Turkey isn’t the best dish on Thanksgiving Day — but here’s what is

A Thanksgiving dinner spread. (Photo courtesy of Sathya Murthy)

The week leading up to Thanksgiving is tough. You can practically taste the holiday on the tip of your tongue … but school isn’t off just yet. And the past few days I’ve been dying to get out of College Park. 

Don’t get me wrong, I live and breathe this city. But sometimes I need a break from the constant rush of college life. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to eat and relax with family and friends. It’s a needed breather before finals come to terrorize us all.

Like many holidays, Thanksgiving festivities revolve around food. But unlike other holidays, Thanksgiving is a day where it seems like almost everyone eats the same foods, ones that have been made and remade for decades. That still leaves us to wonder, though — which foods are the most loved?

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From a survey I sent to my various class and sorority GroupMes, mixed in with a little personal opinion, I have ranked Thanksgiving Day foods. See how your favorite stacks among the rest.

  1. Gravy

Gravy is definitely the underdog of the Thanksgiving meal. I think of it as the glue that brings all the holiday food together. Though simple, the sauce adds some more “jus” — as my father would say — to the plate. While it’s not the most stand-out part of the meal, it unites the plate into one saucy and scrumptious meal. 

  1. Turkey 

It’s interesting that turkey is supposed to be the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, yet most people ranked it near the bottom of their lists. I’m not a big meat-eater, so it’s at the bottom of mine too. But like most American meals, a protein has to be included. Turkey by itself is fairly plain, but when it’s dressed up with seasoning and all of the side dishes, it can be elevated. 

  1. Cranberry Sauce

It took me a while to try cranberry sauce with my Thanksgiving meal, and I didn’t come around to it until a few years ago. But the tangy sweetness of cranberry sauce grew on me and added a whole other dimension of flavor to the meal. Some people love it, some people hate it, but it’s unique to the holiday regardless. It’s also a versatile side: You can pair it with both sweet and savory foods. Cranberry sauce is a key ingredient in my father’s Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches. 

  1. Mac and Cheese

My family has never served mac and cheese at Thanksgiving dinner, but I know it’s a staple for other families, and it was highly ranked in the survey. I’ve never thought of it as a typical “Thanksgiving” food, but mac and cheese can’t be a bad thing. It’s good any time of the year, any holiday. Especially if it’s baked with a crunchy, breadcrumb topping — it really just hits the spot. 

  1. Sweet Potato Casserole

Controversial, but I don’t like marshmallows on top of sweet potato casserole. My grandmother makes hers with a crunchy, cinnamon-y topping — it’s sweet, but not too much of a sugar bomb. This belongs in my top three; not just because I love every potato, but also because it reminds me of my amazing grandmother. Food has the power to conjure specific, beautiful memories. No one else could bring sweet potato casserole to Thanksgiving, or it would simply be wrong. 

  1. Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes were a very close second in the survey. Mashed potatoes are a staple part of Thanksgiving dinner. It’s creamy, carb-y and comforting. I love potatoes in every form, but I usually only eat them mashed at Thanksgiving, making it special and greatly anticipated. Mashed potatoes are hard to mess up — what could go wrong with potatoes and butter and milk? They are a beautifully universal food and very hard to dislike. 

  1. Stuffing

I have fond memories of helping my mom lay out many pieces of bread the day before Thanksgiving. I never understood why the bread had to be stale for stuffing, but I always knew it created an amazing product: crunchy, golden brown on the outside and gooey on the inside. The smell of my mom’s stuffing baking in the oven makes me weak at the knees. This is my personal favorite Thanksgiving food and was ranked No. 1 in my survey results as well. Stuffing is directly sent from the heavens. 

Have a happy — and delicious — Thanksgiving!

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