Anyone with two working brain cells knows that best parts of the Thanksgiving meal are the side dishes. Unfortunately, some of those are also the worst. (Although even the worst side isn't as bad as the turkey.) But with the big feast a mere 24 hours away, how will you know which ones to prepare? In a completely unscientific study — basically, consulting with other staffers at The Wire and then playing favorites — we've come up with a pretty good list of the best and not-so-best Thanksgiving Day sides.
A couple of things: we only consider food that you put on the same plate as the turkey a "side." That's why you won't see desserts on here. Also, please realize that just because a side appears on the best or worst end of the spectrum, these are not set in stone. Someone could be a terrible cook and completely bungle mashed potatoes or and conversely, someone could be an amazing cook and not have Brussels sprouts taste like flatulence.
Enough rambling. Here's our comprehensive ranking of this holiday's best and worst sides:
Alex: Ham is great, mainly because it gives you everything that turkey doesn't — it's juicy, sweet, fatty, no white-meat/dark meat pickiness and doesn't need a lot of prep. I will admit that I am biased. I am Filipino and it is coded in Filipino DNA that we must like pork. Ergo, I enjoy ham.
Elle: I've been accused of having "meat blindness," because I sometimes can't tell what kind I'm eating. But this is not the case with ham. Ham has flavor beyond a bland chewy fat taste. Ham is delicious.
Elle: Every holiday my mom makes several dozen of those little rolls that look like knots. Buttery on the outside, light on the inside. People eat like 10 each. It's possible the secret ingredient is an opiate.
Alex: Rolls are good. Especially when they're homemade. I have heard that Elle's mom makes great rolls. I have not had to the chance to eat them (yet).
We're bending to the will of Thanksgivukkah and the deliciousness of fried potatoes here.
7. Brussels Sprouts
Alex: I maintain that brussels sprouts are only good if they're cooked with bacon, topped with bacon, and almost burned (with bacon). Also, one time, I had some shaved brussels sprout salad that was good. But yeah, these guys are fantastic as long as they bear don't resemble their natural taste.
Elle: These are only good roasted, because then they smell nutty, instead of farty.
6. Green Beans (Apparently Not Casserole)
Alex: I see nothing wrong with green bean casserole. Some of my colleagues did and maintained that I could not stick GBC onto the "best" side of this list. This is my compromise.
Elle: Mom would never commit such a crime as "casserole" against fresh vegetables.
5. Actually good cranberry stuff.
Elle: I've never eaten cranberry sauce from a can. Mom makes this cranberry relish that requires grinding the berries in a machine so they reach their full flavor potential. Then you add celery, pecans, mandarin oranges, green apples, possibly some other stuff, and a little raspberry jello (which you can't even taste and just holds it all together). It's amazing and has so many antioxidants and cuts through all the fat-plus-carbs stuff piled on the rest of your plate.
4. Roasted Vegetables
Alex: Carrots, parsnips, potatoes— yes, yes, and yes. Yes, even beets are pretty good roasted.
3. Mac 'N Cheese
Alex: Two years ago, Pat Robertson was dumbfounded when he found out that people eat macaroni and cheese during Thanksgiving. He wondered if it was a "black thing." That was idiotic, because macaroni and cheese's deliciousness has the power to transcend race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and lactose intolerance.
2. Mashed Potatoes
Alex: Two major components of what many people believe to be heaven are a soaring mountain of garlic mashed potatoes (made with heavy cream and butter) and a pair of drawstring pants.
Alex: The only thing a turkey is good for is the stuffing. No matter what kind of bread/sausage/mushroom you use, this will always be delicious ... unless it's that wild rice garbage.
Elle: There must be approximately one bowl of stuffing for every two guests at Thanksgiving. It must be smothered in turkey juice but not actually cooked inside the turkey, or you might die. Multiple varieties of stuffing is recommended.
5. Tie: "Ambrosia" and Jello "Salad"
Alex: I have never had jello salad. I even asked other staffers if "jello salad" was the same as Ambrosia. It's not, and neither are salads. Both are equally gross.
Elle: Too sweet and sticky and a crime against fruit.
4. Creamed Onions
Alex: I had to google this after it was suggested by a Wire staffer. This doesn't look bad. I also really like onions.
Elle: I don't know what this is but it sounds like it was made up by a mean aunt.
3. Sweet Potato / Yam Casserole
Alex: Yams are gross. Marshmallows are too. Yam casserole is like their ugly, disgusting baby.
Elle: I once cooked Thanksgiving with a friend who brought over her grandmother's favorite sweet potato recipe. This went beyond the suffocatingly sweet monstrosity of sweet potato pie with marshmallows. This was little chunks of sweet potato cooked in a full bottle of Karo syrup. (That is pure corn syrup.) The recipe called for two bottles, but the little orange chunks were already swimming in one. Don't do this to your relatives or you will give them instant diabetes.
2. Canned Cranberry Sauce
Alex: This one fails in large part because throwing fresh cranberries into a pot with water and sugar is not difficult. That said, I think it actually looks fun and festive.
Elle: It's cool how it comes out can shaped. Again, I have never eaten this.
1. Corn Pudding
Alex: My parents are from the Philippines and a lot of what we know about Thanksgiving was stuff we had to learn from pop culture, television, magazines, American friends, and a godfather here and there. If someone had presented my parents corn pudding, I am quite certain they would have immigrated to a different country.
Elle: Corn tastes good without pudding, sweet potatoes taste good without corn syrup, fruit tastes good without jello. The lesson here is that what gets you into trouble is adding a bunch of spice-less gooey gunk to Mother Nature's perfect creations.