Traditional Thanksgiving dinner at my house always involved a traditional trip to a friend's house to enjoy their traditional Thanksgiving dinner instead of cooking my own. After all, eating other people's food is how the first Thanksgiving was celebrated, so my parasitism had a certain air of authenticity. And besides, who needs a ransacked turkey carcass dripping cold fat all over the fridge for days on end?
Nevertheless, I usually brought some sort of offering with me when invited elsewhere, no matter how paltry or inedible: a price-stickerless bottle of red wine unsuitable for a white-meat meal, for example; or perhaps an almond gateau from whatever bakery had anything left and was still open at the eleventh hour; maybe even a small selection of Viennese wafers if I struck out at the bakery and got really desperate. For some reason, those last two items, despite being de rigueur desserts at any Austro-Hungarian festivity, never seemed very popular at a Yankee dinner table dominated by withered pumpkins, a cranberry sauce bog, "squash," and a holiday theme plate heaped with arid slabs of roughhewn turkey: the stuffed and basted totem of most Thanksgiving celebrations.
Turkey, as any gourmand knows all too well, is a meat only slightly more flavorful than a pair of wooden clogs fitted with odor-eating charcoal insoles. Continental chefs have tried lathering its trussed body with all manner of exotic herbs and fragrant spices, but the bird's stubborn flesh remains about as mouthwatering as a dusty stick of gray chalk. Anyone who has ever attempted to submerge shards of turkey in a lake of gravy will be aware of its absorbent properties. In the past, I have even used uneaten drumsticks or the odd wing as a makeshift loofah when showering, since they are very convenient for those hard to reach places. Of course, everything changes after marriage: I no longer recycle Thanksgiving leftovers as bathtub accessories, obviously; but most importantly, I now bring proper food and booze with me instead of just store-bought snacks and booze. And this year I'm not only married but also suffer with a heart condition, so that makes everything double-different.
Soy protein is not a substance usually associated with the Pilgrim Fathers. Indeed, tofu, seitan and tempeh sound more like origami folds made during the creation of a decorative paper turkey rather than sauteed entree substitutes for a real, roasted bird. Nevertheless, an artfully marinated soy protein loaf makes a healthy and unique addition to any Thanksgiving feast. Tempeh, in particular, has a pleasing chestnutty taste and texture. A pretentious person such as myself might even describe tempeh as exhibiting certain autumnal qualities: an ideal companion, then, for non-buttered Brussels sprouts and other low-sodium sides. I wouldn't recommend bringing a tofu or seitan dish, however, since they are both extremely bland. In fact, you might just as well eat a paper turkey for all the piquancy you'll find in those poor examples of the bean curdler's art.
So this year I am thankful for tempeh; and low-fat frozen yogurt; and whole grain crackers; and organic root vegetables; and the fruits of New England's orchards; and red wine, naturally; and a large slice of Almond gateau - - yes, even diners with heart diseases are allowed to cheat on their diets at Thanksgiving.