A great deal of American Thanksgiving lore exists, and I did my part in perpetuating much of it, dutifully wearing a construction paper hat or headband in the primary grades as I learned all about how the Indians and Pilgrims sat down together and shared a feast. I crayoned any number of smiling Pilgrim women holding platters bearing huge roasted turkeys at the heads of outdoor tables, around which were seated Indian men and women, also smiling. Imagine my astonishment when I found out--so very much later--that the First Thanksgiving was a far, far different affair than what I had been led to believe.
Basically, though, the sentiments of the Thanksgiving holiday remain the same, regardless of their iteration: Gratitude and Food. Let us give thanks and celebrate the bounty of our harvest/season. I don't have a single quarrel with either one of those, in principle. But let's do talk about The Food.
Thanksgiving Dinner's menu is, at least in my family, Untouchable and Fraught With Tradition. One year, I happened to think out loud about trying my sister Patti's recipe for turkey dressing (stuffing) which calls for sausage and apples. Things got Dark in a hurry, and I thought Jared would have to be placed in restraints. As a result, I don't mess with the main menu, but I've streamlined it and eschewed quite a few things thought of as Traditional and almost Required.
Spurred on by Dear Reader fauxprof, who suggested this sort of Food Topic, I've asked Jared to team up with me for this post about
Thanksgiving Foods That Need To Go
Not all Thanksgiving foods are created equally. Here are some that I am done with forever because they are stupid and terrible and not great or good. Also, Thanksgiving should not be referred to as “Turkey Day”. Ever. Unless you are some sort of child, hillbilly, vagrant, or pervert.
1. Cranberry Jelly Thing – The hell do we need this for? It wiggles, it jiggles, it sort of…melts(?) in your mouth in an unpleasant way. Cranberry relish is the Elite Thanksgiving Fruit Related Dish. If you want to ruin something, add some of this stuff to it. Brutal.
2. In-The-Bird Stuffing – Turkey, and sometimes a roasting chicken, are literally the only times in our culture where it is acceptable to stuff stale bread into the ass end of something and then eat it A WHOLE DAY LATER. You guys, say that out loud. Go on. I’ll wait. See? Just make “dressing” (which is an awful name for that). Nice, neat, delicious little hunks of glory. Line them up in a pan, slap them in the oven. Better yet? They’re delicious cold the next day. “I’m going to eat this cold buttstuffing for a snack. What’s that? No. No. I put this in the turkey’s rear about 36 hours ago.” 36 hour old buttstuffing? Uh…Pass.
3. Green Bean Casserole – “BUT JARED MY FAMILY LOVES THIS!” I’m positive that they do. Hell, I enjoy it just as much as the next guy. “BUT JARED IT'S SO EASY TO MAKE!” All right. My thing here is this: you can basically make it in 15 minutes any of the other 364 days of the year. I feel like Thanksgiving should be reserved for Elite Level Occasional Foods. I know that not everyone is a gourmet or whatever, but I think that anything that can be made in two steps with ingredients that can exclusively come from cans needs to be eliminated from the equation. I don’t know. Just seems sort of…generic. It is not an indictment on the folks that make, serve, or love this dish. It is an indictment – nay, a condemnation - of this dish’s presence at otherwise decadent food affairs such as holidays.
1. Casseroles. I understand that, in many cases, people are bringing food to large gatherings. It's easy to toss together a broccoli-rice-cheese thing or a scalloped corn thing. But casseroles are usually heavy and full of filler stuff like breadcrumbs and condensed soup and starches. They are also great at drying out, looking ugly, and sometimes being The Dreaded Green Bean Casserole or, worse,...
2. Candied Sweet Potatoes. I have to second fauxprof on this one. What sad, thwarted Inner Child invented the marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole? It is called a SWEET potato already. (And please, restrain yourselves from delivering the sweet potato vs. yam lesson. It simply is not germane here.) It is a neverending source of bewilderment to me that restaurants all over the USA serve brown sugar with sweet potatoes as it is. Or cinnamon, even! What on earth is next? Will there be a sweet potato bar with butterscotch chips and caramel sauce? Maple syrup and toffee pieces? This has to stop. Good heavens, if you even dare, look at this. My teeth hurt.
3. Jello. You know, I've just about eliminated all Jello from my life, and I have not missed it one bit. It hasn't been a part of my personal Thanksgiving, but it's often a part of big family Thanksgivings. When I was a little kid, I had several aunts who brought Jello dishes: one rather nice cranberry walnut sort and another not-so-nice orange one with shreds of lettuce and carrots in it that I still cannot understand to this day. Every once in a while, I get a craving for a lime Jello concoction that has cream cheese and pineapple in it, but I wait for it to pass since I am the only one who likes it.
4. Pies Other Than Pumpkin. My love of pie is well known, but Truth be told, I do not like pumpkin pie. I make two of them, however, because when else do you make/eat pumpkin pie? Plus, everyone else likes it, so I just don't eat pie at Thanksgiving. There is no reason to make a lot of other pies and desserts and slave away. If no one liked pumpkin pie, then okay, I'd make something else. Sometimes, I just grab the whipped cream and have that with a little chocolate syrup. Or I eat someone's crust. "Nance, why not make pumpkin cheesecake?" you may ask. I don't like cheesecake, and Jared would hurt himself if there were no pie.
Basically, I'm fine as long as there is turkey (dark meat), plenty of gravy, and mashed potatoes. I'd even give up rolls--actually, I have, even when I haven't forgotten them--even though they are a great vehicle for two fine Thanksgiving accoutrements, butter and gravy.
Let's hear from the rest of you, Dear Readers. What about all that food?