On Wednesday, as class was ending, one of my students approached me and leaned in, with the air of someone about to ask a critical question.
"Professor M.," she asked. "Can I ask you a personal question?"
Uh oh, I thought. Because you just never know what's coming with a question like that.
But all my student wanted to know was what on earth, as a vegetarian family, we were going to eat for Thanksgiving.
I've been asked that question many, many times since I began teaching here nine years ago. My students are always so curious about what options there are left for my family, if meat is taken out of the equation. Thanksgiving is always so much about emphasizing the "turkey" in the feast and holiday that people lose sight of all the wonderful supportive side dishes out there.
I assured my student that we will not go hungry on Thursday, and then used her question as a chance to pour forth a list of all the possible dishes I might prepare, or that I have prepared in the past.
What will we be eating this year?
Well, I'm planning on making a variation of this acorn squash, stuffed with cranberries and apples (I omit the celery and onions and add walnuts and brown sugar), mashed potatoes with vegan brown gravy. Last year I made a delicious artichoke stuffing, that was so good I'll try it again this year, after I tweak it to make it vegan. We're also serving a Tofurky roast AND a Quorn roast. Scott loves the Quorn roast and I used to as well, but, sadly, it's not vegan. We'll have rolls and lots of cranberry sauce (T.'s favorite), and for dessert I'll probably make another vegan pumpkin pie and a chocolate-walnut derby pie. The day after Thanksgiving a neighbor around the corner from us hosts a "Leftover Pie Party" and so I'm erring on the side of baking more pies than necessary, so we'll have some leftovers to take over there.
I'm happy that we'll have a few days to rest and regroup before the end of the semester hits. I'm also a little sad inside, though, that it will be just the four of us this year. No matter how we try, we can't seem to get family to come to us, to celebrate the day. My siblings live in the same area as my parents, so it makes perfect sense for them to gather at our family home for dinner. Since we travel for Christmas each year, we really need the time at our house before the mad rush of the next holiday. Still, each year I end up feeling torn in two: happy to be with Scott and the kids, enjoying the coziness and quiet of our home, but wishing I could also take my place at my parents' Thanksgiving table. Instead, I'll have to satisfy myself with our traditional Thanksgiving Day Skype call (including the very exciting drawing of names for our family Christmas exchange), and with thinking about how very lucky we all are that we can still reach out and reconnect, that at the other end of a complicated mess of technological wonder, we can still find the faces and voices we love so much.