fish is from an inappropriate source.” Haha.

      • November 16, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

        I agree. I still try to be careful of sauces that are obviously chicken it beef based. It just takes some common sense, I guess. I personally try not to buy or eat fish from China.


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