A Southern Thanksgiving And Vegan Waldorf Salad- Guest Post from Catherine At VegCharlotte

Happy humpday folks! I am on vacation for the next couple of weeks. I took this opportunity to write to some of my blogging buddies and requested them share recipes while i was away. They readily accepted my request and not only did they send me fabulous recipes, but great photos too. I have an exciting line up of posts for y’all and i cant thank my guest bloggers enough for doing this. We kick-start the guest blogging series with Catherine from VegCharlotte. Catherine lives in Charlotte, NC with her Indian partner and 4 furry babies. She shares vegan versions of classic southern recipes and does reviews on vegan restaurants in Charlotte, NC. Catherine also has an interesting segment on her blog every Friday titled “Frugal Fridays”, a personal favorite of mine. I have been following Catherine’s blog for over a year now and she never ceases to amaze me with her vegan creations. If there’s someone who can veganize even Indian chai and lassi, it ought to be Catherine. Today she is sharing her experiences of a typical southern Thanksgiving while growing up and the recipe for Vegan Waldrof Salad. I really enjoy Catherine’s posts, she’s always got a great story to tell, i hope you like it as well.  Let’s give a hearty welcome to Catherine and her Waldorf salad. Hope y’all have a great thanksgiving!

waldorf salad

Hello!  I am Catherine from VegCharlotte.  Eat Live Burp is one of my very favorite blogs that I have the highest respect for (and have learned A LOT from), so I was deeply honored when Pavithra asked me to do a guest post. In particular, Pavithra asked me to do a brief overview of a “typical Southern American Thanksgiving” and provide a classic Southern Thanksgiving side. I’m not sure what a “typical Southern American Thanksgiving” is like these days, but I can definitely tell you what Thanksgiving was like for me as a child! Even then, in my pre-vegetarian days, Thanksgiving was all about the side dishes.

apples in lemon juice (1)

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always held at my great aunts’ house, where, according to my great-Uncle Huddy, they put on “one heckuva spread.” My two great aunts would provide a turkey, and sometimes my uncle would bring a spiral-sliced Honeybaked ham. Everyone else – aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews – would all bring a side dish or dessert.  Usually more than one side. Back in those days, everyone hadn’t been brainwashed by the media to be as “meat crazy” as they are today.  So bringing another meat dish, or a casserole with meat – say a chicken-and-broccoli-casserole – would have been considered rude.  Like you were implying the hostess wasn’t competent enough to provide the main dish.

Also, unlike some Southern families, we didn’t use fatback or bacon or “drippings” in our sides.  That was considered “common.”  We did use chicken or beef broth, but that was the extent of it. So what was there to eat, besides the turkey and the ham?

waldorf salad with dressing

Dressing, to begin with.  You may have heard the terms “stuffing” and “dressing” used interchangeably, and wondered what the difference was.  Stuffing is – sorry, there’s no delicate way to say this.  It’s a bread mixture that is “stuffed” inside the rear end of the turkey and cooked as the turkey is cooked.  Dressing, on the other hand, is cooked separately and then later used to “dress” the cooked, sliced turkey.  That’s the main difference.  Another difference is stuffing often contains giblets – those internal organs of the bird that were removed, such as heart, liver, gizzards.  (If you buy a whole turkey, if you stick your hand up its butt you’ll usually find a plastic bag containing these organs.  It’s a common mistake for many new cooks not to remove the bag and then wonder what that smell of burning plastic is.)  Dressing, with the exception of some chicken broth, is usually meat-free and may have fruit or nuts.  The dressing of choice in my family was made from both biscuits and cornbread, with plenty of sage.waldorf salad no dressing

Sweet potatoes.  What would a Southern Thanksgiving be without sweet potatoes?  There’d usually be two or three sweet potato casseroles – all as individual as the person who made them.  Some would have marshmallows on top.  Some would have pecans.  Most would be loaded with brown sugar, and possibly maple syrup, but there’d usually be some maverick who’d bring sweet potatoes made simply – perhaps sliced and roasted with butter and a little Cayenne pepper. And while we’re on the subject of sweet orange vegetables, carrots, glazed in butter, honey or maple syrup, and sometimes a splash of bourbon, were also common components of the feast. Not a big fan of sweet orange vegetables?  No worries, there would also be several kinds of white potatoes – creamy mashed potatoes whipped to a light creamy fluffiness and served with gravy, or perhaps redskin “smashed” potatoes – made without removing the skins, still lumpy, and seasoned with plenty of salt, black pepper, and garlic.

Let’s not forget the baked rice –sort of like a Southern risotto, with beef, chicken, or vegetable broth, lots of parsley, and tons of sliced mushrooms.

Breads?  Well, yes, you had your choice of corn muffins (sweet) or cornbread (ALWAYS unsweet).  We’d also usually have “Mary’s Angel Biscuits” – so named, I think, because Aunt Mary was such a kind, gentle soul and widely acknowledged to be the sweetest member of the family – in other words, an angel.

Of course, you’d need some green vegetables to go along with all that.  Green bean casserole was “not done” in my family – although green bean almondine was acceptable.  We had our signature asparagus casserole, a rich concoction of asparagus, mushroom gravy, pecans, and cheese.  Brussels sprouts, although a common component of a Thanksgiving menu today, used to be “Christmas Only.”  Collards or turnip greens usually made it on the menu, slow-simmered all day and served with plenty of “pot likker” and balsalmic or apple cider vinaigrette.  If turnip greens, the buttery, salty, mashed turnips would be served separately, with plenty of black pepper.

There would always be several condiment trays – little crystal dishes, similar to candy dishes, filled with black olives, green olives, carrot and celery sticks, and sweet gherkin pickles.

And Thanksgiving was one of the few times of the year when we actually ate fruit with our meal, and not as a dessert.  At least three flavors of cranberry sauce, to suit everyone – traditional cranberry sauce with whole berries; canned “jellied” cranberry sauce because many, especially the children, preferred that; and often a cranberry-orange or a cranberry-pineapple mixture.

And of course, there was ALWAYS Waldorf Salad.

waldorf salad two

Waldorf Salad has an interesting history. It was created in 1896 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, by not a chef but the maître d’, Oscar Tschirky.  Its original incarnation was just apples, celery, and mayonnaise, and was meant as a palate cleanser after a rich main course.  Somehow, New Yorkers forgot about it (my Yankee friends are always perplexed and a little scared at first when I serve it to them!) and the salad migrated its way down South.  There, the salad picked up nuts and fresh or dried fruits (grapes, raisins) and became a “special” dish – something you’d serve to your mother-in-law, or eat at the exclusive Myers Park Country Club.

And of course, trot out to the Holiday table every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

waldorf salad 3


3 Apples

1/2 cup finely diced Celery (about 3 long stalks)

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

pinch of sea salt (about 1/8 teaspoon) (optional, but do try it – it really adds a little something)

½ cup chopped walnuts OR pecans

½ cup raisins OR 1 cup red or green seedless grapes, halved

1/3 cup vegenaise or non-dairy yogurt

1/2- 1 teaspoon sugar


1. Chop the apples.  As soon as you chop the apples, toss them in the fresh lemon juice to prevent browning.

2. Add the nuts, celery, and grapes or raisins to the bowl.

3. Add the celery seed, salt, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and sugar to the Vegenaise or yogurt.  Stir, then add to the fruit/nut mixture.  Toss gently to coat.

4. Taste.  Depending on the sweetness/tartness of the apples used, you may need to add a little more sugar/salt/lemon juice.

5. Chill for several hours before serving.


I usually use Golden Delicious apples, but any sweet/slightly tart apple like Gala or Fuji will also work.

To peel or not to peel?  Traditionally the apple peel is left on; HOWEVER only leave the peel on if you’re using organic apples.  At Christmas, it looks nice to have a mix of red and green unpeeled apples in the salad.

Sometimes, when you remove your salad from the refrigerator, it will appear as if all your dressing has VANISHED!  No biggie – just add a little more “mayo” or yogurt before serving.  Keep in mind the salad is supposed to be moist and lightly dressed, NOT swimming in a pool of mayo.

Celery Seed, if you’re not familiar with it, is a most useful spice to keep on hand.  It tastes more like celery than celery itself, and can be used in most fruit salads, potato salads, and pasta salads … often in place of celery itself!

Whatever you do, avoid the Southern Redneck temptation to use lots of sugar, whipped cream, marshmallows, etc. Waldorf Salad is not supposed to be a dessert, but rather, a slightly tart accompaniment to rich dishes.


6 thoughts on “A Southern Thanksgiving And Vegan Waldorf Salad- Guest Post from Catherine At VegCharlotte

  1. Reblogged this on VegCharlotte and commented:
    This is a guest post I did last November about Waldorf Salad for one of my very favorite blogs – Eat, Live, Burp. Waldorf Salad is a winter apple salad we tended to eat from Thanksgiving to Easter. I constantly refer to Pavithra’s blog for recipes and tips on Indian cooking. Her recipes never lead me wrong.

  2. As someone who doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I feel as though I have learned a lot from your post Catherine.
    Also, I am familiar with Waldorf salad but didn’t know its origins.
    Thanks for taking us back in time to your family’s Thanksgiving table.

  3. Pingback: Thanksgiving Travel … Through Time and to Eat, Live, Burp | VegCharlotte

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