They say you can’t choose your family, but you can certainly choose your friends. No matter what drama ensues among family at the Thanksgiving table, you can ensure you have a delicious and delightful holiday by hosting an all-vegan Friendsgiving. Follow these tips to create a harmonious and perfectly plant-based zone. Bonus: Friendsgiving allows you to celebrate Thanksgiving twice. So bring on the vegducken!
1. Be flexible with the date
Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and with it, everyone’s calendar is sure to fill up with travel plans and familial obligations. Don’t stress if you host Friendsgiving after the actual holiday, especially if this will allow more people to attend. The vegan guests will have something to look forward to after staring down the turkey centerpiece at their family’s celebration. The omnivores will learn that a plant-based feast can be just as indulgent and celebratory as their animal-based festivities. Get a feel for your friends’ schedules, and accommodate them as best as you can. The more the merrier (and the more dishes to sample)!
2. Offer gentle guidance
Friendsgiving is for everyone—omnivores included. The holiday is all about celebrating relationships and bonding over comfort food. That’s something that everyone can get behind, no matter their diet. Be explicit that you are hosting a vegan gathering so no animal products accidentally end up on the communal table, but be strategic in delivering the message. Instead of dictating “no dead animals,” say that you would like to keep this gathering plant-based, so every guest can enjoy all of the food. It is also helpful to give guests a list of vegan-friendly, store-bought options (Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have many on offer) or direct them to a few of your favorite, vegan-friendly recipe blogs. You know your friends best—if their version of “cooking” is popping a frozen meal into the microwave, don’t suggest the recipe route. Give them a few options at a local store instead. For the omnivores who truly struggle, assign them beverages—anyone can pick up a bottle of (vegan) wine, beer, or sparkling apple cider.
3. Create a sign-up sheet
Unless you get a thrill from cooking single-handedly for crowds, you’re going to want to host your Friendsgiving potluck-style. Without a sign-up sheet, you could end up with 10 platters of hummus and crudités, or three apple pies. Create a simple spreadsheet with rows for appetizers, drinks, mains, salads, sides, and desserts. Ask each guest to put their name next to the course they plan to bring. No need to specify the exact dish; this template will allow a diverse enough menu. Even if two people bring vegan mac and cheese, at least you’ll have a salad on hand.
4. Plan vegan-friendly games
Conversation is nice, but if there’s a lull, or you need to kill time between dinner and dessert, games are the perfect distraction. For the athletic crowd, a pickup game of capture the flag, football, or ultimate frisbee is a great way to wake up from that Tofurky coma. Hosting a tableful of creatives? Vegan-themed charades is a classic. Write the names of different farmed animals, vegan celebrities and athletes, foods, and vegan brands on individual pieces of paper for your guests to act out. Or prepare a few rounds of vegan-themed trivia. Stick to light-hearted questions, like “Vegan celeb Kevin Smith received a plant-based cake from the Ritz-Carlton in the shape of what vegetable?” (the answer is a potato). No matter the game, have a prize on hand for the winner. Stellar options include a copy of your favorite vegan cookbook, a gift card to a local vegan restaurant, or a basket of vegan snacks or self-care products.
5. Make your Friendsgiving sustainable
Let’s talk sustainability! There are a few options to keep your Friendsgiving Earth-friendly. Ask your guests to bring their own plates and utensils, offer your own washable dishes, or buy compostable partyware. For decorations, use plants! A cornucopia of seasonal squashes is the perfect centerpiece. You can also set the mood with eco-friendly vegan candles, such as GoodLight. To eliminate food waste, ask your guests ahead of time to bring their own reusable containers. You can also be prepared by purchasing eco-friendly to-go containers in various sizes for those who forget. Because as wonderful as Friendsgiving is, the beauty of the holiday is that it keeps on giving.
Tanya Flink is a writer and journalist living in Orange County, CA.