Thanksgiving is a fascinating holiday. We run around combining canned things with boxed things with jarred things. While the meal is arguably the tastiest of the year, some familiar ingredients are strange. A good strange. A strange we love to hate. But strange nonetheless. It's this gastronomic oddballness that unites us as American eaters each November.
Canned Cream of Mushroom Soup
A man in a suit must have said, "How can we sell more boxed onion strings?" And so the dependence on canned cream of mushroom soup was born. The familiar murky-colored sludge contains a mushroom fleck or two. Dare we suggest a replacement in green bean casserole? Oh, how the onion strings would throw a fit! And let's be honest, dinner guests might too. (Well done, boxed onion string moguls. We are hooked.)
Alternative: Anthony Bourdain's mushroom soup
Gyrating Cranberry Sauce
The wiggly, jiggly "sauce" should really be classified as a goo. Spaghetti sauce is a sauce; barbecue sauce is a sauce. Cranberry goo is fun to poke and an ideal invite to a dance party, but not a sauce. Like a memory foam pillow, it always returns to the same posture.
Alternative: Cranberry sauce with champagne and currants
Aren't the giblets sealed in a body cavity bag for a reason? (To signal "stay away"?) While foie gras, offal, and other animal innards have been glamorized, poor giblets (soft "g" sound, pronounced "jib-lets") have remained socially ostracized and feared. Chop them into mini chunks for a Thanksgiving stuffing, though, and maybe nobody will notice!
Alternative: Cornbread dressing with pecans and bacon
Pearl onions are funny. Do they come from factories or trees? If the latter, how are they perfectly pearl-shaped each time? They rarely exist outside of casseroles and creepy white sauces, which can't be good.
Alternative: Other onions
Campfires would be so pointless without the fluffy, cloud-like cubes, but they are not as harmless as they look. They contain bones. Okay, traces of bones. Gelatin, an ingredient in most commercially manufactured marshmallows, comes from animal hides or bones. So Aunt Esther's sweet potatoes might contain traces of skeletal systems. Just sayin'.
Alternative: Sweet potatoes sans marshmallows
Yup, I said it. Historians can't even prove pilgrims ate the darn bird. Do you eat it on your birthday, wedding day, or other celebratory time? Nope. As beloved writer Calvin Trillin once suggested, why not spaghetti carbonara? The homage to Christopher Columbus—and his big Italian eyes that discovered America—is just as iconic of the American frontier. Not to mention, less dry and less flavorless.
If you must have turkey, at least deep-fry it. Or, let's just quit the act and have fried chicken.
Alternative: Fried chicken