The tofu turkey Thanksgiving episode of Everybody Loves Raymond has become a television classic. The meal was a disaster for the Barone family.
But in real life if your children come home from college and announce they are vegetarians, or you have a friend or relative with special dietary needs, the tofurkey may save the holiday for you.
Bob Hartman, owner of Back to Basics natural foods at 500 Main St., says they see a lot of customers whose children come home from school and announce they are now vegetarians. That kind of lifestyle change as well as health concerns guide the store inventory.
In addition to tofurkey, they stock a vegetarian-stuffed turkey, both of which come in several sizes. Smaller sizes make it possible to cook for the one person who is a vegetarian and keep the rest of the family happy with a traditional meal.
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving Hartman heads out to a turkey farm and picks up all his orders for fresh turkeys. It’s something the store has been doing for a long time, with customers who come back every year.
It is a good market, although Hartman says rising costs for farmers are pushing prices higher and that is becoming a bit of an issue.
More people seem to be suffering from allergies, according to Hartman, so the store carries a variety of pies and desserts to cover that broad spectrum. Some have no dairy, others have no eggs, etc. The biggest dietary piece is gluten and Back to Basics has a local baker who turns out some eight or more choices of gluten-free pies.
The pie choice includes a smaller size, a 6-inch pie. With a little pie the person with dietary limitations can stay part of the meal by taking their own pie to the dinner, or the host can prepare one to make sure they are included. A small pie is also convenient for people who may be alone.
Gluten-free gravy, stuffing, bread and rolls make it possible to prepare a normal holiday meal. There are even gluten-free pie shells and gluten-free mixes if you want to bake. And, if you have favorite family recipes, Mary Ann may be able to show you how to convert them to gluten free or acceptable for other allergies.
The Back to Basics shelves also hold alternative sweeteners to make it a sugar-free Thanksgiving.
And if you tend to eat too much on the big day, there are a couple of products to assist digestion, including digestive enzymes for big overeaters.
Back to Basics has been focusing on Rhode Island residents with special dietary and nutritional needs since 1982, when they opened a small store at 250 Main St., which now houses Custom House Coffee.
The Hartmans were living in California in the 1980s when the idea for a store started to take shape. On a vacation in Oregon they stayed at a ranch which ground flour and made bread. That intrigued Mary Ann and Bob bought her a small mill and a bread-baking machine.
When they were transferred back to Rhode Island Mary Ann gave up teaching and they went into business, selling grain mills, bread machines and backpacking food. Customers kept asking for more products and filling those requests grew the business into the current 5,4000-square-foot store.