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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 .

                      2. I like the concept of Thanksgiving, and like to eat the traditional foods, including foods that historians think the Pilgrims may have eaten, but aren't on today's traditional list.

                        The rest of my immediate family does not like most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods, and my nearby in-laws are immigrants, so Thanksgiving isn't so big a deal to them. So the usual compromise is that I use traditional ingredients (sweet potatoes, etc.), but make any kind of recipe that I want. One year I made sweet potato crescent rolls, another year, sweet potato empanadas. Husband always makes his favorite twice-baked potatoes, which I think are boring! We've never had turkey; even I don't really like turkey. This year, we'll probably have duck. It works for the rest of the family, and it works for me because there's enough connection to the ideas of the holiday.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Lexma90

                          Most of what I read about what would have been served at Thanksgiving makes it sound a whole lot better than what is actually served today- lobster, fish, clams- sign me up!

                          1. re: Lexma90

                            I am SO jealous, I hate the traditional stuff and if I make even the slightest suggestion on technique for not ending up with a table full of bland beige over-cooked junk I get shot down.

                            and yeah I'm with you queencru.

                          2. Thanksgiving in particular seems to be as habit-based as meal as is served all year, in that people have settled in to a rut and seem to practically demand that they get the same meal year after year. For starters, turkey is about as boring a protein as there is. You won't catch me saying a bad word about cornbread stuffing, but mashed potatoes, corn off the cob, and candied yams are likewise dull. Oh, for the day when I can prepare a leg of lamb, a pork roast or a rib roast for the holiday. There's nothing that says it has to be a turkey!

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: gilintx

                              "Thanksgiving in particular seems to be as habit-based as meal as is served all year, in that people have settled in to a rut and seem to practically demand that they get the same meal year after year."
                              While I agree with you 100% on this point, I don't agree that Turkey is so boring. Turkey doesn't have to be boring, just get a better turkey. The frozen blocks of ice that you get free from the grocery store when you spend $200 or more aren't much worth the energy that it takes to cook them. (One year I got one with a broken leg bone... shudder to think of it)
                              get a real bird from a farm that isn't injected full of salt water and season it with some lovely herbs then Don't incinerate it
                              (unless you just don't care for Turkey in the first place then I can't say much about it)

                              1. re: cgarner

                                I agree on the turkey.

                                Really. Free, or 29¢ a pound versus $1.69 a pound for fresh or even the 'expensive' $3 a pound for one from a local farm...what other protein costs so little?

                                However, I grew up with neighbors from Italy who always had lasagne for Thanksgiving. They were very nice to share.

                                1. re: Cathy

                                  We have turkey AND lasagne. Or at least we used to :(

                                2. re: cgarner

                                  +2 on getting a better turkey. pheasant is nice for t-day as well.

                                  there is nothing wrong with a traditional t-day meal. sweet potato biscuits with honey-whipped butter and homemade preserves, wild rice with walnuts and bacon or speck, roasted brussels sprouts, chestnuts, parsnips and potatoes, wild mushrooms, home baked breads and farmhouse fruit pies, pecan, pumpkin, winter squash soup fragrant with sage, fresh cranberry-orange sauce with ginger, braised spiced cabbage, homemade gravy and dressing, hot spiced apple cider, cold-smoked fish, bison or venison summer sausage with farmhouse cheddar and crackers, bread pudding, traditional relish tray with pickled beets, green beans and sweet cucumber, crudites and creamy dip, three types of raw veg salad, homebrewed beer. you need a second or third plate to put a little slice of turkey on it just to say you ate some. what the fuck is the problem? anybody who tries to celebrate a harvest festival with dishes made of packaged food-like-substances like jello and campball's cream of mushroom soup is obviously doing it wrong.

                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                    "anybody who tries to celebrate a harvest festival with dishes made of packaged food-like-substances like jello and campball's cream of mushroom soup is obviously doing it wrong."

                                    Love it! but sadly there are people who grow up with this and they think it's the way you HAVE to have Thanksgiving
                                    My step-kids wanted to have me run out of town on a rail the first year I made Thanksgiving dinner for them, because I had two different kinds of home made stuffing, fresh cranberry relish, roasted acorn squash and pan roasted brussel sprouts with bacon... instead of boxed scallop potatoes, stove top stuffing and creamed corn from a can. I gave in and made them their green bean casserole from frozen green beans...but you'd have thought I was the grinch that stole Thanksgiving for making them a decent meal.

                                    I think what I'm trying to say is that for SOME people, the day is more about very specific food (be it good or bad) than it is for others. for SOME people, the day is all about those overly heavy butter laden, bland flavors and for others (like maybe the majority of us here on Chow) it's more about sharing GOOD food with people we know and love.

                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      pheasant is indeed nice, just on the small side for a large gathering unless you wanna do multiples.

                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                        I think we axed the jello mold or gelatin salad as gram would say about ten years back. No regrets!

                                      2. re: cgarner

                                        Some people (namely me) find turkey boring regardless. I've been to meals where the cook has done a great job of preparing the turkey and seasoning it well, but it still doesn't appeal to me. Just like anything else, turkey is never going to appeal to everyone. I like it fine in sandwiches and as ground meat, but not in the standard preparation.

                                        1. re: cgarner

                                          Agreed on the bird. It really does make a huge difference.

                                      3. I've never eaten anywhere but in someone's home for Thanksgiving, so I can't comment on restaurant meals. I am not a huge fan of Turkey, although last year we deep fried one and it's the best I ever had. The problem is that the Turkey is usually too big and dries out during the long cooking process. Unless you brine it or deep fry it, it's usually hit or miss depending on the piece you get.

                                        My family grew bored of Turkey a few years ago and went with a variety of other fowl, such as goose, duck, cornish game hens, quail and pheasant. All much better IMO than Turkey. As for the sides, they are a little boring at times. My father made brussel sprouts with bacon (and some other ingredients) two years ago and it's become my new favorite side. I love stuffing (any time of year), but that too can be boring.

                                        Buttery, Sweet and bland....how can something be sweet and bland? And butter added to anything is usually a great flavor waker uper!

                                        1. I just want to state publicly that I HATE TURKEY! There, I got it off my chest. I feel better. I make a beautiful turkey, but I really don't like it. I love my stuffing and mashed potatoes, and the gravy. I have made Turkey for both thanksgiving and christmas for the last 20 or more years.

                                          I am making turkey for thanksgiving dinner for my in-laws and am SHOCKED, because they eat all of the standard from the can side dishes that I have no clue how to make. The yams, the green bean casserole, oh my... I'm going to do the casserole, but am balking at the yam recipe. I just can't bear to make it. I will however sneak in my stuffing, fresh baby carrots, and my pies.

                                          At Christmas on the other hand, I now have full permission to make anything I want, as long as it's not turkey. Turns out my Dad isn't fond of turkey either. It was my Mom's favorite, but now she passed we can have whatever we want. A very small silver lining; and not even sterling at that.

                                          I have eaten in restaurants on turkey day, but fortunately they had both the standard TG menu, and the regular menu available. I ordered off the standard menu and everyone was happy.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: cosmogrrl

                                            You can buy fresh yams (cheaper than the canned anyhow). Chop into even pieces, boil and cool and then rub the peel; it will come right off.

                                            1. re: Cathy

                                              I'm sure I could but they want their traditional one. Made with all canned food (except the marshmallows, which are in a bag). Maybe I'll just shut my eyes when making it. Or make my SO do it.

                                              1. re: cosmogrrl

                                                I can relate... just remember that it's one day of the year and you can have your own Thanksgiving on another date, or like you said, get creative for Christmas

                                          2. I'm Korean and came here when I was 12 years old or so, so Thanksgiving meals aren't what I grew up with, but man it's probably the one holiday meal I look forward to more than anything else. For me, turkey + Gravy + Stuffing + Cranberry = flavor win in my mouth every time!

                                            1. I'm glad somebody on this thread said it, now I can too--I HATE TURKEY!! In fact I hate all the Thanksgiving dishes. I think it stems from the fact that nobody in my family of origin could cook worth a damn but insisted on butchering this meal every year.
                                              I'm lucky that we have nobody visiting this year and I can plan whatever meal I choose. This year it will be duck with plum wine reduction. Yay!

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: alliegator

                                                I've been serving duck for 10+ years now. Splurged last year and ordered 2 from D'Artagnan's. They were absolutely delicious!!!

                                                1. re: Phoebe

                                                  So happy to see another Thanksgiving duck eater! To me, duck is a truly special meal and fantastic for a holiday. Hope you enjoy yours.

                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                      Another one on the duck wagon. It's just the two of us (not counting the cat who doesn't get people food, no matter how lovingly he glances at us/it), so a turkey would be ludicrous.

                                                      After last year's goose fiasco, I think we'll stick to duck from now on. It's our favorite meat after lamb if not a flat-out tie, so .... what's not to love?

                                                      Sides? We be flexible. Hate all the sweet sides that seem to predominate most 'traditional' thanksgiving meals -- the sweet potatoes with marshmellows and or syrup >shudder<.

                                                      I like having my dessert after dinner, thank you very much. That said, I'm a sucker for a well-made pecan pie. My man makes a killer chocolate bourbon version, tho I tend to be on the traditional side when it comes to PP.

                                              2. We went for years without eating turkey for T-day in my family thanks to a spectacular food poisoning outbreak caused by a precooked turkey that had been left out for three days (posted the story in another thread). People would come over and be horrified--"OMG! You have ham/roast beef, WHERE'S THE TURKEY?!?!?" As far as the other dishes go, except for cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes it's like "meh." I don't like sweet potatoes, I've never been a big stuffing/dressing fan, that green bean thing looks like someone puked in Corningware and pies have never been my go-to for dessert. The only tradition I insist on is pigs in blankets for breakfast, which per family legend started when my mom had made up a tray and was going to put it in the fridge until appetizer time but forgot. Dad, being helpful, put them in the oven--at eight in the morning. Mom didn't want them to go to waste, so she gave them to my siblings and me while we were watching the Macy's parade. Ever since then--even if I had to make them in a toaster oven--pigs in blankets are a T-day morning staple.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: MandalayVA

                                                  What a nice family story and tradition :)
                                                  I happen to love turkey, and cranberry sauce - in fact, I am a general fan of sweet and savoury, fruit and meat - but I do think the meal can quickly err on the side of too many sweet elements. In Canada the sweet potato casserole is not traditional, but if people start doing carrots, squash, and/or corn as sides... too many sweet elements. A nice green salad adds crunchy texture and a little bitterness to cleanse the palate.

                                                2. I never eat these "traditional" foods on any other day. We always have a full house with friends and neighbors bringing their favorite dishes, either fancy or just plain simple. We all have a great time and I don't eat roast turkey or stuffing or sweet (potato) pie again for another year. But on Thanksgiving, bring it on! Have a good one everyone, and be truly thankful for all our good fortune.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. Let's see, what are we having for Thanksgiving this year:

                                                    Fresh turkey from a local farm, salted, spiced, and perfectly roasted
                                                    Stuffing/dressing made with sausage, cornbread, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and herbs
                                                    Roasted sweet potatoes (no glazing, and certainly no marshmallows)
                                                    Fresh brussels sprouts roasted with onions, walnuts, and bacon
                                                    Homemade potato rolls
                                                    Cranberries cooked with fresh orange juice and ginger
                                                    Homemade pecan pie made with Lyles Golden Syrup
                                                    Homemade pumpkin pie

                                                    Let's see...buttery? Certainly going to be a dab of butter on the sweet potatoes and the rolls.
                                                    Sweet? Nothing that isn't supposed to be so, and certainly nothing tooth-achingly so.
                                                    Bland? Er...no. Just...no.

                                                    Sounds to me like what you hate so much is BAD Thanksgiving cuisine. No reason to tar the entire holiday with that brush, though.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. I don't _hate_ turkey, but I think basing an entire meal around it, certain specific side dishes, and what someone upthread called "spice bomb pies" (brilliant--I'm keeping it), on an annual basis is kind of silly. One reason is that everyone "knows" a "better way" to make things than the way you're doing it, and they feel no compunction about asking something like "Oh, you're putting stuffing _in_ the turkey?"

                                                      I don't get this kind of commentary when I make things everybody doesn't know how to make (or think they know).

                                                      What I think everyone should do is make food they actually feel grateful for.

                                                      1. Wow, it sounds like Nicole is down on the way the holiday is celebrated (?) in her family, not the food itself. I just wish she could have come to one of our old family T-day get togethers. No control issues in the fragrantly steamy kitchen, just cousins helping each other while simultaneously getting in the way. Everybody brings something, a specialty dish, wine, some sort of contribution. (So and so's wife brought a supermarket pie! In the box! Scandalous! But we ate it.)

                                                        Not just about the food, and I come from a family endowed with good home cooks. Turkey stood in for the stalled ox, but there was plenty of love withall.

                                                        1. I find it too heavy. I also can't stand the dryness of turkey, the plainness of boiled potatoes and the dry stuffing. Well, that's how my mother-in-law makes it. I personally don't like turkey, either. The whole meal just makes me feel tired afterwards too. If Thanksgiving was in my hands, we'd be eating stuffed chicken!

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: chefmindy

                                                            or a big pot of spicy Thai green curry! I'd be VERY thankful for that.

                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                              Go Thai or go home! I agree, green curry would be fantastic...how do we convince them?

                                                              1. re: chefmindy

                                                                we don't stand a chance. soldiers storming Normandy on D-Day had better odds. Custer had better odds.

                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                  We should start our own green curry thanksgiving.

                                                                  1. re: queencru

                                                                    maybe once my folks aren't able to host it anymore I'll wait a year or two and spring that on the family so it doesn't look like I'm dancing on their graves.

                                                            2. re: chefmindy

                                                              Dryness- That's what sauces are for. But, it is better to be a little more inventive to start with.

                                                            3. It's the same old dishes that have gotten a bit boring. Imagine twice overcooked dried out sweet potatoes swimming in off brand imitation brown sugar, margarine, and burnt marshmallows, the can green bean casserole lathered in can mushroom soup topped with can of fried stale onions, store bought pumpkin pie with cool whip.
                                                              This year I am bringing my own fresh cooked yams, and fresh green beans, and a green salad. I would just like a little creativity, a spin on a recipe, a little something different, updated and fresh.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: mara44

                                                                I've tried doing the green beans with mushrooms entirely from scratch...

                                                                cook longer and use more salt than you would think healthy or they'll gripe.

                                                                sorry to be a killjoy.

                                                                1. re: mara44

                                                                  mara44: "dried out sweet potatoes swimming in off brand imitation brown sugar"

                                                                  I have never heard of imitation brown sugar before.

                                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                                    I think she is referring to the cheap variety made out of sugar beets rather than actual brown cane sugar.

                                                                    1. re: blackpointyboots

                                                                      my brain translated to imitation flavor maple syrup

                                                                2. Thanksgiving food is alright in my book. Just fine once a year, especially now that I've taken over making the turkey, stuffing, and rolls from scratch and my wife handles the desserts. The in-laws show up with a Honey-Baked Ham, sweet potato casserole, and traditional green bean casserole, and all is well.

                                                                  However, my favorite holiday for food is Super Bowl Sunday. Now that's a feast I look forward to all year. Pizza, lasagna, burgers, sausages, hot dogs, nachos, wings, subs, ribs, chili, chips, dips, salsa, various concoctions containing cream cheese, sour cream, and melted cheese... I'd take that stuff over the classic Thanksgiving meal any day. :)

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                                    let me guess: you follow macro-biotic principles the other 363 days (smirk)

                                                                  2. Count me in the T-day haters. I actually don't mind turkey throughout the year done various ways. The typical stuffed dry bird just does nothing for me. I have smoked turkeys during the summer that were good. I splaycocked one and covered it in a cajun spice mix before cooking, that turned out pretty good. Try bringing either to the extended family gathering and I would be crucified.
                                                                    We do t-day at home most years. We did ribeyes and baked sweet potatoes one year. If we do anything pseudo traditional we try to do a "good" version of it. IE: green bean casserole from scratch.

                                                                    1. I don't prepare things the normal way, so it's never boring. For example, this year I have decided to skip the dressing and no mashed root vegetables but instead I am going to improvise a casserole that has sweet potato or pumpkin gnocchi, chunks of pear, use creamy polenta as filler perhaps cooked in taragon orange scented chicken broth with half and half, accented with some dried currents, then on top I will stick some cut up dried rustic bread with a little melted butter and browned cheese, then bake the whole thing. For gravey I am going to add some black trumpet mushrooms. Instead of cranberry sauce I am thinking of doing some sort of fig onion relish.

                                                                      1. well, I for one LOVE turkey and all the trimmings.....and try and cook it at least several times a year.

                                                                        But people are funny about Thanksgiving. We are going to a friend's house, and since its just going to be the four of us she called me to see if I have any menu preferences. We were laughing about people who are fussy about such things and miss the point of just being with friends and family. But there was a part of me that when she said "we do all the usual side dishes" wanted to say "I hope the usual side dishes doesn't include yams baked with marshmallows" (I like plain baked yams). But I didn't have to nerve to say anything.....she is a good cook, and I'm sure there will be plenty to eat. Besides, I'm bringing the pies, so there's always that!

                                                                        1. I myself dislike the traditional turkey-with-all-the-trimmings stuff, no matter how well cooked. I don't particularly care that the "usual menu" is a "this is what is expected"/nostalgic reminiscences kind of scenario. I do observe the holiday, kind-of; but it is not something I grew up with so I certainly have no attachment to that "expected" menu at all.

                                                                          Here's what I had for Thanksgiving one year (from my notes):

                                                                          Farmer’s Ham, Pressed Tongue, Braunschweiger, Dijon mustard
                                                                          Cipolline onions in balsamic vinegar.
                                                                          Braised Short Ribs with Winter Melon & Shiitake Mushrooms in beef bone with marrow soup stock reduction.
                                                                          Sour Mustard Soup simmered with sliced ginger, tomatoes & chicken.
                                                                          Roast Lamb au poivre au jus roasted with Fingerling potatoes, shallots & sliced fennel.
                                                                          Blanched Kai Lan with Oyster-flavored sauce.
                                                                          Basmati Rice boiled with bay leaves & sautéed chopped garlic.
                                                                          Shaved asparagus & Italian parsley tossed with marinated artichoke hearts.
                                                                          Drinks, through the day, mostly by themselves:
                                                                          J&B Scotch, Blandys Rainwater Madeira, Dow’s Tawny Port, MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris, Chateneuf-du-Pape Domaine Bois De Boursan.

                                                                          I do similar types of stuff in other years, some more elaborate, some less. E.g. for another year:

                                                                          Bak Kut Teh
                                                                          Napa Cabbage: braised with straw mushrooms, dried & fresh shiitake mushrooms, dried tofu sheets, & dried lily flowers in a white sauce.
                                                                          Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts with tarragon & Dijon mustard sauce.
                                                                          Sauteed sliced fennel bulb.
                                                                          Boiled Red Potatoes tossed with butter & parsley.
                                                                          Drinks, enjoyed by themselves:
                                                                          Paul Blanck Furstentum Gewurztraminer Vielles Vignes 2000 Alsace Grand Cru.
                                                                          J & B Whiskey.
                                                                          Macadamia nuts & salted cashews munched throughout the day.

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                            I hate you and am forever engulfed in sheer envy and piteous spite that your holiday meal sounds like more fun.

                                                                            bon appetit!

                                                                            this year at least I'm gonna do a bonfire and bocce (and sneaky shots) while the dolts fall asleep in front of the TV after dinner.

                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                              Heh. Please, don't be cross. :-) Y'know, suppose you deliberately took a vacation one year for Thanksgiving and did whatever you wanted? ;-)

                                                                              The bonfire and bocce and shots sound good.

                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                ok yeah I HAVE lied and done that, and between you and me Puerto Rico (Culebra or Vieques in particular) is a lot better than Key West or Aruba.

                                                                                oh and it will be a bonfire with s'mores

                                                                            2. re: huiray

                                                                              This was for how many people? 50? 100?

                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                Good Lord, no. That's a fanciful thought.

                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                  Now that I look at it again, it really isn't all that much food. I don't know what I was thinking...

                                                                            3. Not big on turkey, mashed potatoes--and I've never had marshmallows with other Thanksgiving foods. The other foods I like. I've never been much into the whole Thanksgiving thing, and over the past 20 years have only celebrated it twice when I was in the US by coincidence at the time of year. Out of sight out of mind.
                                                                              Now, I'll eat chicken or duck with pecan pie or yams or stuffing any time!

                                                                              1. As a kid growing up, I never liked Thanksgiving because the menu was always dry turkey, bland mashed potatoes and gravy, soggy stuffing, green bean casserole and a couple of other things I don't care for, along with pumpkin pie for dessert. My mother is not a terrible cook, but she grew up in the 50s and hadn't really progressed much beyond that when I was a kid. Anyway, I thought for the longest time that I simply didn't like stuffing, gravy, etc.

                                                                                Imagine my surprise when I went to a friend's house for Thanksgiving in college and was greeted with a beautiful, crisp-skinned bird, fabulous stuffing chock full of chestnuts and sausage, a rich mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes that were more butter than potato and an array of interesting desserts. Now, to be fair, his mother had it catered. :) But it opened my eyes to the idea that there was more to stuffing than my mom's gummy casserole full of undercooked celery!

                                                                                I have been away from home for probably the last 15 Thanksgivings and I now really enjoy the meal, although I am still not a big fan of turkey or pumpkin pie. I make enough sides that I don't really care if I have a "main" protein anyway. There is no condensed soup in anything I make. There are certain dishes (like my stuffing) that I am not allowed to change, but other sides can be flexible - for instance, last year's surprise winner was a warm kale "salad" with cavolo nero, butternut squash and chestnuts in a black olive vinaigrette. Desserts always include a fruit pie or two in addition to pumpkin, and there are no marshmallows ANYWHERE near my kitchen!

                                                                                As much as I love my own Thanksgiving dishes, though, I think the time is coming that I would prefer to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, even if it does mean choking down some dry turkey. My mother's cooking has improved and she's better about letting me have the run of the kitchen anyway! :)

                                                                                1. I'm surprised no one mentioned Calvin Trillin's hatred of Thanksgiving dinner and his desire to turn Carbonara into the national Thanksgiving meal.

                                                                                  I, for one, love Thanksgiving dinner --- at least the way we make it. I love a well-cooked bird where the meat is perfectly done and accompanied by a rich gravy made from pan drippings. We never have sweet potatoes, and have mashed potatoes instead, which form a lovely crater to hold more of that delicious gravy. Our dressing is made of cubed sourdough bread with cornbread, Italian sweet sausage and pecans. I could have that for lunch! A nicely tart cranberry/lemon/walnut sauce goes on the side, and last year's green was shredded Brussels sprouts (which I don't usually love) with crispy pancetta, which I did love. Sometimes, when my husband feels ambitious, we'll start with a trio of soups -- wild mushroom, gumbo, and cream of broccoli. But lately, we've been happy without adding them to the meal. We feel no need for bread or rolls, the stuffing taking care of that. Dessert is always three pies: pecan, pumpkin and apple. For me, it's a very happy meal, even though I travel 3,000 miles to cook at my SIL's every year! But family is family, and Thanksgiving dinner is wonderful. Well, sounds as if some people have had bad experiences, so let me amend that by saying that Thanksgiving dinner is wonderful the way we make and celebrate it.

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                                                    Beautiful. Can I come to your place? Due to insane retail hours, I usually work until one or two AM Wed/Thur and back at two AM Friday. Ironically, because we now open at midnight instead of five am Friday, I drew the mid shift and was able to go to a relatives house for the first real Thanksgiving in fifteen years. Usually it's some fried fish I've caught, or oysters or fried shrimp. Wake-up late, back to bed at 6 PM, a few drinks in between. Roxlet, enjoy, it sounds great, enjoy your family, the food, the company. I hate to hear others complain about what is such a great holiday for most.

                                                                                    1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                      It's my husband's favorite holiday since it's about the food, and he doesn't have to buy and wrap gifts, lol!

                                                                                    2. re: roxlet

                                                                                      >>>I'm surprised no one mentioned Calvin Trillin's hatred of Thanksgiving dinner and his desire to turn Carbonara into the national Thanksgiving meal.<<<

                                                                                      For me, it's Lasagne Bolognese. If I'm not feeling like making pasta, I might bake boxed pasta, usually cavatappi, with Bolognese, Besciamella and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

                                                                                      I also like something with oysters, and I usually make a cranberry tart, as I *hate* pumpkin pie (someone upthread called it a "spice bomb"; perfect description).

                                                                                      1. re: Jay F

                                                                                        Growing up in an Italian family, pasta was always the first course at Thanksgiving, and the turkey came later. Sometime, much, much later. Lasagna was a pretty regular starter for winter holiday meals, and for Easter, it was usually wonderful, homemade ravioli done by my grandmother. One felt obligated to make turkey because, well, we're all Americans, right? But it was often served as an afterthought, and after the men had gone to the den to smoke cigars and pipes, and the women finished the first clean up and kibitzing. Me? I was usually bored silly!

                                                                                    3. LOL - For the last twenty + years thanksgiving at our house has never been traditional, instead I research a certain type of cuisine and prepare a complete meal from that region using ingredients that seasonal to late November for them. Ironically thanksgiving has grown at our house to include family, friends, neighbors, etc. Last year we hosted over 50 people who were looking to get away from regular thanksgiving.

                                                                                      1. We recently started ordering a smoked turkey from Oklahoma Joe's in KC for Thanksgiving. It isn't expensive but the shipping really gets you. It has changed our outlook on Thanksgiving. We scratch make all of the sides and incorporate some new dishes with traditional stuff.

                                                                                        It's our favorite meal of the year with the smoked turkey.

                                                                                        1. I am not a big fan of the traditional T-day dinner. To me turkey is a vehicle for lots of tasty gravy. I do like sweet buttery candied yams with marshmallows. I know this may seem bizarre but I love canned cranberry sauce. I always request that it just be slipped out of the can and not mashed. It's weird but I enjoy seeing the indentations from the ribs of the can.
                                                                                          That being said: Half of my family is Middle Eastern. Along with Turke etc. we had stuffed grapeleaves, hummus, babaganough, leban and tabouli. MMMMMMMMM!!!!!

                                                                                          1. I look forward to the meal. I love a nicely cooked turkey (and the leftovers it will produce). Our typical sides are not at all bland - roasted garlic or wasabi mashed potatoes or oven roasted with lots of rosemary; spinach-gorgonzola souffle; curried onions; spicy cranberry chutney; caesar salad; and one or two new dishes, usually vegetable and never devoid of spice. Dirty martinis and lots of red wine.

                                                                                            1. This is so alien to me I cannot comprehend your words.



                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                It's supposed to cool off enough around here to finally fire up the oven. Hello turkey!

                                                                                                1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                  Oh, I think you comprehend NicoleFriedman's words quite well. You just refuse to believe that there are such people. ;-)

                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                    I prefer to live in denial.

                                                                                                    Gobble gobble.

                                                                                                2. I very much enjoy the Thanksgiving meal of my childhood. "Free" grocery store turkey, cornbread dressing, hash brown potato casserole, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole (NO MARSHMALLOWS) canned cranberry sauce.

                                                                                                  It reminds me of my mom.

                                                                                                  1. I love Thanksgiving for all the traditions it holds. We are not a traditional family in any way ~~ and one of my (now adult) children is vegetarian and the other is not a Turkey-day food fan. To him, its all about foorball.

                                                                                                    But this year we are all traveling to be in PA (we're from CA) with my cousins, and I'm excited. We're having dinner at one of the cousins' home, and I have no idea whatsoever what will be on the table. I asked DD and she asked me to make my corn and black bean salad ~~ so some of the PA folks might be surprised how California does it. That's ok with me. Its about getting together.

                                                                                                    But I will probably cook a turkey when I return home, I usually do when I travel for the holiday. There is just nothing like leftovers and most of all, the Day-After-Thanksgiving-Sandwich.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. I was definitely not a fan of traditional Thanksgiving foods when I was younger. I did my first Thanksgiving 2 years ago - just for immediate family, though last year we had three young nephews as well. I have to say, I enjoyed my dinner - I make a pretty good Thanksgiving - though I can't beat my great Aunt's homemade noodles.

                                                                                                      I made stuffing, but I still don't like it. Never have - it just isn't meant to be.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: jw615

                                                                                                        Don't like stuffing? Bite your tongue. I am not even ashamed to admit I love Stovetop Stuffing. Love it.


                                                                                                        1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                          stuffing is my absolute favorite part of the meal...i need nothing else aside a little gravy on top

                                                                                                      2. I think it depends on how it is done. In Central Pa everything is SWEET.
                                                                                                        I don't mind the buttery flavor in some things but don't put sugar in my mashed potatoes. Don't drown my sweet potatoes in King Syrup. And let me season my gravy and turkey.

                                                                                                        I do like some of the sweet and savory pairings and it is one of the few times a year I get stuffing which is probably my favorite side- the more stuff in it the better.

                                                                                                        I've only had green bean casserole once and I've never had sweet potatoes with marshmallows. I think some of the comfort is that the recipes are traditions in many cases. M

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                                                                          Jeebus, sugar in mashed potatoes??? Abomination! Wow.

                                                                                                        2. "almost no butter in his preparation"

                                                                                                          No butter? On Thanksgiving? Am I missing something?

                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                              God, spare me from those who would spare me from what they think are my vices.

                                                                                                            2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                              Nope, you're viewing an ab erration, but Tgiving can be done with much less butter. Turkey doesn't need it at all. The rest it's variable.

                                                                                                            3. I haven't had real good luck eating Thanksgiving out. Its been hit or miss for me, and I've been to several restaurants on that holiday. I like turkey, stuffing, something cranberry, and some other sides in the meal. I don't care for the caloric, sweet versions of a lot of the food commonly prepared for this holiday. Its in how you prepare it. And for many, its the food their moms or grandmoms prepared, and they don't like change, especially for this meal.

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                In the years when our family has had to eat Thanksgiving in a restaurant, we finally figured out that the best experience was in a restaurant that served the best buffet. That way, rather than everyone sitting in a restaurant staring at a plate of dry turkey hidden by gloppy gravy with disappointing stuffing, we could all find something personally satisfying like Prime Rib, seafood, a pasta bar, etc.

                                                                                                                So my recommendation for spending Thanksgiving in a restaurant - the finest buffet you can find!

                                                                                                                1. re: ski_gpsy

                                                                                                                  An excellent suggestion!

                                                                                                                  Another one - go the Chinese Route. :-) Have the bestest splendidest banquet-style meal you can have at a nice Chinese restaurant.

                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                    Chinese has definitely become part of our family holiday tradition huiray. In the middle of the Christmas Eve last minute flurry of wrapping and readying, Chin's restaurant delivers a Chinese feast, which we all sit down to eat by lovely candlelight off of pretty holiday paper plates. It's all very festive and traditional but no one has to cook and there are no dishes to clean.

                                                                                                                    Chinese food on Christmas Eve has become one of my favorite holiday traditions!

                                                                                                              2. I love the holiday, I love the food. Especially if it's done well, mostly even if it's not. Stop being persnickety and cherish the intent on this holiday. Overdone dry turkey is the exception, but that rarely happens these days without being deliberate, almost.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                  The cranberry jelly or relish is meant to help the dry breast meat I think. And gravy helps out too. Never mind that most modern turkeys will not have unusually dry meat because they have been injected with broth by the processor.

                                                                                                                2. I think it all boils down to a few bullet points-
                                                                                                                  Do you like turkey?
                                                                                                                  Do you like the idea of Thanksgiving dinner?
                                                                                                                  Do you hate the ritual?
                                                                                                                  Do you hate the family that hosts the Thanksgiving dinner?
                                                                                                                  Are you a food snob?

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. To me Thanksgiving is all about the stuffing. Since my folks only make their amazing southern cornbread dressing one day a year on Thanksgiving, I will fly, drive, walk or crawl to get to it. Its that special.

                                                                                                                    IMO, turkey's only value is to produce the Giblet Gravy that we put on the amazing cornbread dressing, and for the hot open face sandwiches to come in the following days.

                                                                                                                    After reading all the lamenting of typical Thanksgiving fare, I am so glad my family is from the south. We have Mac & Cheese, Sweet Potato Pie with with praline topping , Corn Pudding, Brussels Sprouts with bacon and brown sugar, Broccoli Casserole, Key Lime pie, warm Pecan Pie with ice cream, and Funeral Potatoes. Basically we have every decadent comfort food that you don't allow yourself to eat the other 364 days of the year, let alone all in one day!

                                                                                                                    Obviously I LOVE Thanksgiving. In our family Thanksgiving is traditionally a boisterous 4 day long feeding frenzy devoted to food, family, friends, and football.

                                                                                                                    Then comes Christmas with Prime Rib, Yorkshire pudding and all the traditional trimmings. And Christmas is followed by New Year's day with slow cooked ham hocks and black eyed peas, corn bread and honey butter, collard greens, mac & cheese and Chess Pie.

                                                                                                                    And of course these months of holiday feasting are always finished with everyone's annual New Year's vow to hit the gym, lose weight and diet.

                                                                                                                    'Til next year.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: ski_gpsy

                                                                                                                      Okay, I REALLY like what chya'll got goin' on. You win on this thread for most appetizing Thanksgiving spread (my humble opinion). I'm in New York and we do brocvoli casserole too...at least two dishes of it, or there would be a revolt.

                                                                                                                    2. Not really a fan. We do our own thing - far less traditional, such as porchetta or seared duck breast or roast leg of lamb.

                                                                                                                      1. After attending too many years of Thanksgiving meals that have been about quantity instead of quality I'm relieved it's just the two of us this year and we can eat what we want. I'm making a Mediterranean meal with leg of lamb on the grill- it'll be such a nice treat for us!

                                                                                                                        I love my inlaws but we eat very differently than they do and a meal full of processed and/or sugary ingredients isn't enjoyable for us. We've left the last two Christmas' feeling unwell from the salty ham, canned soup, added salt, etc. I really hate ham. :( MIL is so sensitive and I really don't want to hurt her feelings (....BIG grudge holder.... cries easily and frequently....) so we deal with it the best we can.

                                                                                                                        An Aunt of mine grew up with the holiday tradition of chicken fried steak. Neither of her parents liked turkey. I loved living near them when I was in my 20s and spending holidays with them. Pajamas until at least 2pm, bloody marys by 3 and chicken fried steak for dinner. The holiday was all about relaxing and enjoying!

                                                                                                                        The inlaws won't accept our offer to host because they think we eat "weird fancy food" and we don't have a television. I really wish my folks were closer and we could split the holidays between the two evenly.