It’s November in the year 2013, which means that two major things are happening in Internetland: one, people are starting to do those “daily thanks” posts on Facebook and Twitter which is more suited to your livejournal; and two: people are starting to pin Thanksgiving recipes like woah. This part isn’t annoying because it’s delicious, however it fills me with a wistful sadness.

After I outgrew the magic surprise of Christmas, Thanksgiving started to become my favorite holiday. I’d go over to my Peepaw’s house (where we always had it) to help him make his amazing yeast rolls, and to learn the secrets. He used a recipe from his old Betty Crocker cookbook but mostly only for the measurements. The techniques he used were uniquely his, including his ability to roll two at one time with both his left and right hands. I never got coordinated enough to get the left hand’s roll to look good enough to put on the pan, and still take twice as long as he did, doing it one by one. Thanksgiving 2011 was our last one with him, and we all knew it. I went over there for my last pre-Thanksgiving roll making session, and tried to commit to memory each movement, including the rising time, where we’d retire to the living room to flip channels between Fox News, and Westerns, his favorites.

Last year for Thanksgiving, I went to eat dinner at the home of my mom’s extended family and while it was just fine, the pain of trying to act like I wasn’t miserable ripped through me. As I drove home from the outer edges of Lexington County, I drove in total silence, staring at the road and not sure how I got home when I made it. It was just another day now, and I knew that next year had to be different.

I talked to Patrick about this before Halloween started approaching, because to me, Thanksgiving planning started in late September or early October. Once I started working full time in 2008, I called Peepaw on my way home from work every single day. Even if I was home sick or had a bank holiday, I called him within five minutes of leaving work. He always commented if I was a minute early or late calling him. But what he started doing when Thanksgiving was near in his mind, was to start listing off what his anticipated menu was, nearly every day. It was funny-annoying, and when I talked to my mom or aunt and told them “He’s talking about Thanksgiving again, or already.”

I told Patrick that it had to be different this year. I couldn’t just sit around a table with a conspicuously empty seat and pretend like it isn’t as obvious as the food on the table in front of us. So this year we are doing something totally different. I need it so badly, but I’ll long for those foods that are so traditional and so comforting in the month of November, the ones that mark the bounty that we are so lucky to enjoy, and the overwhelming fullness that they bring to our bellies. In honor of it, I am going to be making Thanksgiving-y foods all month and enjoying them in preparation for our non-traditional plans, which I’ll share after the fact. It might seem like a rejection of family, but I prefer to think of it as the creation of a new tradition for our new little two people, two dog, and one cat family unit.

For this first full week of November, here are a few recipes, traditional and with a twist that my tastebuds are ready to enjoy:

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

 Vegetarian Stuffing Two Ways

 Vegan Brown Gravy

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (I always de-veganize it by using milk and butter)

Skinny Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

And I’ll be pinning a ton more to my Pinterest board, Thanksgiving for the Vegetarian. Feel free to follow it, and my other boards for meatless, mushroomless, tasty-filled fun, even if I myself won’t be limiting it to the One Big Feast.