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Anyone Else Not in Love with Thanksgiving Cuisine? [moved from Not About Food]

I love Thanksgiving the holiday. Especially as it makes my husband so happy that he can emulate his father (who passed years ago) with his recipes. That being said, in general I find that thanksgiving meals in general are overly buttery, sweet and/or bland. Thankfully my husband tends to agree with me and adds more spice and almost no butter in his preparation... but this has been the exception to my experience. The worst was going out to eat thanksgiving in a restaurant (my family refused to let me cook- control issues in the kitchen:} ).... I realize that holidays are the worst time to be a chef and they have to prepare a gazillion orders at once, but does that mean that they have to serve over buttered, plain vegetable medley (green beans, carrots...) and over buttered, sickingly sweet yams? If we had gone to a diner every year I would not feel this way, but we went to zagat rated restaurants in Long Island. (I don't recall which ones) Is it that most Americans find anything associated with Thanksgiving to be "comfort food" and therefore are not that discerning as long as there is copious amounts of it? Does anyone else feel this way or am I being persnickety? (I love that word!)
Just to clarify, I love chestnuts, sweet potatoes, turkey, etc... just not prepared in the way I described above.

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  1. "If we had gone to a diner every year I would not feel this way, but we went to zagat rated restaurants in Long Island. "
    ~~~~~~~~
    Zagat ratings can be high or low, but even assuming they were *highly* rated, Zagat is nothing more than a popularity contest for the masses. anyone can vote, and there's no accounting for taste ;)

    now, having said that, i'm with you. i'm personally not a fan of many of the standard "traditional" holiday dishes like sweet potatoes with marshmallow, green bean casserole with condensed soup and canned onions, dry, bready stuffing...but i relish the opportunity to turn tradition on its ear and use the same basic ingredients as a starting point to create new, different and truly delicious dishes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      I agree with you about Zagat; I was using it as an example to emphasize why I expected at least slightly better quality than at a standard diner.

    2. I don't enjoy Thanksgiving meals for the reasons you mentioned, nor does anyone in my family. We just find that they are too bland and uninteresting, plus the idea of having leftover turkey for weeks on end is just not appealing. Like you said, there are plenty of interesting preparations with traditional ingredients, but I rarely see any of them. At the moment I am trying to figure out how to gracefully get out of my workplace's Thanksgiving lunch. I would probably avoid eating it even if it were free, but I enjoy so little of it that I can't see paying for the meal voluntarily.

      1. We always go to the same restaurant every year. I dislike turkey and all the trimmings so I order something else while part of the family gets the "traditional" meal. We've always enjoyed this restaurant and they handle it well. I suffered through family t-giving meals for years and then my husbands family took us to The Ritz in Boston for t-giving 28 or so years ago and I could actually order something other than turkey - I was ecstatic!

        5 Replies
        1. re: Linda VH

          I'm with Linda VH. Turkey just doesn't rock my boat, and to have one sitting in the fridge for a week appeals even less. Luckily, since we have no family on this coast, the making of the HUGE Thanksgiving dinner -and you have to have all the fixin's- makes no sense...too much work for feeding 3. So, like you, we go out. Hubby & kid order traditional Thanksgiving, and I get grilled salmon or prime rib, both of which I much prefer to turkey. Additionally, since I don't have to cook or clean up, I get an actual holiday.

          1. re: Linda VH

            I think my best friend does the ritz in San Fran for this holiday. Sometimes I am jealous about the variety they get to have. I think she said it is a classy buffet.

            1. re: melpy

              it is a nice set up but it is still hotel buffet food. so nicer than most and a beautiful setting, but...

              1. re: hill food

                And what's wrong with a nice and tasty buffet?

          2. We (and most people) don't eat such elaborate (i.e., many side dishes and multiple desserts) meals and don't for Thanksgiving Day if we are alone.

            I do like making one 'special' side dish or dessert when I cook at home, though, either to experiment so I can take it to share if it is good, or just to make a meal at home not so ordinary.

            I made a mincemeat pie yesterday and we had it for dessert. And breakfast.

            A few weeks ago, I made the green bean casserole, using fresh picked beans from my garden.

            I cook a whole turkey maybe once a month, so we will have the meat for sandwiches and carcass for soup.

            1. So many of the worst Thanksgiving dinner offenders (candied yams with marshmallows, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce from a can, mash potatoes swimming in a pool of butter, dry bland stuffing, spice-bomb pies, and, worst of all, dry, over-cooked and catastrophically carved roast turkey) are totally unnecessary. No need to go upscale or non-traditional to get a really good Thanksgiving dinner.

              Instead of candied yams, try sweet potatoes pan roasted in olive oil and tossed with kosher salt, black pepper and herbs.

              Add cloves of garlic, herbs and other root vegetables to the mash potatoes. Cut down on the butter -- get your flavor some other way.

              Stuffing/dressing -- don't cook in the bird. It's better for the bird, and better for the dressing. Change up the bread -- try ryes, cornbreads.

              Cranberry sauce -- there are so many great recipes for making sauces and relishes from scratch, the canned stuff is pointless.

              For veggie sides, I like braised Brussels sprouts, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, creamed spinach. Heck, how about a salad?

              Homemade pumpkin pie (from a whole pumpkin) is way easier than you would ever expect. The flavor is WAY more subtle than the canned stuff. Just take it easy with the spices!

              12 Replies
              1. re: MikeB3542

                This is exactly what my husband does. But what would you do if you have to accompany your family to a restaurant that only serves the "traditional" meal?

                1. re: NicoleFriedman

                  Eat it and don't complain. It's one day out of the year... and it sounds as though your family is paying for your meal. I also don't care for the type of food you described... but somtimes that's exactly what it is if you're at a restaurant or another family member's home. What I do - in the weeks around Thanksgiving I cook all of the dishes I like for regular dinners. I get what I like and the dreaded meal doesn't seem so horrible..

                  1. re: cheesecake17

                    My first husband's family believed in Thanksgiving from Safeway...No, I don't mean buying the ingredients from Safeway, which would have been fine: I mean the pre-packaged dinner in a box one can get there. Right down to mashed potatoes that must have been from a box themselves. I couldn't stand it, but when we went there I delt with it by cooking my own meal a few days before or after, so I could get turkey, etc. the way it should taste. Then I just ate small amounts on the actual Thanksgiving day, but certainly never complained. I was allowed to bring one side dish, so I'd make it good and also eat lots of that.

                    1. re: susancinsf

                      Not that it will help you, but maybe someone will read this and offer it as a gentle suggestion.

                      Grocery stores don't usually cook food for meals. They may have some fried chicken pieces and roasted chicken, along with deli coleslaw/potato/macaroni salad and some packaged dinner rolls, but not already cooked whole meals.

                      Restaurants DO make meals with side dishes, etc.

                      If you are going to buy a complete meal so as not to do the cooking, get it from a restaurant.

                      1. re: Cathy

                        well, this is a former husband, but believe me, I suggested all sorts of alternatives but had no choice. They LOVED the take out Thanksgiving dinner from Safeway. Or so they claimed.

                    2. re: cheesecake17

                      We go out because it's just the three of us (nearest relative is on the other side of the continent), and we make sure that we go to a restaurant that offers not only traditional Thanksgiving grub -for my husband and daughter- and something else for me, usually a prime rib or lamb or ANYTHING else besides turkey. I like some of the side dishes (I make a mashed sweet potato/banana dish with a pecan streusel top); but I just don't like the bird. If only the Pilgrims were into duck...

                      1. re: Michelly

                        duck would work for me. one year the SO did pheasant that was good too.

                        1. re: Michelly

                          Duck has been our T'giving main course for my whole life!

                          1. re: sandylc

                            Duck has sometimes been the main meat at TG for me too! Or lamb, or pork, or beef, or all-E/SE-Asian w/ no specific featured meat. I've never made turkey for TG when I cooked. Also no sweet potatoes, no green bean casserole, no pumpkin or pecan pies, etc.

                            1. re: huiray

                              We sometimes do a savory sweet potato dish. I'm thinking of sweet potato gnocchi this year, with sage and walnuts. Also a riff on green bean casserole - steamed and topped with mushrooms and caramelized shallots. I LOVE pecan pie made with extra pecans and Grade B maple syrup. I think, as others have said here, it's all in how you do it.....

                    3. re: MikeB3542

                      We so a long neck pumpkin which looks a lot like butternut squash. The flavor is amazing and the only spice we use is a little cinnamon. We get so much better flavor and texture with fresh. I always thought I hated pumpkin pie until I tasted this kind.

                      1. re: MikeB3542

                        I took over Thanksgiving cooking in my family years ago as a bachelor because I wanted to rescue it and I think in large part I have succeeded, and with my wife now it is MUCH better.

                        We generally roast yams or butternut squash, though we make one helping of marshmallow topping for my 9 year old.
                        The mashers I am not sure about , not a fan of those for Thanksgiving. In past years we have done shrimp stuffed baked potatoes instead.

                        Our stuffing we use good bread, a mixture of cornbread and french bread,etc. Fresh veggies sauteed lightly, usually in duck fat sometimes in bacon, homemade turkey/vegetable stock for liquid, oysters for richness. Usually the other pan one will have sausage instead of oysters. Just before the oven, chop fresh herbs and mix into the dressings

                        Cranberry relish we make from same recipe every year, and its pretty good.
                        For veggies we do roasted Brussels sprouts, and corn pudding.
                        And the pies are generally homemade , and the whipped cream is fresh made just before serving.
                        When we make green bean casserole (not every year, usually its for other holidays) , I cut the soup and liquid a bit, and add a pinch of cayenne and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard to kick up the taste. I make sure the onions on top are well browned. Comes out less gloppy and delectable.

                        The turkey of course we generally brine, and its always succulent. We look forward to turkey sammiches, and our guests take some leftovers.

                        We usually do a dry run on the core dishes (turkey and stuffing) a couple of weeks ahead .