Ranking Thanksgiving dinner

Jake Keeley

As with most holidays, Thanksgiving has been stripped down to what we Americans find to be most essential: food. Aside from the annual Turkey Bowl, food is the centerpiece of Thanksgiving. A wide spread lends us many options to choose from, but aside from turkey, what should we actually eat? This coming week, that is the question. And no, “everything” does not qualify as an acceptable answer.

The single worst side dish offered at Thanksgiving is cranberry sauce. Not only is cranberry sauce bad, cranberries themselves are bad. That’s not the only issue, though. How are you supposed to eat the sauce itself? Are you supposed to eat it straight up? Does it go on a slice of bread? Do you mix it with something else? I simply don’t know, mainly because I’ve never witnessed someone actually eating it.

Coming in a close second-to-last is any type of casserole. Typically, I like casseroles, but not the kind served on Thanksgiving (either of the green bean or the sweet potato variety). I don’t necessarily have anything against green beans, except for the fact that they are perfectly average. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter what you do to a green bean, it is still a green bean. Most things get relatively better when they are cooked. Green beans don’t, and trying to mask them under the casserole alias fools no one.

The same thing applies to sweet potatoes. People are always trying to hide sweet potatoes under names that sound good, like sweet potato pie, and sweet potato and marshmallow. The fact of the matter remains that sweet potatoes just aren’t that good.

What you really should do is spend your calories on the stuffing. I’ve never really been sure what stuffing actually consists of, but that is part of its charm. The thing about stuffing is that it’s always good. It’s good hot, it’s good cold and it pairs with any other dish. But that comes with a price. Given that there is only so much room inside of a turkey, there is often a limited amount of stuffing, all the more reason to get it while you can.

The most important side dish on Thanksgiving is clearly mashed potatoes. I guess you could say that since I’m Irish the most important dish of any meal turns out to be the potatoes, which are literally always a side dish. Yet my Irish heritage is not the sole determinant of this definitive list. In fact, there is much more that plays into this ranking. For starters, mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving are a guarantee. I’ve been to dinners with no cranberry sauce and no casseroles. I’ve been to dinners with no stuffing. But I’ve never been to a dinner with no potatoes, and moreover I’ve never been to dinners with bad mashed potatoes. The consistency and simplicity of mashed potatoes provide a solid staple when all else fails. The sheer quantity allows you to indulge more than once. And the gravy on top brings the already solid potatoes to the next level.

This Thanksgiving, don’t let someone pawn off the sweet potato casserole on you, and definitely don’t try to adventure with the cranberry sauce. If your plate only consists of potatoes, stuffing and turkey you’ve positioned yourself well for a great Thanksgiving.