Pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, green beans, and… tofurkey.
As more Americans turn to plant-based lifestyles, be it vegan or vegetarian, they must reckon with how to handle the holidays. For some, it’s not so hard, while others may miss that classic turkey.
Anthony Gerbino, the owner and chef of Julia’s, describes himself as more of a flexitarian. Sometimes called a semi-vegetarian diet, it’s centered on plant-based foods with some occasional meat-eating.
Gerbino thinks it’s easy to embrace the plant-based lifestyle.
“Everything we do on Thanksgiving is amazing in terms of flavor,” he said. “It’s just about making the decision to do it.”
Julia’s, a vegetarian restaurant, ups the ante for their Thanksgiving menu, making all the items vegan and gluten-free as well. The multi-course meal includes roasted persimmons, walnut cranberry salad, and your choice of pie.
The restaurant was started 10 years ago by another chef and Gerbino took over in 2016, after working in other restaurants and being involved with cooking since he was a kid. He says the goal of the restaurant was to provide other, healthy options and that’s one of the reasons they opened back up after closing down temporarily in March.
“It was just about making sure that the peninsula has a really good vegan and vegetarian option for sit down,” he said. “As people’s diets are changing, it’s really important to keep accessibility out there, especially right now.”
In comparison, Saffron, a Persian-inspired originally vegetarian eatery, has changed their holiday plans. Shahin Movahedi, the general manager, said they won’t be open on Thanksgiving Day itself, but they will be open the day before and the day after.
Normally, around the holidays they do catering and people host parties in their balcony area. COVID-19 changed all that and they’ve had to adapt. The previously all-vegetarian restaurant has actually added chicken as a side option.
“What inspired us to have some meat options is there seems to always be this one person who is part of a group who doesn’t want to come in because there’s no meat and we felt that it was a bit of a detriment to our business,” Movahedi said.
Saffron opened about three years ago and Movahedi feels it’s had success because its food is flavorful and fresh, in part thanks to access to the Salinas Valley and the vegetables that are grown there.
“A lot of the restaurants that offer vegetarian options only care about one thing- that there’s no meat in their food,” Movahedi said. “Many of them don’t care too much about the taste.”
The restaurant even has many gluten-free options, along with halal and kosher foods.
And for those looking to have a low-key Thanksgiving dinner at home, grocery store chains have vegan and vegetarian Thanksgiving options as well, such as a breaded turkey-less stuffed roast with gravy at Trader Joe’s and a plant-based ham style roast with amber ale glaze at Sprouts Farmers Market.
Angelica Cabral is a journalist and podcaster for The Californian covering a wide variety of topics from movies filmed in Monterey County to how much political candidates have fundraised. Have a tip for an interesting story? Email her at aca[email protected]. You can also follow her on Twitter @avcabral97