On Thanksgiving, there are certain side dishes that have a cemented spot on the dining table. Stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole—what would the holiday be without these staples? To attempt alteration or removal of them from the menu is a catalyst for rioting among most families. I’ve noticed certain dishes in particular inspire unyielding and equal amounts of loyalty and loathing, which is why Thanksgiving dinner will never be without them.
I never realized how passionate people get about holiday meals until I conducted an informal survey about people’s most-loved and most-hated Thanksgiving foods. It turns out the side dishes that are always contentious at my family’s table ring true for many others. When it comes to these menu mainstays, people either really love them or really hate them—no in-betweens, no mercy.
Jell-O Salad/Ambrosia Salad
One person I spoke with bemoaned the “green Jell-O salad with pineapple and other random floaties in it” that her relative brings every year. Why do people think fruit mixed with Jell-O, marshmallows, or Cool Whip is an acceptable accompaniment to dinner—and worse, that it’s a salad? However, there was a small minority of survey participants who admitted to liking it with their meals. Photo: rochelle, et. al.(cc)
This might be a rare treat at Thanksgiving, since most people opt for pumpkin, but it still appears on the table occasionally. Personally, I’d choose almost anything over hard beef fat mixed with spiced fruit and raisins, but everybody’s different. Photo: VirtualErn (cc)
Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole’s one of those dishes you either really love or really hate. I know there are lots of people who consider green bean casserole essential to Thanksgiving happiness, but along with sweet potato casserole, it was one of the most-reviled menu items among those I asked. Don’t shoot the messenger! Photo: arnold | inuyaki (cc)
Canned Cranberry Sauce
Okay, I happen to enjoy cranberry sauce (the homemade kind is great, but yes, I will eat the canned variety … it’s Thanksgiving!), but I’m definitely in the minority. Though after a coworker mentioned the creepiness of visible can ridges, I might rethink my allegiance. Photo: purpleslog (cc)
Pumpkin pie often shares the spotlight with turkey as the star of Thanksgiving meals. Perhaps that’s why it’s such a slap in the face to some people when the pies come from grocery stores. Those who named this as their number one offender listed as reasons the stale crust, chemical-laden insides, and the underwhelming, mass-produced flavor. “I can see why someone might let cranberry sauce slide,” one friend said, “but for God’s sake, get a hold of yourself when you start letting dessert slide!” Photo: rockinfree (cc)
Sweet Potato Casserole
My mom makes this every year and while the rest of the family enjoys it, I just can’t get behind combining succulent sweet potatoes with marshmallows and goopy syrup. (Sorry, Mom!) I was relieved to find out I’m not alone; most of those polled cited this as their least-liked Thanksgiving food. But there will always be diehards who deem sweet potatoes not nearly sweet enough, which is why this dish remains a Thanksgiving staple. Photo: David Boyle (cc)
Interestingly, the results of my research didn’t vary much across gender or age. Our favorite parts about Thanksgiving meals vary from person to person, but when it came to least-liked dishes, the answers were strikingly similar among people of all ages and in all locations. However, for every few people who disliked a certain dish, there was another one who proclaimed, “Hey, I like that!” I guess pleasing everybody at a big meal is pretty much impossible, which is probably why these items exist in the first place—to make sure everybody stuffs themselves properly on the biggest eating holiday of the year. Clearly, one person’s cornbread casserole can be someone else’s random floaties in Jell-O.
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