Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Old JSG has some time to kill before heading out to lunch with the extended family, so I thought “Hey, why not use the breaks in this Bears-Lions game to put together a good old-fashioned rankings post for our obscure blog?” (Yes, those were my thoughts, verbatim.) We already know Thanksgiving is the second-best holiday, but I want to dive deeper.
It’s time to express how thankful I am to live in a world where I can do ridiculous things with my life in relative anonymity solely for my own amusement. Thanksgiving!
A quick note up front: In doing research for this post, I found a bunch of things listed as side dishes like macaroni and cheese, roasted kale, artichoke gratin, etc. I get that a lot of families have their own traditions and staple dishes, but these are ridiculous and don’t belong anywhere near a real Thanksgiving table, so I’m leaving them out. Besides, I’m only doing a top ten, and there are plenty of ACTUAL Thanksgiving foods to pick from. So suck it, people that go against tradition!
- Stuffing — I don’t care if you call it stuffing or dressing, this is easily — EASILY — the best dish available. Delicious bread, vegetables and seasonings, baked off until it’s hot and golden brown. It’s somehow both crunchy and pillowy soft (?!), it can be made a dozen different but equally delicious ways, and it feels the most uniquely Thanksgivingy of all (that’s a word now). I could (and would) seriously eat stuffing every day all the time without ever stopping — I mean, I’m probably gonna die in like three years anyway, might as well live deliciously.
- Gravy — Though not unique to Thanksgiving, gravy is easily the most integral piece of the Thanksgiving table. It’s almost comically delicious by itself, but its real magic is making dry turkey, potatoes and stuffing palatable. “So what?” you might be saying. “None of those things are ever dry at our table anyway, so who needs it?” Oh yeah, hypothetical dickface that’s saying this? Well guess the fuck what: gravy makes all of those good foods even BETTER. So yeah, maybe gravy is pretty great. Maybe they should call it greatvy, for that matter! (Note: No, they shouldn’t.)
- Turkey — The main event, the star of the show, the centerpiece of Thanksgiving…and it fell all the way to #3 on my list. Makes you wonder how much better the holiday would be if the traditional feast had focused on cows or pigs, am I right? How awesome would it be to get all up in a steak for Thanksgiving instead of some lame bland bird? That being said, it’s the primary protein source here, and so much time/attention has been given to cooking turkey that odds are you’re gonna at least get a bird that’s moist. They can be oven baked, deep fried or slowly smoked, and each variety is uniquely delicious. Added bonus: it can lead to the world’s lamest display of machismo when it comes time to carve the turkey. Whoa, easy there, Steve McQueen! I barely had time to put on fresh panties and they’re already moist again since I watched you carve that dead bird!
- Football — Not a food? Correct. But I’d argue that this is the most enjoyable single part of Thanksgiving (I mean, I GUESS you could say “spending time with your loved ones,” but come on — we both know that’s not true). Football provides an amazing backdrop for the entire day, with stem-to-stern action and some pretty compelling matchups — at the very least, more compelling than watching your aunt finish her second bottle of wine and both of your uncles fall asleep. I’d argue that the recent introduction of Thursday Night Football makes Thanksgiving football feel a little less special, but that’s just splitting hairs, really. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Mr. Goodell.
- Sweet potatoes — I’m calling it here: Sweet potatoes are better than regular potatoes. They just are. Think of anything you like that’s made with regular potatoes and then substitute sweet potatoes in. Surprise! Everything’s better now. Chips, purees, mashes, fries, you name it — the sweet potato is the most underrated item at the Thanksgiving table, and it’s not even close. Now, I will grant you that the way they’re usually served (under super sweet brown sugar and pecans???) is a little off-putting, which is a fair criticism and also wholly unnecessary to do to sweet potatoes. This is fair and disappointing all at once. Still, though: sweet potatoes make for better side dishes than their traditional tuber counterparts. Fuck you, Idaho — you’ve been overrated for too long, and it’s time to step aside.
- Pumpkin pie — I grew up with a massive sweet tooth, so you better believe I know my way around desserts. And yet…pumpkin pie just isn’t really my thing. I’m not overly fond of the pumpkin taste, but even more than that, it’s just a very one-dimensional pie. Put it this way: anything that requires Cool Whip to be complete doesn’t belong in the top five. While we’re on the topic, can we please stop pumpkin spicing every fucking thing in sight? I swear, this shit is like the new bacon — adding pumpkin spice to something doesn’t make it more exotic and it damn sure doesn’t make it more delicious. Usually I don’t do this, but this Buzzfeed list of fake pumpkin spice products is hilarious and also scary, since it’s so easy to imagine they’re all real. But hey, pumpkin spice IS helpful in helping me identify whether or not you’re a douchecanoe, so thanks, pumpkin spice!
- Cranberries — Cranberries by themselves aren’t especially good or useful, but when transformed into a gelatinous sauce for Thanksgiving things improve very quickly. Their tartness and acidity is a welcome addition to a table full of rich gravies and heavy breads, and besides gravy it’s usually the only “sauce” that gets served at the table. They fell to #7 for a few important reasons, though: A lot of families mail it in and just serve the sauce straight out of a can, which is effectively a violation of the Geneva Convention, and I’d argue that it’s more useful left over than it is on Thanksgiving itself (a layer of cranberry sauce on a turkey sandwich is straight crazy).
- Mashed potatoes — Oh hey, regular potatoes. I almost didn’t see you there. Want to know why? Because I’m fucking over you, mashed potatoes. I’m just over you. I’ve had you thousands of times and I get it already. Sure, you’re creamy and delicious — unless someone doesn’t mash you well enough and leaves you lumpy, or they leave the skins on and create a thoroughly inedible product. Sure, you’re buttery and rich — because you by yourself have fucking NOTHING to offer, and it takes absurd, Paula Deen amounts of butter and cream to make you palatable. You’re just filler, mashed potatoes, and I’m just done with you, alright? Call me when someone does anything interesting with you, like adds new spices or something.
- Green bean casserole — Fun JSG fact: We don’t actually have green bean casserole at our Thanksgiving table. Maybe that means I’m biased against the green bean casserole, but I just don’t get this one. None of the component pieces make sense, and they don’t really belong together. Green beans in…mushroom soup? Covered in…pieces of fried onion? Since we’re apparently just inventing dishes, how about roasted carrots in gravy a la mode? How about milk-braised fish in a chocolate-garlic ganache? None of these things sound like they make any more sense to me. And here’s the REAL issue: green beans by themselves would be a VERY welcome addition to the table, since there really aren’t many other vegetable options. But no, we have to go and ruin them with mushroom soup and fried onions. Way to be, America. Jesus.
- Rolls — Kind of an afterthought, I suppose, but rolls are probably the most utilitarian item at a traditional table. You can use them as a little bread dam to control the flow of your food along the plate; they absorb the liquid bits that end up on the bottom of the plate, which is great, and you can use them to make mini-sandwiches if you want to. Really, the only bummer is that they’re just so boring themselves. It’s just boring, dry, warm white bread in a small cube shape — boringgggg. Moreover, the last thing the table needs is ANOTHER starch. Sorry, rolls — I get you, but I don’t really like you.
Honorable mention: cornbread, roasted vegetables, alcohol
So there you go, Thanksgiving fans, the highly official rankings of everything you’re likely to see at your tables today. No matter how you feel about the order I put them in (which, again, is definitive, so there’s not much you can say), I hope your day is full of all these great things and more. But mostly the football and the alcohol, obviously.