My belief that Thanksgiving is the most overrated food day of the year is well-documented so I won’t go over the arguments again here except to say that most everything on the traditional Thanksgiving table (or at least the traditional Thanksgiving table of the 1980s that frames my experience with its boxed stuffing and canned cranberries, both of which are still hugely popular if not hip today) would be better replaced by something else in the same genre. Still, turkey would be better replaced by any other meat imaginable, pumpkin pie is at the bottom of the pie genre, etc. I’ll be doing part for the big family meal, making a ton of roasted vegetables with garlic and herbs while the wife creates a huge pot of mashed potatoes with enough butter to drown a small child.
Or maybe you are having a tasty TV dinner since ye Indians are hungry tonight.
And really if you are going to have to eat turkey, it would make sense to take some advice from our neighbors to the south with their superior culinary traditions.
As for the sides, Alexander Abad-Santos and Elspeth Reeve rank Thanksgiving sides fairly accurately, particularly noting that even the worst of them is better than the turkey. Also, roasted vegetables and macaroni and cheese are superior dishes at almost any meal. Of course, why ham is a side instead of the main course is something I can’t figure out. On the other hand yam/sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and Karo corn syrup is responsible for me not eating sweet potatoes until I was 30. Does it come with a side of insulin? And why don’t I ever go to Thanksgiving dinners that serve ham with turkey so I can just eat the ham? I need to know different people.
On a more serious note, Aaron Bady:
Also, obviously, the holiday is a racist and nationalist celebration of American manifest destiny, an expression of gratitude for God’s gift of “America” to the (white) people who arrived and took it by force from the (non-white) people who were living there. There are always debunkers, who point out that the original Thanksgiving never really took place—and they’re partly right, in that the “first thanksgiving” narrative is total bullshit—but the truly damning thing about the holiday is that it actually does go all the way back to John Winthrop’s corn-stealing and grave-robbing shenanigans in 1624 (albeit by way of a protracted editorial campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale, of Godey’s Lady’s Book and Abraham Lincoln’s canny deployment of this nationalist myth in the middle of the civil war). It was in the 19th century that the ritual practice took shape, and the holiday was created, but the events which it sanctifies not only symbolically happened, but they kind of actually really happened. The darker and more grisly version of the story—as David Murray tells it in Indian Giving: Economies of Power in Indian-white Exchanges—is of starving and traumatized Englishmen wandering through a unsettled and uncanny ghostly landscape, digging up graves for food: some of the objects they grave-robbed, they put back—realizing that it would be an abomination to keep them—and others they ate, though they pledged they would make some kind of recompense to the Indians if they could ever find any living ones. They didn’t, of course. In the end, they decided that that it wasn’t to the Indians that they owed their salvation: it was to God they gave their thanks for the Indian death they had found.
In any case, enjoy your in-laws and your turkey if such a thing is possible and remembering that the Detroit Lions exist for one day a year.