, Newburyport, MA


November 21, 2012

Feasting on what?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but I now have a little complication.

My daughter-in-law and little grandson follow a vegan diet — she by choice, he by being a toddler who eats what she puts down in front of him. The same goes for my son, though he is not averse to throwing a steak or a chicken breast on the grill for guests or even for himself.

The holiday is my favorite because it is the least commercial, without the gift-buying frenzy of Christmas. The family simply sits down together at a meal — traditionally a turkey with all the fixings.

As for my daughter-in-law, she has made the choice on ethical, environmental and health grounds. I respect her choice.

But what to do at Thanksgiving?

The obvious answer is to have an alternative main course — as the sole dish when at her house, as a second dish when at another family member’s table.

But this has got me to thinking. Is it ethical to slaughter animals for food?

My mother’s side of the family came from a long line of Vermont farmers who were well-versed in the first-hand harvesting of animals.

My father’s family was a generation removed from Western Massachusetts farm life, but we gathered at Thanksgiving for the traditional turkey dinner, rotating between my grandparents’ house, our house, that of an aunt and uncle, all in Athol, and another aunt and uncle on Beacon Hill in Boston.

The first aunt and uncle were famous for their “surprise” dishes prior to the main course. My uncle was a hunter, and my aunt cooked what he brought home.

“Try it! You’ll like it!” they would urge us children, amused at our unease. Usually it was something like partridge, pheasant or raccoon in a pot pie recipe. And, yes, it did taste like chicken.

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