Thanksgiving is coming--that time of year when everyone complains about Christmas starting earlier and bitches about how Black Friday is ridiculous (while planning what Black Friday sales they will attend). Thanksgiving is a time when we give thanks for having giant turkeys to slaughter and eat. But that obviously misses the point; we should be thankful for all the yummy side dishes too. (What's that you say? I'm missing the bigger picture? There's more to Thanksgiving than food? Okay, fine--there's football too.)
5: Peas and corn. Not fresh peas or even frozen peas, but peas from a can. They aren't a vibrant green--they are dull and dreary, swimming in their own pea-juice. (Ha!) The corn could be fresher, doesn't matter, just needs to be there (y'know, maize and all that). As far as I'm concerned, you can't have Thanksgiving without peas and corn.
4: Canberry* sauce. Must be sliced, but retain the shape of the can it came in. Real cranberry sauce may taste better, but it is unacceptable in my opinion.
3: Green bean casserole. Sure, this is something you find on the side of French's Fried Onions or Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, but the recipe is still kicking around because it's delicious.
2: Stuffing. To be perfect it should be cooked inside the turkey, not be from a packet or mix, and be moist and chewy. When it's made correctly, it is so flavorful that it almost makes you forget the turkey itself. For this one, I don't want the easy way out--no cans, no b.s. Make it right or don't bother.
1: Mashed potatoes with gravy. One year, I was put in charge of the mashed potatoes--I kept adding butter instead of cream. They were the worst, greasiest mashed potatoes ever. Therefore, so long as I am not involved in the process, there's nothing better than creamy, buttery, mashed potatoes (maybe with lumps too). As a bonus, mashed potatoes are great for picking up any straggler peas or corn.
For all you Americans, I understand there's a lot of regional and ethnic variety. I'd love to hear about what's traditional for you (I'm a northeasterner). For those outside the U.S., what do you eat for your big winter holiday celebration (Christmas dinner, for example)? Please share your favorites in the comments below.
*Not a typo. "Can"-berry sauce.