Forget the turkey.
There wasn’t anything even resembling a carved up bird at what is considered the biggest vegan Thanksgiving feast in the country.
People waiting outside the Parizade restaurant ahead of their seating times said they weren’t going to miss the meat. They were among the more than 600 people who bought tickets for this year’s annual vegan holiday meal the Triangle Vegetarian Society hosts.
Tony Strother, who has been vegan for 15 years, waited outside the restaurant with eight family members. A few in the family were vegan or vegetarian, but all were looking forward to a Thanksgiving of plant-based dishes.
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“It is so good,” said Strother, 45, who was attending the society’s Thanksgiving meal for the fourth time. “You feel like you’re doing something for the people that you love, for the critters, and for the planet.”
The feast is a showcase for the variety and flavor of vegan cuisine, with tempeh vegetable pilaf, spinach artichoke lasagna, roasted garlic olive oil mashed potatoes, apple pecan stuffing, raspberry cranberry relish and other dishes spread across tables prepped for a buffet-style service. An artistic display of cupcakes, coffee cake, black bean brownies and other goodies waited on dessert tables.
Tofu turkey hasn’t been on the menu since the society’s first public Thanksgiving event in 1993.
“We didn’t want anything resembling meat,” said Dilip Barman, the society’s president.
The offerings this year included soy nuggets, but they didn’t look like anything that would emerge from a drive-thru window.
Barman, a nutrition and cooking instructor, worked with the restaurant’s chef on the menu. Barman supplied about one-third of the recipes. A favorite is lime-marinated jerk seitan. Seitan is a meat alternative made from wheat.
Barman greeted guests as they arrived. Some have made a tradition of coming to the society’s holiday meal. Many are from the Triangle, but some regulars travel from Chicago, upstate New York and Florida, Barman said.
The society’s vegan Thanksgiving has always been popular, Barman said. The event has moved to restaurants throughout the Triangle over the years. Attendance was always limited by how many people the restaurants could hold, Barman said. This was the 19th year the dinner was held at Parizade.
Diners entered a lottery to get seats for the past two years, giving people 24 hours to submit their names. The last time the society put tickets on sale without a lottery, they sold out in less than two minutes, Barman said.
Donna and Jim Hart have eaten at the Vegetarian Society’s Thanksgiving celebration since 2010. They are vegan and their children, 7, 5, and 3, are vegetarian. The Harts, who live in Cary, were waiting outside for friends who are not vegetarian.
It’s a pleasure to be able to find good food that fits the family’s diet, said Jim, 41.
“You can eat anything and not have to make alterations to the menu,” he said. “It’s great.”