When you adhere to a special diet, whether it be for medical or ethical reasons, Thanksgiving changes. A lot. This is probably the truest for vegans, who eschew the most iconic part of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner: turkey. There are countless vegan meat alternatives out there for folks celebrating their non-omnivorous lifestyle, but there is a growing faction of veg* folks who believe that if you're really giving up noshing on other living things, eating meat analogues just feels inherently wrong.
So what's a culinarily-savvy vegan to do when the holiday often referred to as "Turkey Day" rolls around? Those living in the Bay Area are lucky to be surrounded by some the most diverse food-centric masterminds in the country, so there's no end to vegan options for those who aren't interested in dressing up a processed, gluten-laden Tofurky and calling it Thanksgiving dinner. Besides, November is officially "VeganMoFo," or the Vegan Month of Food -- so if there's any month where autumn vegan recipes are most prolific, it's this one.
When I was vegan -- back before my food allergies kicked into high gear and I learned that meat was the only thing I could actually digest without a myriad of debilitating side effects -- I put a lot of thought into creating my first epically vegan Thanksgiving feast. I made vegan collard greens, Indian-spiced chickpea pancakes, stuffing decked with nuts and fruit, and one of the most drop-dead gorgeous pecan pies my friends had ever laid eyes on. So, I can tell you firsthand that turkey isn't a requirement for a handsome Thanksgiving dinner.
One thing we can be thankful for is the fact that the Bay Area is home to a handful of vegan bakeries, where you'll find a selection of tantalizing sweet treats to pick up if you're not into making your own dessert. I've heard wonderful things about Sugar Beat Sweets' apple pie, a cinnamon-infused creation filled with spiced apples and topped with vanilla bean buttercream and caramel. Wholesome Bakery's sweet potato pecan pie is up there on my Top 10 Favorite Desserts list, vegan or otherwise, while Nabolom Bakery in Berkeley offers a great selection of vegan desserts.
What about dinner? Wayward vegans sans dinner plans can bounce over to Cafe Gratitude for their annual free Thanksgiving dinner from 11am-3pm, where everything on the menu is 100% raw and free of animal products. Oh, and did I mention that the meal was on the house? Yup, you heard that right.