On Thanksgiving, pescatarians dive into bounty of fresh seafood
On Thanksgiving, it isn’t unusual for people of the upper Texas coast to forgo the traditional turkey dinner, preferring stuffed flounder or jumbo fish to the bird. But the practice is particularly prevalent among pescatarians.
Simply put, a pescatarian adds fish and all other types of seafood to a vegetarian diet. The term is a combination of the Italian word for fish, “pesce,” and the word “vegetarian.” Pescatarians swear by this fishy diet, which is pretty easy to follow in these parts.
Most pescatarians tout the health benefits of a fish diet, which is said to be loaded with important nutrients, such as protein and vitamin D. Some prefer a fish diet because they don’t want to eat other kinds of animals.
La Porte residents Pamela Tuck and Barry Tillman have been avid pescatarians for years.
Tuck’s usual Thanksgiving fare consists of baked salmon, dressing, green beans, carrots, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. On occasion, she might serve Tofurky, a concoction of soybeans, wheat, soy sauce, garbanzo bean flour and spices; or a vegan whole turkey in the actual shape of a real turkey with drumsticks.
Does it taste like real turkey?
“Not at all,” Tuck said, “But it’s OK on occasion, although we much prefer fish.”
Tuck and Tillman favor salmon that is wild caught from Alaska or Canada, but anything fresh out of the Gulf of Mexico is a plus, especially shrimp and oysters, they said.
“I lived in Norway for a short time and really developed a taste for anything and everything that lived in the ocean,” Tillman said. “So, I started eating only fish and got used to it very quickly.”
But, what does a pescatarian do if invited to a Thanksgiving dinner party and the traditional turkey is the main course?
“We will just eat the vegetables and the dressing as long as it wasn’t prepared with turkey or chicken broth,” Tuck said.
Galveston resident Sheli Rae has been a pescatarian for 20 years, and after moving to the island from Seattle 17 years ago, she started eating even more seafood.
“The amount of fish I eat now has doubled because of the abundance of shellfish, like shrimp and scallops — my favorites,” Rae said.
As for her Thanksgiving dinner, Rae will prepare traditional non-meat items, like greens, vegetables and stuffing. She often serves salmon. And guests always bring an assortment of dishes, too.
“Somebody usually brings a turkey, which is fine,” Rae said. “I just don’t eat it.”
Rae did make a vegetarian turkey one holiday, not in the shape of a turkey but in a loaf.
“It was laborious and delicious,” she said.
Cooking is an art form for Rae and she takes it very seriously.
“I love to cook,” she said. “Everything I make has a gourmet twist to it.”
Most of their friends know Rae and her husband, John Sullivan, are pescatarians. So, dinner parties usually aren’t an issue. There’s always plenty of options, Rae said.
As for eating out on Thanksgiving Day, they’ve done that a time or two and rarely have trouble finding seafood offerings in Galveston.
Charlie Felts and Chris Simon, owners of Opus Ocean Grille in Watergate Marina, won’t open the Clear Lake Shores restaurant on Thanksgiving Day. It will be open the day before and the day after.
“We have a great menu perfectly suited for pescatarians or just anyone who wants to come and partake of fresh seafood,” said Felts, who also mentioned Opus Ocean Grille has plenty of vegetables for those who are strict vegans.
The seafood menu includes a variety of fish and shellfish, such as fresh red snapper, crabmeat au gratin, royal red shrimp, lobster and oyster dishes. Forgo the traditional pumpkin and pecan pie and opt for the white chocolate bread pudding.
“Since we are primarily a seafood restaurant, most of our patrons do come here for seafood,” Felts said.
Simon, known for preparing creamy, rich sauces, will have plenty of the buttery goodness on hand, and will be heading up the preparations, along with kitchen manager Giovanni Ortiz.
“Sea bass served on a bed of spinach with a lemon and orange butter sauce as well as our blackened mahi mahi fillet topped with béarnaise sauce are good menu choices,” he said. “But if someone is more interested in shellfish, the royal red shrimp are a favorite with everyone.”
Felts sums it up for pescatarians and carnivores alike: “We’re the coastal region, so fish is the way to go for Thanksgiving,” he said.