Friday, November 06, 2009

Thanksgiving Food: Mock Turkey.

As the vegetarian reformist movement gathered force in the nineteenth century, cookbook writers turned their attention to the production of meatless meals that still paid familiar homage to tradition. A great deal of effort and evangelical zeal went into producing and promoting dishes that still looked vaguely like the “real thing” - begging the question of why a committed vegetarian would ever want something with a superficial resemblance to a dead animal on their place, regardless of its actual ingredients. Perhaps it helped the transition for those newly converted to vegetarianism, but it still seems a strange idea.

Before the usefulness of soy protein was recognised and promoted in the West (thanks in no small part to, of all people, the automobile entrepreneur Henry Ford in the 1930’s), the major substitute for animal meat was nut meat. The other thing that had to be factored into recipe adaptation by the vegetarian cook at this time was that most adherents and promoters also eschewed the use of condiments and spices of all sorts, including vinegar.

The author of a small cookery book Guide for Nut Cookery (published by the staunchly vegetarian Battle Creek organisation) in 1899, had this to say on the troublesome topic of a vegetarian Thanksgiving.

"The Thanksgiving dinner has been a great puzzler to the vegetarian housewife. “How can we ever celebrate Thanksgiving without a turkey?” has been a question which it has been hard to solve. I propose that we do have a turkey for Thanksgiving,- not the corpse of a bird whose life was sacrificed to satisfy our perverted appetites, but something which, although it looks like a real turkey, with neck, wings, legs, and even the drum-stick bones protruding, is only one made of nuts and grains. Then let us have the pumpkin pie, chicken croquettes, and fish all stuffed and baked, the salads, and lettuce,-in fact, all that Thanksgiving calls for; but we will use only wholesome material. We will substitute nut foods for the different meats, lemon-juice will take the place of vinegar, and nuts the place of animal fats. With painstaking, we shall have a better dinner than our sisters who have their platters ladened [sic] with the remains of a barn-yard fowl, and with cakes and pies filled with animal fats and spices. Besides this, we shall have a clearer mind, as well as a clear conscience; while those who eat meat are taking poisons into the system which benumb the brain, cloud the conscience, and render man unfit to meet the vesper hour and hold communion with his God."

And here is the author’s alternative Thanksgiving centerpiece – a gloriously time-consuming sculpture resembling a turkey, and named as a turkey – but without the turkey.

Roast Turkey.
To make a good-sized turkey, take 20 heaping tablespoonfuls of zwieola, 20 tablespoonfuls of No. 3 gluten, 8 tablespoonfuls of pecan meal, 8 tablespoonfuls of roasted almond meal, 8 tablespoonfuls of black walnut meal, 2 tablespoonfuls of peanut butter, 3 heaping teaspoonfuls of ground sage, 2 tablespoonfuls of grated onion, 2 teaspoonfuls of salt, 6 hard-boiled eggs, and 3 raw eggs. Put the zwieola in a large
pan and pour over it 5 cups of hot water, and let it soak for fifteen minutes ; then put the hard-boiled eggs through a sieve and add them to the zwieola ; add also the nut butter dissolved in water, beat the eggs and add them to the mixture with the other ingredients. Mix all very thoroughly ; if it is so dry_that it is crumbly, add more water, being careful not to get it too soft or it will not hold in shape well. A piece of sheet iron is nice to bake it on, as it can be more easily slipped off. Oil it with nut oil, and place on top of it a thick piece of muslin saturated with oil; upon this cloth form a turkey, making the breast full and high, and leaving a little piece for the neck. Press it together with the hands, oiling them with nut oil to keep them from sticking. Then
take a large tablespoonful of the mixture into one hand, and press into the center of it a large-sized stick of macaroni, which is long enough to protrude about two inches, after running the length of the leg ; with the hands oiled, shape it into the form of a turkey leg, using the white of an egg to make it stick to the body, and secure it by sticking pieces of macaroni through the leg, just below the bone, into the body,
carefully covering the end of the macaroni with a little of the mixture. Form the wings and attach them to the body in the same way in which the legs were secured. When the fowl is all formed and smooth, brush it over with a cloth dipped in nut oil, then bring up the cloth around the turkey and pin it together tight enough to hold the wings and legs in position. Then place in the oven and bake for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven, unpin the cloth, and with the shears cut off as much of it as possible without moving the turkey; spread the turkey with a mixture of beaten egg and roasted almond butter with a little salt added. Return to the oven and bake to a nice brown. Again remove from the oven and slide it into the platter on which it is to be served. The garnishing, in the cut, is cubes of cranberry jelly and parsley.

To see an example of a historic vegetarian Thanksgiving menu, featured in this blog in 2006, go here.

Quotation for the Day.
What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?
Erma Bombeck.

Quotation for the Day.
What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?
Erma Bombeck.


Anonymous said...

The link to the historical vegetarian restaurant does not work.

Shay said...

How sad that European vegetarian recipes, until the hippy-dippy days, believed they had to imitate meat dishes.

Donna said...

What, pray tell, is zwieola?

The Old Foodie said...

Link fixed - sorry about that, I dont know what happened.
Shay - strange, isnt it? the only explanation I can think of is that the reformists had an uphill battle in a society that had a firmly meat-based diet, so it made it easier to "sell" the idea.
Donna - it was a cereal-based product (wheat, I am pretty sure) - cooked in the same manner as oatmeal or semolina or some such. Dont know much about it apart from that!

The Old Foodie said...

zweiola - crumbs of zwieback, which is twice-baked bread. A "health" food-type bread, apparently.

Donna said...

I wondered if it had something to do with zwieback but couldn't imagine using a semi-sweet cookie to make a vegan turkey. Thanks for letting me know.