I like Thanksgiving. I like it a lot. It’s one of those really great holidays that exists for the mere fact of getting people together to celebrate that fact we can get people together. It’s about gratitude…not gifts under a tree, magic bunnies, roses and chocolates, or mailing cards. It’s simply about gathering together in gratefulness. That’s a beautiful thing.
It’s also about a big meal, in many cases a big meal that features dishes only prepared once a year. And it’s in this that my only real beef (or should I say turkey) about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving dinner, as it’s traditionally served, isn’t all that great, and the evidence is in the fact that most of us aren’t making Thanksgiving dishes the other 364 days of the year. In fact, I think you can easily tell the best parts of a Thanksgiving dinner by what you are interested and willing to cook the other 364 days of the year. And that list is pretty short! By my count it goes:
- Mashed potatoes
- Sweet potatoes (but never in a sweet potato casserole)
- Apple pie
As for the rest of it…
- I’ve only roasted one turkey in my entire life and that was the year Josh and I hosted Thanksgiving. It was REALLY good as turkey goes, and I have still never made another one because a.) a turkey is big and makes a lot of food for just two people and b.) of your meat choices, turkey isn’t that good. Turkey is dry, and really easy to prepare badly. If you want to roast a bird, roast a chicken!
- Green bean casserole is just not necessary. Green beans are not the worst of the vegetables (that prize goes to the worthless cucumber), but they’re not that exciting as vegetables go. And if you drown them in chunky, creamy soup and cover them in crispy onions, they don’t really count as a vegetable at all.
- Stuffing is actually delicious. I don’t know why I don’t make it throughout the year. Stuffing gets a free pass.
- Cranberry sauce…from a can…is weird.
- Corn is fine on the cob in the summer, it’s not that exciting in a dish by itself on Thanksgiving day.
- Sweet potato casserole is pretty much dessert, and it’s fine, but you don’t need marshmallows.
In recent years, my family has expanded the Thanksgiving menu to include some truly delicious dishes that are worthy of a place at the table year round. Wild rice casserole, yum! Roasted brussel sprouts, delicious! These are truly welcome additions to my plate.
But if you think of Thanksgiving at its baseline: turkey…a potato…canned green beans… Those things are not inherently delicious by themselves, as evidenced by the fact that most of us have probably been to at least one genuinely terrible holiday experience. How do I know? Because it’s really easy to make turkey, potatoes, and canned green beans taste awful. They kind of taste awful naturally if you don’t do anything to them!
Turkey is good because of gravy.
Potatoes are good because of butter, salt, pepper…and gravy.
Green beans are not as good in gravy…but that’s essentially what green bean casserole is!
Common denominator = gravy.
You know what one of my worst Thanksgiving meals had a considerable and noticeable lack of? Gravy!
That said, I don’t usually make gravy for a lot of other things during the year either.
So this Thanksgiving, don’t skip the gravy. Or, get really bold and skip the crappy parts of Thanksgiving dinner all together. I’ve got a friend having take out Chinese this year. Another friend makes lasagna. These are excellent and interesting choices. If nothing else, be willing to put a few twists on your routine menu. My guess is there is at least one thing sitting on your Thanksgiving table that no one will miss if it just disappeared. Figure out what it is and replace it with something delectable, something that does inspire you to make it at least one of the other 364 days a year! You can thank me for it later!
There’s just no reason to suffer through an awful meal in the name of gratitude!