The Thanksgiving feast: Take the turkey off the table

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(Illustration by Reece Bachta | Collegian Media Group)

On the third Thursday of every November, families across the United States gorge themselves on a huge spread of food. These traditional American holiday staples usually include a large, gamey turkey — or ham, for those who claim they’re “not a turkey family” — ever-questionable cranberry sauce and, of course, the classic pumpkin pie.

We’ve eaten these foods for years, but it seems no one has really asked the important question: Is Thanksgiving food even good?

The short answer is no. There’s a reason this food is seasonal — many can only stomach it once a year. To better understand why we still eat these old holiday dishes, we need to go back to the genesis of the Thanksgiving feast.

The humble turkey graced the plates of settlers in the early 1600s, but had also been eaten years prior in Spain and England due to Spanish imperialists, according to The Washington Post. So, while many think turkey is unique to our banquet, Europeans popularized the dish first. Should such an American holiday be characterized by an antique European delicacy? It leaves us to wonder if the long “American” tradition of buying and preparing such a gamey food is worth the hassle.

The bird held in such high regard should theoretically be able to stand alone in flavor and texture, but because it is lacking, stuffing is often added to the Thanksgiving mix. This concoction of turkey, broth and bread crumbs amplifies the flavor of the bird but not in a positive way. Stuffing has even been known to give diners salmonella and now has to be cooked separately from the bird. The dish brings nothing new to the Thanksgiving flavor profile and has the potential to ruin the yearly binge.

Modern cranberry sauce looks to be straight out of the 1960s with its gelatinous texture; anything that holds the shape of its tin can packaging cannot possibly be edible. While the sweetness of cranberry sauce cuts through the gaminess and saltiness of other dishes, perhaps the recipe should be tweaked.

Don’t misunderstand — green beans can act as a lovely side dish. However, Americans need to stop making them in casserole form. Why alter something that’s already perfect? 

Pumpkin pie, on the other hand, embodies the spirit of the season and is perhaps the only customary dish worthy of the Thanksgiving table. According to The Washington Post, in this dish, the pumpkin — a very New World vegetable — is combined with European pie-making recipes. Acting as a physical representation of that first Thanksgiving feast, the pumpkin pie is the one original plate that is both traditional and tasty. 

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for family, friends and good food. Therefore, families should make a meal they actually like this year. Instead of sweet potatoes and marshmallows, opt for mashed potatoes instead. Scrap the turkey and knaw on a good steak or a rotisserie chicken. Only two things are certain: pumpkin pie is in, and turkey is out.

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