Thanksgiving Foods are Overrated

Make what you want instead of the things that you think that you have to

I dove into this discourse last year and I am going to get into it again: Thanksgiving foods are overrated. Instead, people should eat food that they like on Thanksgiving. This sounds so simple yet weird, but it changes the holiday drastically when you make things that you want to eat instead of making the things that you are supposed to according to tradition.

Thanksgiving foods are not that great

File:Norman Rockwell - Freedom of Want.jpg
Freedom From Want by Norman Rockwell shows a traditional American Thanksgiving meal, well Christmas, but close enough. (Plausibly in the public domain due to being re-published without a copyright notice in the 1940s)

Turkey, the American replacement for the British goose, is, on average, worse chicken. One of the big downsides to most Americans cooking a whole turkey once or twice a year at most is that most Thanksgiving turkeys are poorly cooked. Even when a turkey is cooked well, it is rather flavorless compared to other meats.

Most Thanksgiving sides are bad. Stuffing is just wet stale bread. Most of the vegetables are cooked until they are lifeless. Sweet potatoes are worse than normal potatoes. Pumpkin pie is the objectively worst type of pie; the British pie with whole fish coming out the top is better. Part of the problem, as Samin Nosrat points out, is that American Thanksgiving is all about rich food with little to no acid. Without acid, there is nothing to break through the overwhelming tastes.

The bird and the sides getting cooked 1-2 times a year opens the question: if these foods are so good, why don't they get cooked more? After all, there are plenty of “special” foods in American culture that get eaten on other holidays or for other celebrations. Smoking a whole hog is more difficult and time-consuming than baking a Turkey, but is done more often and people seek it out. To me, but maybe not to my friend in Maine, lobster is a quintessential celebration food. Despite this, neither are widely eaten on Thanksgiving.

Eat foods you like

The solution is to eat food that you want to eat for Thanksgiving, not foods that your parents and grandparents told you that you should make. I have a friend who was lamenting the fact that he couldn’t smoke a brisket for Thanksgiving. To me, that sounds much better than a traditional American Thanksgiving.

Last year, I did Thanksgiving 100% on my own. It was a blast because I did a low country boil, skillet cornbread, and berry crisp. All of them were things that I wanted, so I made them. It made celebrating a holiday without my wife or my family better.

I encourage you to do something similar on Thursday. Make things that you want. If that is a Turkey and stuffing, great. If it is a brisket that you smoke while drinking beer with your family, perfect. If it is a boil like the one I am going to do with my pescatarian wife on Thursday, enjoy.


Happy Thanksgiving! I hope yours is lovely. My wife and I are looking forward to our boil and seeing the French Dispatch while Danes go about their normal life. Thanksgiving has not come here, but our post-Thanksgiving consumerism has. Here is a sticker for “black week” found at the mall in Copenhagen when I went to see James Bond yesterday.