If you love food as much as I do, you'll know that we're currently in the midst of the greatest time of the year. Buckets of Halloween candy followed by grand Thanksgiving feasts and Christmas dinners of epic proportions make the three-month span the most exciting of the year.
While Thanksgiving may be about more than just the food, there's no doubt that it's the most food-centric holiday out there. Giving your thanks, seeing family and post-meal football games are all integral parts on the fourth Thursday of November. But even with all of these wonderful things, when people think Thanksgiving, they think food.
While everyone has different opinions and tastes, and lists like this might be highly subjective, 21 years of stuffing my face on Thanksgiving has led me to the point where all of the essential Thanksgiving food items need to be ranked.
1. Mac & cheese
I don't even want to think about a Thanksgiving meal without this essential food item. In my experience, mac & cheese is praised by every sane person I've ever known, and for good reason. You can bake it, add a multitude of ingredients or experiment with as many different cheeses as you want, but what remains is cheesy goodness seemingly sent from the heavens and enough to make or break any Thanksgiving feast.
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2. Mashed Potatoes
Here's a tip — reward your taste buds and eat mashed potatoes. Potatoes are such a versatile food, but the best way to prepare them, and the most popular on Thanksgiving, is to mash them into a fluffy cloud of flavor. Bonus points for smothering them in homemade gravy.
Oh sweet carbs, how I love you. It may be a bit controversial to put something as simple and plain as rolls this high on my list but hey, this is just my opinion. A nice flaky, soft dinner roll and some butter is hard to beat and is the perfect compliment to any main dish. However, beware to not overfill on the bread if you plan on getting extra helpings of food because blink too fast and your stomach will be filled to the brim with the soft deliciousness.
Turkey is no doubt what first comes to mind when people think about Thanksgiving, and for good reason, it's pretty delicious. I'm putting it together with ham because even though essentially they're the same food, there are definitely people who prefer it to turkey. Apologies to vegetarians everywhere but Thanksgiving turkey is both iconic and tremendously satisfying.
There's a lot of debate as to whether these two items are actually the same thing, and to be honest I'm not even totally sure. Many believe it has to do with what region of the country you're from — it's called dressing in the South and stuffing just about everywhere else — while others believe the name is determined by how it's prepared. Regardless of what you call it, this item, while it doesn't blow me away, is a trademark holiday food and a solid choice at the table.
6. Vegetable side dishes
This is a broad entry, but nevertheless one that shouldn't be ignored. I decided to group vegetable dishes as one because it really depends on your personal preference. Slap some green beans, corn, glazed carrots, brussel sprouts or squash on your plate and it basically offsets the thousands of calories and two plates full of mashed potatoes and dressing you had earlier, right? While vegetables are definitely not the most alluring of choices, prepared the right way, they can really be an underrated option.
7. Pumpkin Pie
I'm not really sure why, but I've never really been a fan of pie. Preparing for the inevitable hate that this entry will likely get, let me just say one thing — if I had to choose one kind of pie to eat, it would probably be pumpkin pie. That being said, there are about 1,000 other desserts I'd rather have than pumpkin pie, even though I definitely see the appeal of the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert.
368. Cranberry Sauce
One word: No.
I'm sure there are people out there who genuinely enjoy this dish, but if I see you with some cranberry sauce on your plate, just know I'm definitely judging you. Joking aside, there are so many other better options than cranberry sauce, and thankfully it seems like most people reserve it for one day of the year. Don't do that to your taste buds.
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