In 2012, Dan Pashman, the creator and host of The Sporkful podcast and blog, unveiled a vegetarian Thanksgiving centerpiece the likes of which the world had never seen before: the “Veggieducken.” Pashman wrote about the Veggieducken for Brow Beat, and his explanation and instructions are reprinted below.
Close your eyes and picture Thanksgiving. What do you see? Most of you no doubt envision a glorious repast, laid out across a large dining table, bowls and trays overflowing with a cornucopia of culinary goodness. And in the center of the table sits a large, plump, gleaming, golden turkey. A halo of candles surrounds the bird, as supple wisps of steam rise from its bosom.
Of course this isn’t what everyone pictures. Others likely see some dessicated fowl fiasco, a bottle of whiskey, and their unbearable uncle Herb.
But still others picture no turkey at all. These people are called vegetarians.
I’m not a vegetarian, but a lot of my best friends are. These quaint souls insist they’re missing nothing by skipping turkey, pointing to the many wondrous side dishes the holiday brings. And it’s true that one can assemble a perfectly lovely Thanksgiving meal without turkey. But as I explain on this week’s episode of The Sporkful podcast—with guest L.V. Anderson—as well as on this week’s Slate Culture Gabfest, the turkey’s place in the holiday goes beyond the space it occupies on our plates and in our stomachs. It is not merely a food. It’s an event.
The purchase, preparation, cooking, cooling, carving, and serving unfold over hours and days. It’s a huge dish, one you almost only make on special occasions—unlike the sides, which aren’t such rarities. As the turkey cooks, the chef paces the kitchen like an expectant father in a 1950s hospital waiting room. Upon the bird’s delivery, a family rejoices. Upon its placement on the table, the guests beam at their bundle of gastronomic joy. The bundle beams back.
By this measure, there has never been a vegetarian dish that can compare… until now.
I give you the Veggieducken, a vegetarian dish that is huge, requires hours to prepare, and is worthy of centerpiece placement in vegetarian and omnivore homes alike.
It’s inspired by the turducken, a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey, with stuffing between each layer. A Veggieducken is two sweet potatoes inside leeks inside a banana squash, with vegetarian stuffing between each layer.
Peel and microwave the sweet potatoes before insertion, so they’re partially cooked. Bake it in the oven at 350 for about two hours. When the Veggieducken is soft all the way through, it’s done. The above video from the Cooking Channel web series Good To Know lays it all out for you. A slightly more detailed instructional video is here.
When the Pilgrims and Indians broke bread together so many centuries ago, they set an example for us all. But since then, we’ve lost our way. For too long, vegetarians and omnivores have celebrated Thanksgiving side-by-side, but we haven’t celebrated it together. This year, let us all share the same experience. This year, let us give thanks for the Veggieducken.