Saturday, November 18, 2023

A pretty easy veg Thanksgiving from the '70s

Tired of the same-old, same-old for Thanksgiving dinner? Want to make your celebration less meat-centric and more eco-friendly? Do you want to get more '70s-style health foods in your life? You're in luck! The Vegetable Protein and Vegetarian Cookbook (Jeanne Larson and Ruth McLin, 1977) has a whole Thanksgiving menu ready and waiting.

And yes, the star of the meal is the Soy Chicken Loaf with Celery Sauce!

The Soy Chicken Loaf is almost just typical bread stuffing, aside from the "2 cups chicken roll, grated, or 1 can chicken-like loaf, mashed." I wasn't sure what a chicken roll even was, but the front of the book lists "Chicketts" as one possibility, and apparently it's still around. I'm not sure canned "chicken-like loaf" is still a thing, though Loma Linda offers cans of "Diced Chik." Maybe it's better not to think too hard about what '70s canned veggie "chicken" would be like....

The Celery Sauce reminds me that The Vegetable Protein and Vegetarian Cookbook is a lot less opposed to normal processed foods than a lot of my other vegetarian cookbooks.

Yep-- it's basically just a can of celery soup, thinned out with some milk and fancied up with some garnishes. A condensed-soup sauce is easy for people to make fun of today, but at least it sounds easier and probably tastier than something that, say, the Rosicrucians would recommend. Plus, the menu doesn't go overboard with the canned soups. Peas with Mushrooms really is mostly actual mushrooms with peas, not peas coated in a can of cream of mushroom soup. 

The Candied "Yams" (and yes, I know that Larson and McLin probably mean sweet potatoes, not yams! Don't yell at me about it.) are not coated in marshmallows the way that a lot of sweet potatoes were in the '70s, but they still have actual brown sugar on them, rather than a coat of honey or molasses that I'd typically expect from a '70s health food book.

Although there is a low-sugar version with less than half the amount of brown sugar for the more health-conscious crowd...

...and a bunch of unsweetened coconut, so Thanksgiving dinner will taste like sunblock.

The Molded Waldorf Salad starts with flavored gelatin, too, so again-- no fear of sugar or artificial colors!

Also: no fear of sweet gelatin that supplements its diced apples and chopped nuts with celery and mayonnaise. That's very mainstream for a '70s health food cookbook.

The dessert of Magic Mince Pie may have seemed unlikely to the original audience since mincemeat was expected to contain meat, but I think people are so used to meatless mince now that they would wonder at throwing in the word "magic."

The crust recipe definitely smacks of '70s health-foodery, though. 

To be fair, I did pick the Wheat Oil Pastry recipe over the Regular Oil Pastry recipe, but any oil pastry recipe still seems a bit too health-foody, especially for a holiday! Live a little and have some butter.

This is probably not a spread anyone would want to serve now, when it's easy to just grab a Tofurky roast or a Field Roast Celebration Roast, but the menu is a lot easier and perhaps a bit more flavorful than a lot of the other veggie Thanksgiving ideas from the time. Still, Larson and McLin must have known this kind of cooking wouldn't attract too many people. Remember, the menu is for four. Of course, for people with insufferable families, this aspect of the menu might be the best part! 


  1. Technically brown sugar is made with molasses, so it could count for health food if you ignore the sugar it's mixed with. Or you can just admit sugar is sugar no matter where it comes from.

    1. Never! Health foodies have to pretend that some kind of sugar isn't really sugar.