To acquire wisdom, one must observe

The Hoot’s Thanksgiving table

As everyone is getting ready to go home for Thanksgiving, The Brandeis Hoot decided to take on the hardest question of the holiday: what is the best Thanksgiving food? There were many strong opinions, and no consensus was reached. Enjoy the debate, and Happy Thanksgiving!  

Polina Potochevska: 

My family is from Ukraine. Therefore we did not celebrate Thanksgiving until we moved to the United States and fully immersed ourselves in the American culture, so it’s all still pretty new to us. In my opinion though, the very best part about Thanksgiving that I’ve experienced so far has always been the desserts, and in particular: the caramelized, crunchy, golden-edged pecan pie. 

Now, the pronunciation of “pecan pie” could be an entire article in itself, so we won’t get into that topic today. Despite that debate, I strongly stand by the fact that pecan pie is the most delicious plate on the Thanksgiving dessert table, perfectly filling and palette-cleansing after a tryptophan-stuffed meal. (And it’s “pee-can,” not “peh-cawn.”) 

I know that November through December is peak pumpkin spice season, but I’ve never been able to enjoy the flavor or texture of pumpkin, especially when baked into a pie. They’re gooey, pulpy and just too squash-like to be enjoyed as a dessert. To be fair, I have never tried rhubarb pie or more traditional cherry/blueberry pies (Ukrainians are more into cakes and stacked wafer pastries, in my experience), but I can imagine they all have similar textures. And while apple pie is a quintessential American staple, it is also incredibly gooey, unlike pecan pies that have a mixture of soft and crunchy textures that blend beautifully on your tongue.

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinners, I just can’t think of anything more satisfying than caramelized pecans, rich brown sugar and sweet maple syrup stacked together in one perfect pie. They are not too sweet to give you a sugar rush, but just sweet enough to keep you from completely passing out at the dinner table from that classic “turkey coma.” And when paired with a cup of hot tea? There’s simply nothing better.

Emma Lichtenstein:

As a very picky eater, I dread Thanksgiving every year. Turkey on its own is bland and dry, but I don’t like either gravy or cranberry sauce. Stuffing looks like someone vomited it up, so it’s a no from me. Sweet potatoes are edible on their own, but the marshmallow commonly added to them makes them gross. This dilemma means every Thanksgiving I load my plate up with the best side dish: green bean casserole. 

Green bean casserole is an underappreciated part of Thanksgiving; green beans are an underappreciated vegetable as a whole. They’re good enough to eat plain. However, once you mix them with the cream of mushroom soup and french fried onions, they become truly magnificent. 

I don’t even like cream of mushroom soup to begin with, but I’m willing to temporarily throw out my hatred of mushrooms to enjoy a good green bean casserole. It’s got great flavor, the creaminess of the soup pairing delightfully with the sharpness of the onions while still balancing the subtle flavors of the green beans. 

The casserole has a delightful crunch to it, a sharp contrast from the other dishes traditionally served on Thanksgiving. Potatoes, turkey, stuffing: they’re all soft. Green bean casserole brings the crunch, which is just another way it stands out from the rest of the pitiful Thanksgiving foods. Though made up of ingredients I wouldn’t eat on their own, this combination of flavors is one I can get behind.

Sabrina Chow:

One of the things I love about being Asian is the fact that my Thanksgivings do not look like the typical Thanksgiving dinner. I honestly do not think I have eaten a turkey at Thanksgiving since I was 10 years old, even putting aside the fact that I’m a vegetarian now. But my favorite Thanksgiving food, or my favorite food anytime it is cold outside really, is hot pot. 

For those who may not know what hot pot is, it is essentially a buffet of raw food that you cook in broth right at your table! Pick your favorite noodles, vegetables, thinly sliced meats, fish, you name it, and it can essentially be cooked in a hot pot. It is very much a family affair; there is a wide array of broths, stocks and soups that you can put in your pot and cook right at your table. I was once at a party where we had seven different hot pots going. It was amazing just to bounce around from pot to pot to taste different flavors of food. 

Having a traditional Thanksgiving is always nice, but it’s something I’ve never really experienced in my life. And I’m honestly okay with that. 

John Fornagiel:

Imagine this: you are sitting down with your family for Thanksgiving dinner, and you have your eyes on a dish on the table in front of you. What is this one dish that you would fight your Aunt Cathy to the death for? Do you think it is turkey? Definitely not. Turkey is overrated, dry, and quite honestly, one of the worst meats. Green bean casserole? Seriously? Now it just sounds like you’re making a joke out of this whole situation. If anybody out there says cranberry sauce, I swear on my mother’s grave I’ll shove a turkey right onto your head. People who say gravy is the best food obviously don’t have teeth to eat other foods. No… it can’t be any of these emetic foods. 

And then comes stuffing. How can anyone even look at something other than stuffing? A perfectly balanced blend of bread crumbs, onion, celery and a plethora of spices, all simultaneously melting in your mouth. Just sit there and think about it for one second. Like, really think about it. You take that first bite. Bam, you get uppercut by the taste of herbs and spices. Pow, the gravy emulsifies with the stuffing creating irresistible melty goodness. Could there be anything more perfect? I don’t know how anyone can eat anything else after that. Stuffing is so good that if the rest of the food disappeared from the table, I wouldn’t even be sad. 

Sasha Skarboviychuk:

Let me just put this fact out there: Thanksgiving is an odd holiday. As someone who grew up nowhere near the United States, I experienced a Thanksgiving meal for the first time last year, and let’s just say, I do not understand why people go crazy about Thanksgiving food. The idea of having a meal with your entire family sounds great, but the food involved desperately needs improvement. 

Stuffing is just bread with way too much butter and spices. How does the fact that it was inside a raw turkey not disgust you? The concept alone is repulsive. Cranberries are an amazing berry. But for some reason that amazing flavor disappears when it turns into cranberry sauce. Also why would anyone add it to a savory meal? It’s just weird, guys. Don’t even get me started on gravy: why would anyone want to eat turkey fat and leftovers turned into a sauce? 

Firstly, let me point out the irony: there is a total of five people in this country who think that turkey is the best Thanksgiving food. Let me say that again, on “turkey day,” people do not look forward to the turkey. It’s the center-piece of the meal, but turkey is probably the worst meat out there. I also made the mistake of reading about how to make turkey, and god help me, for a food that no one likes, it takes way too much effort. 

Also someone please tell me why traditionally there is no salad or uncooked vegetables? This entire meal is 80 percent carbs and 20 percent non-carb heavy foods. Are all Americans just allergic to healthy food? I do not understand what people’s stomachs are made of for them to be able to eat all this food without a light side salad. 

To conclude, let me just say one thing: mashed potatoes are the only good savory food on a traditional Thanksgiving table. It’s simple, doesn’t have a weird cooking method, and is easy to make. It’s a win-win.  

Thomas Pickering: 

What’s up my fellow Americans! Gobble gobble, because it’s turkey season, and we are thankful. Thanksgiving dinner has always idealized the perfectly-roasted turkey sitting on a beautiful platter in the middle of a table surrounded by a family. Now I can’t think of anything more American than this picture: one day out of the year where we have to shed our selfish and egocentric coats to be “thankful” for what we have. 

I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving for me has always been about the food. In particular, that perfect turkey I mentioned earlier. I crave that big sucker every year, and I find the families that change the iconic staple of the turkey ludicrous. I don’t know if you, the reader, have heard about the “tur-duck-en,” but it’s basically a messed-up poultry sex position that ended up with a duck inside a chicken inside a turkey. That, to me, is too much. Why would you ever willingly serve yourself a heart attack on a dish? And some people deep fry their heart-attack turkey too. But nothing will ever beat the aesthetic of the crispy golden-brown turkey sitting on the table. Something about it warms my heart even more so than the extraordinary amount of salt and heartburn that turkey gives me when I eat it. So, this Thanksgiving, ditch the “tur-duck-en” and vegan options and get yourself a good classic turkey.

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