Oh my gourd! Ranking Thanksgiving side dishes

Lilly Drury

By Lilly Drury

Thanksgiving. A time to reflect upon the many blessings that we have, spend time with loved ones, and give thanks for the lives we so luckily live. A wonderful holiday that re volves around gratitude and gives us all time to reflect upon the fruits of life.
More importantly, there’s lots of food.
It seems that every year the debate arises over the best Thanksgiving dish. Some say mashed potatoes while others rave about cranberry sauce. I’m not here to play games. I’m here to delve into the delectable dishes that will hopefully grace all of your dinner tables this year. I hope to narrow the list down and find my all time favorite Thanksgiving side dish- because who even likes the turkey?

Cranberry Sauce
Starting at the bottom of the barrel: Cranberry sauce. I truly don’t understand how this became a staple for Thanksgiving. Why would you want to submerge your turkey in that sickly sweet compote as opposed to the creamy, rich, well-paired gravy? It just seems out of place on the table- singular among the others. I don’t mind if my mashed potatoes and green bean casserole intersect on my plate because the flavors mix well together. But what’s essentially jam intervening with my stuffing? I have to draw the line. This dish is last on my list and while I understand this may upset some people, I must stay true to my beliefs. In defense, I have to admit I haven’t tried cranberry sauce in a couple of years, but the thought of mixing something that sweet with the savory palate of Thanksgiving food is revolting.

Green Bean Casserole
People love to hate on the green bean casserole, and I am here to tell you why they are all absurdly wrong. It all comes down to texture. This casserole nails it in the texture department. A good green bean casserole has beans that have a particular softness to them, coated in a nice creamy sauce. Adding the crunchy fried onions on top is an amazing contrast, and year after year I find myself being surprised at how good it is. Well, it’s time to stop acting shocked and start realizing that this dish has done its job every year and deserves a bit more recognition.

Mashed Potatoes with Gravy
A classic. Mashed potatoes are amazing because their simplicity acts as a canvas for the other foods to play on. Getting a forkful of the turkey and immersing it in the creamy mash is probably one of the best moments of the whole ordeal that is the Thanksgiving feast. I’ve never seen anyone choose not to drizzle gravy on top of their potatoes, and I like to think that no one dares diverge from that method. Starchy vegetables really get their time to shine during the holiday season, and the only reason this isn’t taking the cake is the exact reason why it’s so amazing- it isn’t so much the single dish, but how it meshes the other food together on your plate. It wins best supporting act, but not quite the star of the show.

Sweet Potato Casserole
I owe sweet potato casserole an apology. For many years as a child, I refused to give this dish a chance. I fell victim to the age old mistake of judging food based on appearance. My small mindedness couldn’t get around the orange colored mush that was encrusted with a brown sugar and pecans concoction. This all changed the one year my mother decided to top it with marshmallows, an enticing method that allured me enough to warrant a bite. After tasting, my blinded judgement was instantly made clear to me- I was missing out on possibly the best dish there was. It’s not mushy. It’s indescribably creamy and rich. It creates the perfect place for the sugary coating to lay- but unlike cranberry sauce it doesn’t mask any of the sweet potato flavor, it enhances it. It’s sweet and salty, fluffy yet dense. Sweet potato casserole encompases the feeling of Thanksgiving. Even the color has echoes of fallen leaves, pumpkin, and a crackling fireplace.

Roasted Vegetables
I wanted to leave this one a little vague and up to interpretation because I feel like everyone has their own vegetable dish for Thanksgiving. My family is privy to have cheesy roasted carrots or maple glazed brussel sprouts. I’m gonna give it to you straight. These are good. They’re great. But it’s hard to compete with the big guns like casseroles and potatoes. However, I can still appreciate the psychology of having these on the table to try and trick ourselves into thinking we’re enjoying a balanced meal. Just don’t think too hard about the glaze or cheese on top of these veggies.

Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese lacks that Thanksgiving food quality. It’s too common. I can have mac and cheese any day, and when you have so many choices on Thanksgiving, you don’t want to waste any plate space on mac and cheese. I don’t want to downplay it’s role, but it just doesn’t evoke the same excitement that I feel for the other foods. Still, there’s no denying that a good mac and cheese with voluptuous amounts of cheese and a golden baked breading on top is a great option for those that aren’t willing to venture out to the more daring dishes.

I never really knew what stuffing consisted of until about five years ago. In these five years, it seems like stuffing has had a bit of an upgrade. Maybe it was just my understanding of it that elevated this Thanksgiving classic but needless to say, it’s a staple for a reason. Personally, my family has stuffing as its own dish and not inside the turkey. The great thing about stuffing is that if it gets a little soggy, it kinda works. I don’t mind a dense stuffing and neither should you.

I feel as though I should give an honorable mention to good ol’ bread rolls. A great palate cleanser in between helpings, and just plain reliable. You can’t mess up bread rolls. You can give them to the younger children to keep them quiet throughout the meal, and even have them out early so people can prepare their stomachs for the feast to come. I see you, bread rolls, I recognize your duties, and I applaud you.

Although it is a hard choice, I have decided to choose sweet potato casserole as my winner. It checks all the boxes and another major plus is the convenience of having it for leftovers. Not all food bodes well against the testament of time, but this casserole packs away nicely and still tastes amazing after heating it up in the microwave.