Thanksgiving is not a South African holiday, but since being in the States, I have taken to “celebrating” it. It pains me to have learnt in the days leading up to it, that Thanksgiving has a dark past, and that this is a day of great sadness for many Native American people. For this reason, I would like to clarify that when I “celebrate” Thanksgiving, I am acknowledging the things in my life that I am thankful for, I acknowledge the many blessings in my life and enjoy time spent with family and friends.
This year, Thanksgiving held many things to be thankful for. The holidays always have a
way of making me homesick. Even something so far removed from South African traditions as Thanksgiving. ( Which, for those of you who don’t know this, is now celebrated in South Africa – apparently even Black Friday is a thing now. ) So, while this did not feature on the spread for Thanksgiving day, I decided to make Koeksusters (pronounced cook-sisters) over the weekend for everyone to enjoy. They turned out to be a hit, as you can see, some people liked them with shredded coconut, while others enjoyed them plain. (I found a vegan recipe for these, and if you’d like to try them, I will include the recipe at the end of the post.)
Evan & I decided that we would put a little more planning into this year’s celebration than we did last year. All the years prior to that, we were always working – me as a server and him as a Chef. And with our new eating habits, there was definitely a need to plan and prep. My brother-in-law, his girlfriend and a family friend are also whole food plant-based eaters, which meant for once we would have a majority of plant eaters at the table as opposed to carnivores. (Plants 1 – Meat 0) 🙂
On our journey into Veganism, and more specifically, Plant-Based Whole Food Veganism, we have watched many, many documentaries about the subject and found our way to websites and organizations that promote a plant based lifestyle. Dr. McDougall’s “The Starch Solution” book is a staple in our household. Whenever we look for new recipes or ideas for the holidays, my husband will head over to Dr. McDougall’s website and poke around for something that strikes his fancy. For the Thanksgiving holiday he found a link to a Thanksgiving menu that has dishes that will become a standard feature at our Thanksgiving dinner table in the future.
Here’s a brief overview of what we chose for our celebration;
Holiday Stuffed Pumpkin, Mashed Potatoes, Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Creamy Golden Gravy, Elephant Garlic Spread, Cranberry Sauce, Green Beans, Pumpkin Pie & Vanilla Cream Sauce, Wicked Chocolate Pie. ( You can link to the full menu on the McDougall website here. ) We stuck to most of the recipes, but for the Elephant Garlic Spread, we ended up using just regular garlic, since we weren’t able to find any elephant garlic.
All of the food was amazing, and I wish I had taken more pictures than I did. ( I am still struggling with being someone who blogs about food and therefore needs to take pictures of what I am eating, and being annoyed at people who constantly take pictures of their food.) I particularly enjoyed the Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Holiday Stuffed Pumpkin – of which I got a decent picture.
Food is and always will be a major reason for people to gather, it’s a constant source of conversation and sometimes, heated discussion. It is such an integral part of our lives, and such a personal part of who we are. I never realized this until switching from a carnivorous lifestyle, which is considered the “norm”, to a whole-food plant based lifestyle.
Has anyone else noticed how people question your food choices ONLY when you no longer follow what most of society deems normal?
I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, regardless of your food choices – I know I ate a whole lot of vegan junk food during this time – and loved every bite of it. I sign off today while savoring the citrus sweetness of a food that takes me back to my South African roots, and I am thankful for where I came from and where I’m headed.
Vegan Koeksuster Recipe
This recipe is from VeganSA Directory, and can be found on their website.
Do all the prep a day before, as you will need the syrup to be cold and the dough needs time to rise.
1kg (2.2lbs) Organic Sugar (use Agave sugar as a substitute if you wish)
500g (17.6oz) water
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice ( or orange juice if you prefer)
2tsp Cream of Tartare
4cm piece of fresh ginger
Place water, sugar and cream of tartare in a saucepan, stir and bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice, cinnamon stick & ginger – continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Cool the syrup to room temperature before placing in the fridge or freezer overnight.
500g (1.1lbs) Baking Flour
2Tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
20g (0.7oz) olive oil (or any vegetable oil)
300g (11oz) lukewarm water
Oil for deep frying
Add flour, baking powder, salt and yeast in a bowl, mix well. Make a hole in the center of the mixture and add the olive oil & lukewarm water. Mix together until a smooth dough. Knead well for a couple of minutes. Place the dough into a slightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap, leave in a warm place to rise overnight.
Making the Koeksusters
Dust a clean surface and your rolling pin with flour. Roll your dough out to a thickness of about 5cm. Cut the dough into rectangles of about 4cm X 12cm. Cut each rectangle, lengthways into 3 strips, leaving one side uncut. Braid the 3 strips and press the cut end firmly together.
Take your syrup out of the fridge/freezer and place into an ice-bath to keep cold.
Place enough oil in a pot to deep fry, heat the oil up to about 320 degrees Fahrenheit. Deep fry the koeksusters until they turn golden brown, turning them once. (Don’t put too many in at once.) Drain for a few seconds on a paper towel, then dip them into the icy cold syrup. While they are still hot, they tend to absorb more syrup. Place them on a wire rack or in a container.