Turkey? No thanks: Vegans host an untraditional holiday

By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday November 26, 2010

Some familiar scents of Thanksgiving wafted through the meeting hall of the United Methodist Church in Lenox: sage, thyme, onion, nutmeg and brown sugar.

Among standard dishes -- butternut squash, mushroom stuffing and cranberry sauce -- there were unique dishes such as curry pumpkin soup, bok choy with coconut sauce and rice noodles, and a Mediterranean spaghetti pie.

"We've got everything but the dead bird," said Matt Kelly of the Berkshire Vegetarian Network.

And for the most part, that was the only difference between a traditional Thanksgiving gathering and the fourth annual "Living Thanksgiving" meal organized at the church by Don and Melissa Campbell of Dalton.

About a hundred people from Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire attended the potluck dinner.

Vegetarian Jennifer Adams of Albany, N.Y., decided to check out the event after reading about it in a regional food blog.

"My parents live in Maine. I went there last year and ate side dishes, which was not a problem. But I like the idea of being able to be around like-minded people when it comes to food. I really hate seeing a big dead turkey on the table," Adams said.

So, for at least one holiday a year, people like Adams don't have to be alone.

"It can be very isolating for some people," said Terry Carlo, a registered dietitian who lives in Pittsfield. She has been a vegetarian since she was a teenager.

She said many people look to vegetarianism and veganism out of compassion for animals, and also for health benefits.

Both Frank L. Hoffman and his wife, Mary, believe going vegan -- not consuming any dairy or animal-produced products -- helped cure their ailments.

"I got rid of the dairy and I got rid of my arthritis," said Frank Hoffman.

A retired Jewish-United Methodist pastor, he and his wife run the Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation to advocate for the prevention of cruelty to all living things via their website,

Studies over the past decade solicited by the Vegetarian Times and The Vegetarian Resource group indicate that less than five percent of the population in the United States identifies as either vegan or vegetarian.

A Nov. 4 article in Bloomberg Businessweek highlights the rise of high-end restaurants catering to so-called "power vegans."

Among the list of power vegans: former U.S. President Bill Clinton, resort developer and entrepreneur Steve Wynn, editor and publisher and real estate billionaire Mort Zuckerman, and Mike Tyson.

** PHOTO ** Rod Henderson prepares a vegan dish with his wife, Laurie, for a Thanksgiving dinner at the United Methodist Church in Lenox. (Holly Pelczynski / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

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