Thanksgiving: Made for vegetarians

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, November 27, 2009 15:13 EDT
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Perhaps the most disturbing part of reading female conservative bloggers is the routine scrapping and bowing they do to their largely male audience, and the pandering to those men’s ridiculous fears of emasculation, in exchange for the “you’re not like most women” puffery said readers give them. Via Sadly, No, I see that Debbie Schlussel has decided to make the subtext of so much conservative angst aimed at vegetarians into the text, by telling her audience that male vegetarians can literally expect to grow “man boobs” from eating all that soy. Her evidence? Some movie star claims that’s what happened to him.

Now, I’m not going to fight with an endocrinologist about this; for all I know, it could be true. But looking at this picture of Piven, an alternative and likelier theory for his condition comes to mind: He put on some weight, and developed fat pockets in his mammary area (like men do when they put on weight, at least some men), and unable to accept that he’s packing on the pounds, he got a doctor to flatter him by suggesting it was the hormones that did him in. I hear that Hollywood doctors are known for their ability to tell you what you want to hear. I certainly wouldn’t take anything US Magazine says about science on face value.

But Schlussel isn’t interested in the truth; she’s interested in taking potshots at people who have dietary choices that do absolutely no harm to her or anyone she knows, and in fact are better for the planet we all share than the meat-at-every-meal diet. She wants to make vegetarians like me feel bad by excluding us from Thanksgiving by fiat, by saying it’s not “for” us. I say good luck to her enforcing that law. We vegetarians continue to get invited to Thanksgiving dinners and we even throw them ourselves! But of course, she’s going to dwell on the “what do you eat?” silliness.

One of the great things about Thanksgiving (other than a day to give thanks for the great country and our freedoms) is that it’s not a holiday for vegetarians. And certainly not vegans. Yes, there’s the pumpkin pie (or sweet potato pie–they taste very similar to me). And the cranberry sauce. But it doesn’t taste too good on a tofurkey. CNN has a whole thing on vegetarian Thanksgivings, which sounds like an oxymoron to me.

This is stupid on many, many levels. I love how flag-waving supposed patriots can easily forget that Thanksgiving is a harvest holiday, often represented by a cornucopia of, you guessed it, fruits and vegetables.

How has all this wingnut-defined non-food come to represent abundance? Does George Bush know about this travesty? But even if you’re too stupid to remember things like “harvest” and “cornucopia”—and to give Schlussel the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to say I believe she is indeed that stupid—you have to ask yourself how hard it is to believe a vegetarian could do well with a meal built around a flavorless bird that’s spiced up with a series of side dishes. Side dishes are what Thanksgiving is all about! There are so many damn side dishes that everyone ends up eating way too much and then taking a nap that they blame on tryptophan, instead of over-eating and mild boredom. I see no point in faux weeping for vegetarians because we have slightly less food on an overpiled plate. We aren’t going to starve. And the funniest thing is that the side dishes often are a result of experimentation with various squashes. Vegetarians are the absolute champs at making squash work for you. We eat many times more squash than the meat-eaters out there. Instead of sneering at us, you should ask us to whip some squash-related dish up.

But what is really funny is that Schlussel chooses the absolute worst fighting match in history of meat versus vegetarian foods to prove her non-point.

None of it sounds too delish. Soya chunks? Yuck-a-not-licious. Add brown food coloring, and it sounds like artificial feces for a movie set.

I’m not sure where she’s getting the “brown food coloring” thing—maybe tofurkey?—but the link she provided is not an argument for her case. (Not that she’s generally capable of doing things like “making arguments” or “having a point”.) It’s an article about the futility of meat imitation products, and a suggestion that you simply skip the turkey and make a bunch of vegetarian side dishes instead. And the “soya chunks” dish sounds pretty good, actually—it’s a sweet and sour stew, and you could probably make it really spicy. Which is why this whole thing is fucking hilarious. On any reasonable scale, a bunch of spicy side dishes are going to taste a hella lot better than some bland ass turkey. Even the traditional turkey presentation accepts that it is bland, which is why you have to fill it with stuffing and cover it with gravy. That’s why many Texans I know who are allergic to eating bland, tasteless, safe food have decided they’re rather risk their hearts than risk boredom and have taken to deep-frying the Thanksgiving turkey. Vegetarians tend to kiss it goodbye and never look back.

Let’s face it. If you took judges and stripped them of their masculinity issues, hatred of vegetarians, fear of food with any flavor, and xenophobic “concerns” about where tofu comes from, and you gave them a slice of oven baked turkey and some tofu strips, and the tofu would win without a fight. Tofu, of course, has unfair advantages. You can marinate it, and it will soak up the flavor like nobody’s business. You can lightly fry it, and it has a softness and a bit of chewiness that’s hard to beat. Tofu wasn’t bred to have a giant, flavorless part that appeals the most to the timid eaters of America, true, but even timid eaters could probably eat tofu to their liking, since just because it can soak up flavors doesn’t mean it has to. It just wins in every way.

Next time, Debbie, try beef when looking to taunt vegetarians. But stay away from dangling disgusting McDonald’s hamburgers in front of us. There are a few places left where you can get a genuinely tasty piece of beef in this country, believe it or not.

Also, my theory on why Thanksgiving seemed like such a good idea for pushing the “anxious masculinity” button in conservative readers was this: after watching endless hours of strong, athletic men throw a ball around while unimaginably huge throngs of people cheer for them, a lot of dudes with masculinity issues start to feel a little insecure, and need a mean-spirited blonde to buck them up by telling them they don’t have “man boobs”, though I’m fairly certain many to most of them do. Because men put weight on there. It’s just a fact of life.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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