Turkey Portraits and Plant-Based Treats Help Make Thanksgiving Sweeter


A sampling of some of the more than 46 million turkey portraits that have been created since the 46 Million Turkeys art project was launched in 2013 by artist Augusta Cheryl Miller. Photo by Cheryl Miller

Artist, vegan and Augusta resident Cheryl Miller first encountered a turkey in 1998 while working at Farm Sanctuary in New York City.

“I couldn’t believe how sweet the turkeys were,” she recalled. “They would come and want to sit on my lap and be petted.”

This experience led her to paint the portrait of a live turkey every Thanksgiving, and in 2013, during an exhibition of her portraits at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell, she created the 46 Million Turkeys project to make visible the staggering number of birds killed for the annual dinner.

“The number of 46 million comes from the National Federation of Turkey,” Miller said. “I wanted to demonstrate the number because people can’t imagine how big the number is. I was so surprised to receive so many (submissions) because they had to be mailed. I received soft sculptures, coin sculptures and paperclips, lots of local artists. What also surprised me was that people from countries like Germany and England, who don’t have (wild) turkeys, sent me portraits.

The first entrant to send in artwork was Tanya Janish from Baltimore who ultimately created an impressive 898,585 turkey portraits. Thousands of others have contributed to a single image, many of them drawn during warm-weather First Friday art walks in Portland, where the project is a regular.

“When I ask people to do a portrait,” Miller said, “they have to look at the turkey pictures I have. Most people’s experience with a turkey is with a headless carcass. Live turkeys are beautiful. I say, ‘Do you know that they change color depending on their mood?’ ”

To get closer to the 46 million goal, Miller used discarded copy paper and hand-stamped 400 tiny turkey images on each sheet, ultimately creating 45 million turkey portraits on reams and reams of paper. With the help of the stamped sheets, the project met and then exceeded its goal this year and, at last count, had collected 46,377,111 turkey portraits. The project continues. On Saturday, he was scheduled to be at the American Vegan Center in Philadelphia, and on November 19, the project will be at Frinklepod Farm in Arundel from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“I achieved my goal and I’m continuing because it’s great awareness and it’s become a tradition for me,” Miller said. “The point of the project is to make people aware of the number of species killed in a country during a holiday.”


It’s no secret that vegans and vegetarians don’t like conventional Thanksgiving. Due to the history of the holidays, they are not alone. Many people of Native American descent have been approaching Thanksgiving for a long time. like a day of sadness and mourning. And since at least the early 1800s, vegetarians have raised objections to Thanksgiving, too.

Originally, American Thanksgiving was not American or tied to a fixed date, but rather declared by local colonial officials in response to the day’s events. Some of these celebrations have not stood the test of time. For example, in 1724, before Maine’s independence, the Governor of Massachusetts declared a Thanksgiving Day following the massacre of Wabanaki men, women, and children and the destruction of their important town of Kennebec River. and its cultivated land.

In the 19th century, a replacement narrative began to take shape ignoring this violent history of colonial oppression and instead focusing on a single 1621 harvest meal shared by members of the Wampanoag Nation and English immigrants known as name of Pilgrims, which included my own ancestors John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. The myth of the first Thanksgiving developed in New England, where a roast turkey meal was de rigueur in the mid-1800s. The American Thanksgiving tradition is filled with fiction, which modern scholars and historians have exposed.

There is no record, for example, of turkeys being eaten at the 1621 meal. Yet in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a fixed national holiday and the New England menu became the norm throughout the country. Interestingly, 1863 is also the year of the Maine native Ellen G. White had her vision to reveal that vegetarian food is the best food for man; his campaigns for vegetarianism influenced the creation of the American commercial vegetarian food industry.

Today, vegans and vegetarians are doing their own work to change the unsettling narrative of American Thanksgiving by reorienting it towards a celebration of the harvest of plant-based bounty. This removes the violence inherent in the holiday menu and emphasizes the current year’s harvest, rather than a meal from 1621. It allows for vegan Thanksgiving, sometimes called sweet Thanksgiving or plants, to help rewrite the story of why we show gratitude with a fall party. I hope you’ll join me in making your Thanksgiving more vegan and less violent this year.


Hannaford Stores has partnered with the National Plant Based Foods Association to create a Plantsgiving website at plantsgiving.orgwhere customers can find vegan Thanksgiving recipes and links to all plant-based products sold by the supermarket.

Whole Foods in Portland is selling more than 20 vegan Thanksgiving ready meals. Some of the dishes, such as the Cremini Mushroom Roast, Coconut Sweet Potato Casserole, and Jalapeño Cornbread Dressing, were created by celebrity vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli. Other prepared vegan dishes include mushroom sauce, macaroni and cheese, and pumpkin pie. Orders must be placed 48 hours prior to pickup.

Frinklepod Farm in Arundel is taking pre-orders of vegan desserts for Cranberry Sweet Cornbread, Blueberry Apple Crumble, Ginger Molasses Cookies and Chocolate Pumpkin Bites.

Wild Oats Cafe & Bakery in Brunswick is offering pre-orders on a number of vegan and vegetarian prepared meals, including Vegan Anadama Bread, Mushroom Sauce, Maine Mustard Maple Brussels Sprouts, Maine Mustard Pie peanut butter mousse, apple cranberry coffee cake and carrot cake. Vegetarian dishes include butternut squash risotto and sweet potato stew. The order deadline is November 19.

The Little Lad’s Outlet in Corinth will be open Sunday through Wednesday Thanksgiving week and will sell vegan pies in flavors such as Pumpkin with Vanilla Custard, Lemon Custard, Apple, Apple-Cranberry, Blueberry and Strawberry-Rhubarb . Some pies are sweetened with fruit juice, others with organic sugar. Lois’ Natural Marketplace in Scarborough and Royal River Natural Foods in Freeport also sell Little Lad Thanksgiving pies.

The Marché Rosemont stores are offering two vegan and five vegetarian ready meals for Thanksgiving. They include vegan wild rice stuffed squash, vegetarian pie and lentil bread.

Baristas + Bites, based in Portland and available through goldbelly.com, sells pumpkin spice whoopie pies and carrot cake whoopie pies.

S+P Social in Newcastle is offering vegan holiday pre-orders of sweet and savory items until November 15 with pick up on November 22 and 23.

“Vegan Thanksgiving dinner and pies,” by Audrey Dunham, vegan recipe developer and owner of Peanut’s Bake Shop, provides a comprehensive, easy-to-follow guide to creating the ultimate vegan Thanksgiving. The book contains hosting tips (don’t drink alcohol while cooking; make extras so guests can take home leftovers), a seven-day hosting plan for the week before Thanksgiving, a Timetable plan for Thanksgiving Day and preparation guidelines for all recipes.

The book serves up a huge feast of vegan Thanksgiving classics, including two roasts (one gluten-free), Wellington mushrooms, stuffed whole cauliflower, macaroni and cheese (stovetop and oven), potato casserole sweet, mashed potatoes, three types of stuffing, green bean casserole, rolls, cornbread, pumpkin pie, apple pie and pecan pie. Released just before the holidays last year and featuring color photos of the recipes, the hardcover sells for $18.99.

Gatherings 4 Main Street at Dexter is hosting its annual free vegan Thanksgiving lunch at noon on Nov. 16. This year’s meal includes barbecue meatballs, mac and cheese, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, candied yams, squash, rolls and pies.

Vegans who need solidarity before heading out to face a conventional Thanksgiving can find it at V-Learning Community virtual dinner party on the eve of Thanksgiving (6-7 p.m. Nov. 23), where attendees can share resources, recipes, and moral support. To participate, join the V-Learning Meetup group on meetup.com/V-Learning-Community.

Avery Yale Kamila pumpkin seed croquettes recipefirst published in the Portland Press Herald in 2009 and a reader favorite ever since, can be found here.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer in Portland. She can be reached at
[email protected]
Social: AveryYaleKamila

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