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Vegan feast goes beyond tofu, salad
The annual meatless celebration includes casseroles, guacamole and plenty of sweets.
By ASJYLYN LODER, Times Staff Writer
Published November 23, 2007
Ananda Milletics, 7, of New Port Richey, in Pilgrim garb, laughs at family friend Marta Sokolowska of St. Petersburg as they go for seconds at Tampa Bay's 2nd Annual Vegan Thanksgiving Day Feast on Thursday. The meal was held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa.
[Carrie Pratt | Times]
TAMPA - It's a day focused on food, particularly a large bird and the rear part of a pig.
But for people who don't eat meat or animal products, Thanksgiving still offers plenty of opportunities for feasting.
More specifically: tofurkey.
About 170 people came to enjoy Tampa's annual vegan Thanksgiving festival at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa.
Tofurkey was on the menu.
Joan Zacharias admits it doesn't really taste like turkey.
It has a slippery smooth texture and a salty, vaguely meatlike aftertaste.
But Zacharias, 49, is a self-described ethical vegan who gave up animal products a decade ago.
Zacharias, co-organizer of the event, wore a button with a picture of a turkey that said "Meet one. Don't eat one."
Festival attendees queued up at chafing dishes laden with tofurkey and field roast, meatless products made of soy and grains.
Trimmings included green bean salads, sweet potato casseroles, guacamole and cashew nut gravy. Sweets, all made without eggs or milk, were piled high: pumpkin muffins, apple pie and cookies.
Many attendees were members of local vegan "meet-up" groups that host monthly meat-free feasts. While vegetarians don't eat meat, vegans take it a step further and don't eat any animal products, including eggs, milk and cheese.
Many carnivores may not know there are different types of vegans. There are "health vegans" who give up meat for the sake of their body. Some don't eat wheat, and others are "raw vegans" who won't eat anything cooked.
Then there are "ethical vegans," like festival co-organizer Michelle LaFleur, who said that 15 years ago she "just saw meat for what it was." She gave up eating meat then and there, and six years ago cut out all animal products.
It's easier than ever to adopt a meat-free lifestyle because people can trade information on the Internet. Stores such as Wild Oats are offering more vegan items, including vegan butter and vegan cream cheese, LaFleur said.
Still, Zacharias said there are a lot of misconceptions about vegans.
"People think we just eat salad," she said, sighing.