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Courtesy of Julianna Marie
Experiences

Thanksgiving Food Is Gross. I Said What I Said.

This needs to be said: Thanksgiving food is nasty, and I’m tired of being told that it’s good. Every year, seeing people prepare a dinner table full of Thanksgiving food makes me want to ask the question: Do you actually like Thanksgiving food, or do you just feel obligated to because of tradition?

I’ll answer for you: it’s probably the latter. Sorry if you love dry turkey and congealed cranberry sauce, but I’m about to ruin this holiday for everyone.

The first Thanksgiving took place on American soil in late 1621, and contrary to popular belief, it’s very likely they didn’t even eat turkey. While the Wampanoag people brought deer meat, the Pilgrims provided wild fowl like ducks and geese. In fact, America’s Thanksgiving fixation on turkeys didn’t occur until the 19th century. This was mainly because the bird was extremely plentiful both in the wild and on family farms. This led the advertising industry to push the idea of a Thanksgiving turkey, starting in the 1920s. It was only after that that the Thanksgiving turkey phenomenon was born. That’s right. Turkey is a corporate scam.

But beyond that, I must state the obvious: Turkey sucks. It’s chicken’s ugly cousin, like if you left a chicken out for a couple of hours and decided, “Yeah, I’ll eat this now.” When it comes to Thanksgiving, Jake from Brooklyn Nine-Nine said it best: “The Pilgrims were murderers, and turkey tastes like napkins.”

And before everyone comes at me with the “what about ham?” comments, you should know that ham is one of the main targets of my distaste for Thanksgiving food. Why? Because even when it’s already cooked, it still smells and feels like it’s raw. It’s slimy and strangely warm even when it’s refrigerated. So you wait to put it in the oven for two hours, get it all dried out, and then you eat it. And not only is it weirdly steamy and gamey, it also takes a whopping 30 minutes for it to return back to its disgusting true form.

Not to mention, ham is packed with sulphur dioxide, which gives it that unpleasant smell that will make your house smell like a wet-pork-candle for weeks to come.

As for side dishes, sweet potato casserole is the stuff of satanic ritual. Sure, it’s natural to love the sugary taste of sweet potatoes, brown sugar, and walnuts all mushed together and topped with toasted marshmallows. But let’s take a step back and reevaluate. When is it ever okay to serve something like that with ham and other various meats, and have them all touch each other on a plate? (Not to mention, if you took a closer look at sweet potato casserole, you may draw direct parallels to the stuff you vomited out after your first college fraternity party.)

And sweet potato casserole — like turkey — is mostly a result of greed and good advertising. And isn’t that exactly what Thanksgiving shouldn’t be about? After the guys who invented Cracker Jacks (Frederick and Louis Rueckheim) decided to mass produce marshmallows in the early 1900s, they needed to generate a demand for marshmallows nationwide. This led to the brothers enlisting a chef to come up with a bunch of marshmallow-centric recipes… including sweet potato casserole. After you pull yourself out of the Thanksgiving brainwash, you just won’t find it appetizing ever again.

And finally, the bane of my existence: cranberry sauce.

Cranberry sauce is like that one weird family member: it comes around every year, and nobody knows why it’s there, but they all just accept it for what it is. Year after year, it slides out of the can (in cylindrical form) and onto our plates to saturate our rolls, green beans, and mashed potatoes in processed, congealed jelly. The texture is strange, the flavor is bland, and the entire experience is just sort of… meh?

I’m not alone in my cranberry sauce disdain: in a 2019 Instacart survey of more than 2,000 Americans, nearly half said cranberry sauce is “disgusting,” and 29% only buy cranberry sauce because it’s a “tradition.” We deserve so much better than that.

Perhaps it’s time for all of us to move on from the Thanksgiving foods we’ve known our entire lives, and begin to branch out to other, newer traditions. Whether that’s ditching the turkey all together for a roasted chicken or vegan alternative, or even replacing Thanksgiving dinner altogether with your family’s favorite takeout spot, Thanksgiving is about more than just turkey and side dishes. It’s about family, friends, memories, and remembering all of the wonderful things to be thankful for.

So until it’s socially acceptable for me to eat pizza at a Thanksgiving feast, I’ll be off to the side with my dinner rolls and butter, and planning my future Thanksgiving dinner of sushi, fine ramen, and gourmet chicken nuggets. A girl can dream, right?

what's good! my name is julianna marie and i am an editorial intern at her campus, along with a features writer at college fashionista. as a pittsburgh born, los angeles transplant, i enjoy nothing more than a good horror movie, a rainy day, and a surplus of cantonese-style dumplings. whenever i'm not writing a screenplay or an article, you can typically find me drinking a beer on a beach somewhere. it's good for the soul.
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