As meat-eating Americans make their final preparations for one of the nation’s most gluttonous holidays, a small room of vegans quietly enjoyed their own version, albeit with none of the animal products traditionally included in a Thanksgiving feast.
For four years, Josh Meckel and his staff at Inland Northwest Vegans – a nonprofit vegan association – have coordinated a Thanksgiving vegan potluck. This year’s iteration took place at the Spokane Woman’s Club, and drew dozens of vegans, vegetarians, and family and friends with open minds.
“Every year we’ve been vegan, we’ve been with our family,” said Katie Barlow, who moved to Coeur d’Alene from Southern California in June with her husband and three children. “We’re pretty excited because this is the first year we can eat whatever.”
Their children have all been vegan since birth – a choice they made independently of their parents’ input once they were old enough. Five-year-old Harper Barlow loves cupcakes, as most children her age do, but when she tried nonvegan cookies at a friend’s birthday party, she couldn’t finish it.
“I like pasta,” she said before sitting down to eat Sunday. “And pasta sauce.”
While no pasta was on hand, there were the holiday favorites, such as stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, rolls and, of course, pumpkin pie. There were also dishes a little more off the wall: curry cauliflower, dal with white rice, a salad with avocado and orange slices, and even a big plate of artisan vegan cheese.
Each plate had a recipe next to it – to ensure no animal products were used – and each was mostly empty by the end of the night.
For many of the vegans in the room, this was the first time they’d been able to gorge themselves on any dish they’d like and not have to worry if they were eating an animal product.
Hope and Faith Marty, sisters from North Dakota, enjoyed it so much they each went back for seconds. Hope Marty flew in from Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday night to spend the holiday her sister, who recently became a vegan, much to her father’s disapproval.
“My dad’s a cattle farmer,” she said. “So, he’s not too thrilled.”
Each Sunday of the month, Inland Northwest Vegans hosts a potluck much like the Thanksgiving-themed affair Sunday night. The organization also coordinates a “Tofurkey Drive” for families who can’t afford one on their own.
“Food banks are wonderful, but they just cannot do vegans justice,” Meckel said.
Meckel started the organization after realizing there was a large vegan void in the Inland Northwest. Now, he said he can expect at least 60 to 80 people at each potluck, many of them as excited as he is to relax and enjoy a meal.
“When I was a vegetarian, it was a hard holiday,” Meckel said. “But now it’s just so much fun.”