Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! Not everyone outside of the Great White North knows that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, which this year falls on October 11, but Canadians happily accept the fall holiday. An upside to the earlier celebration is making the most out of the fall harvest, which is now at its peak offering plentiful winter squash, apples, potatoes, kale, beets, cabbages, and more. Canadians enjoy their Thanksgiving while the temperatures are still reasonable (and by reasonable, we mean there isn’t five feet of snow outside the front door), and you certainly don’t need to be a Canuck to experiment with potential American Thanksgiving recipes now.
A cultural mosaic, Canadian cuisine features more than the chemical-laden Kraft Dinner that is reputedly Canada’s favorite convenience food. Canada’s First Nations (the country’s native inhabitants) cultures have a huge influence on regional dishes, such as Three Sisters soup featuring corn, squash, and beans; bannock, and fry-bread. Then, of course there are the Québécois specialties: Tourtière (essentially a meat pie, though, of course our version is vegan), and everyone’s favorite veganized fried potatoes with gravy and cheese curds—poutine! Canadians wish they could confirm the myth that maple syrup flows freely from their kitchen sinks, but sadly as maple trees disappear due to deforestation, the succulent syrup is still expensive, so Thanksgiving is the time to splurge on a bottle in order to make Vegan Maple Baklava, Maple Glazed Roasted Turnips, Simple Maple Sweet Potato and Yams, or the über-seasonal Walnut-Pecan-Apple Butter.
In Canada, industrial hemp production is legal, which means the country’s amber waves are comprised of hemp, along with pulses like chickpeas, so celebrate with hempseed-based Spicoli Burgers, Roasted Shallot & Hemp Hummus, Chickpea & Lentil Soup, and the perfect Thanksgiving centerpiece in the form of Canadian Dreena Burton’s Festive Chickpea Tart.
VegNews turned to Canadian blogger Nathan Kozuskanich, otherwise known as Vegan Dad, to see how he makes the most of the holiday. “Since my parents are both Americans living in Canada, there was never anything particularly Canadian about our Thanksgiving traditions,” Kozuskanich said. “But, judging from what my friends did, most Anglo Protestant Canadians do something that looks an awful lot like American Thanksgiving, only earlier. That being said, football was never part of the day, nor was plotting out a strategy for Black Friday shopping (we celebrate in October, eh?).” Kozuskanich shares his centerpiece recipe with VegNews for this year’s holiday, the delectable Maple Tofu with Stuffing and Apple Cranberry Chutney, stressing that a Thanksgiving meal doesn’t have to mimic the traditional turkey. “For me, Thanksgiving is about sharing a meal with family. While we certainly ate our fair share of turkey, in recent years I have stopped trying to create some meat substitute. Instead, it about textures and flavours: the familiarity of thyme and sage, the tartness of cranberries, the comfort of stuffing. All these things evoke fond memories and make for a dish that can be enjoyed by all, should they choose to partake,” Kozuskanich said.
Bryanna Clark Grogan, author of vegan cookbooks such as The Almost No-Fat Holiday Cookbook and Nonna’s Italian Kitchen, and creator of the popular blog Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen, relentlessly experiments with recipes old and new to create vegan versions of Thanksgiving classics, and shares with VegNews her Thanksgiving recipes for both Watercress and Sunchoke Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette, and Squash with Wild Rice and Chanterelle Stuffing with Rich Brown Gravy. Born in California but having lived in British Columbia for many years, Grogan has become somewhat of an honorary Canadian. “Canadians can be proud of our Canadian hard wheat, which is prized by bakers all over the world, which provides wonderful breads and the wheat gluten to make our seitan turkeys,” Grogan said. “The prairie provinces also produce huge quantities of high-quality beans and lentils.” Grogan likes to celebrate cultural diversity in her own holiday traditions. “I like to celebrate [Thanksgiving] as a cross-cultural holiday, given that every person, worldwide, needs and benefits from the harvest. I often put a Mediterranean or South American slant on the traditional foods at our Thanksgiving meal, since I have Italian, Spanish and Peruvian backgrounds on my father’s side.” Grogan says that Thanksgiving has been somewhat romanticized in North America, and that both Canadians and Americans alike should pay tribute to the First Nations for the original North American harvest. “Corn, beans, and squash are the “Three Sisters”—the traditional First Nations vegetable crops, grown together and eaten together in the north and the south to provide perfect vegan nutrition. The Three Sisters provide the cornbread or cornbread stuffing, the green beans, and, of course the pumpkin pie and/or stuffed squash that we take for granted, accompanied by more Native American delicacies such as cranberries, maple syrup, nuts, wild rice, potatoes, and wild mushrooms. This deserves some special recognition.”
Finally, Canadian or not, clichés aside, take the time this Monday to be thankful for something; be it rescued turkeys at farm sanctuaries, Bill Clinton’s flirt with veganism, small victories in the animal rights movement, the upcoming Vegan Month of Food, or even the advent of amazing vegan cheese. True, there is a lot of suffering, especially among animals, but focusing on the positive helps us stay motivated, compassionate, and driven to rally for change.