Earlier in the month, I ruminated on all of the November birthdays I’d noticed and accidentally besmirched the beauty that is Thanksgiving. I made it seem like Thanksgiving is a lesser holiday and unimportant. And that was a mistake. I should have explained that those aren’t my personal feelings on Thanksgiving, but how the U.S. on the whole seems to feel about it.
We spend $7.4 billion on Halloween last year (including $350 million on pet costumes). And then we start decorating for Christmas. Thanksgiving gets pushed out, overlooked, and is instead treated as some sort of carb loading prep meal for Christmas shopping. It’s a travesty. Thanksgiving is the second best holiday celebrated in the U.S. behind only whichever summer holiday you spend sitting outside drinking all day (in my group of friends, we call that “Camping”).
But luckily it seems to be changing. Maybe it’s too many episodes of Barefoot Contessa, but America is finally treating Thanksgiving like the proper holiday it is: a chance to eat the entire world. And in that spirit, I’ve listed the traditional Thanksgiving dishes from best to worst. And don’t ask me about salad. If you have salad at your Thanksgiving dinner, your parents hate you.
1. Specialty Dish
Each family always has one specialty dish that almost no other family has. Turkey eggrolls, samosas with cranberry relish, mac and cheese. In my family, it’s the mashed rutabaga and the lemon Jello with pineapple and cream cheese chunks. Which is the other thing about the special dish: it’s the most delicious thing you’ve ever eaten, but everyone else thinks it’s gross.
2. Pumpkin Pie
Before Pumpkin Spiced Lattes ruined both coffee and pumpkin spices, pie was the place to be for all of your pumpkin needs. And it’s delicious. I have opted many years to have pumpkin pie in place of a birthday cake. Did you know you can somehow fit an entire carton of whipped cream onto a single slice of pumpkin pie? It’s magic.
I would eat an entire meal of stuffing. I’m shocked that I didn’t give myself severe food poisoning as a child because I would eat stuffing directly out of a still raw turkey every single year. It’s the only time you can say the word “moist” without feeling like a creepster. Stuffing forever.
But just to be clear, do not come at me with any cornbread stuffing bullshit. If it’s not made of the heels of week all Wonder Bread, it’s not stuffing.
4. Mashed Potatoes
Unlike most of the dishes on this list, people eat mashed potatoes throughout the year. Because mashed potatoes are fucking delicious. But don’t take their popularity to mean they’re pedestrian. Just try not serving them at Thanksgiving, and see how many creative swears people can come up with.
More appropriately you’d call these things butter conduits, but they’d still be delicious. My family of 10 goes through 4 dozen of these. The weird part is that I know they’re actually garbage, I still have to eat them.
6. Green Bean Casserole
Look, no one said Thanksgiving is good for you. But someone figured out how to make cream of mushroom soup (gross), canned fried onions (grosser), and green beans (ok) and make it into pure, heart blocking deliciousness. God bless America.
7. Sweet Potatoes
For the love of everything holy, stop ruining sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Sweet potatoes in a baking pan with a full pound of butter, a little sugar and pecans. That’s it.
8. Various Roasted Vegetables (minimum of 3)
Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnips, asparagus, squash, parsnips. Anytime you’ve got olive oil and salt on veggies something good is happening. Stemmed vegetables on the other hand somehow reduce the overall deliciousness of the room. Watch out.
9. Cranberry Sauce
It’s not that cranberry sauce is bad, it’s just that it’s not really a dish. It’s a topping at best. It’s a palate cleanser. If you take more than one large spoonful of cranberry sauce, you will have leftover cranberries on your plate. It’s good in small portions meaning it can’t be that great.
Special note: If your cranberries come out of a can,
Whoever is in charge of turkey marketing, well done. Well done, sir. You’ve convinced us that turkey, which we don’t eat at any other point in the year, is somehow a “treat.” This isn’t rack of lamb or prime rib we’re talking about. If there were any justice in the world the ad campaign for Thanksgiving’s main dish would be honest with us: “Turkey. It’s Kind Of Like Chicken Except Bigger And Only Slightly Less Boring.”
Don’t, OK? Just don’t. Don’t try to defend gravy. I don’t know what sort of nonsense somebody came up with at some point to make us all think that gravy is delicious, but it isn’t. Guys, it’s hot, meat-flavored goo, alright? And the only thing worse than gravy is what we do with gravy. If you pour gravy all over your entire Thanksgiving plate, you are ruining everything. Why bother with different dishes if you just want everything to taste like congealed turkey fat? And this is under the assumption that the gravy is cooked well which is never is. If you want to have a sauce on Thanksgiving, make a real sauce. A Hollandaise with that roasted asparagus? Sure. Or even a cheese sauce for the other veggies? Absolutely. But under cooked flour chunks swimming in turkey essences? Get that shit off my table.
Now I know that might not be a popular opinion, but Thanksgiving is a time for two time honored traditions in America: eating too much and fighting. My mom is taking care of that first one for me so if anyone else wants to take me up on the second,