Thanksgiving Day Option: Tofu Birds and Pies

IT looks and smells like a turkey on a Thanksgiving platter, but it never gobbled, never had feathers, and finding a wishbone inside is out of the question.

It's tofu turkey.

And for a Thanksgiving dessert have some tofu pumpkin pie too.

``If you are a hard-core vegetarian,'' says Gene Brady of Albert's Organics in Kennett Square, Penn., ``you'll probably love tofu turkey.''

While most thankful Americans will put knife and fork to a real roasted turkey Thursday - complete with Aunt Ida's apple stuffing -

a growing number of Americans will adhere to the ideology of the vegetarian, or the near-vegetarian concerned about the reputed perils of red meat.

Forget three centuries of Thanksgiving food tradition; their choice boils down to tofu turkey, or maybe an organically grown bird unfettered with pesticides and herbicides. Or a big fish.

Gary Abramowitz, a vegetarian and president of Fresh Tofu in Easton, Penn., is the inventor of tofu turkey. ``We shape it in the silhouette of a turkey,'' he says, ``about three pounds with a head and body.'' The ersatz turkey comes marinated in tamari sauce, and baked with ginger and garlic. Tofu is made from soybeans, and is a gelatinous substance.

Retail cost is around $19 a ``turkey'' and serves six to eight vegans and curious friends. ``A slice is about two inches thick and has a kind of brown skin around it,'' says Mr. Abramowitz. ``Add really good mushroom gravy, close your eyes when you eat it, and there is a similar texture to turkey.''

Abramowitz says he will sell around 400 tofu turkeys this year in the Northeast, double over last year. This is no more than a grease spot on the flow charts when compared with the 250 million real turkeys eaten each year in the US.

``Thanksgiving is okay without turkey,'' says Jennifer Oas, a food demonstrator at a Bread and Circus organic supermarket in Cambridge, Mass. ``Everything else is just as traditional and good. You don't need turkey. Here, try some of this.''

In tiny paper cups, Ms. Oas is carefully offering samples of tofu pumpkin pie baked with her own hands from a recipe provided by a tofu manufacturer. ``The first one I baked tasted like sand,'' confesses Oas. ``Then I made the recipe a little differently. What do you think?''

Creamy with a trace of spicy sweetness (from honey) and a pumpkiny texture. Not bad, and the pie shell made from whole wheat flour is delicious.

``Tofu is the great disguiser,'' says Miriam Sadofsky, the demonstration coordinator for Bread and Circus. ``It can be made into just about anything with spices and herbs added.''

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