I did an analysis of traditional Thanksgiving foods several years ago, probably during one of my long-term stints with Weight Watchers.
Turkey: In the old days when I was young, before a television sat in every living room and before an air conditioning unit was installed into every windowsill, turkey was only available at Thanksgiving and again at Christmas. Now a days, with a television in every room and central air conditioning in every house, turkey is in the frozen food section of the nearest Safeway year-round. There’s fancy sliced turkey on display in the deli showcase and mass-produced sandwich sized turkey slices in hermetically sealed packages in the refrigerated lunch meat section. Having turkey at Thanksgiving is not the treat that it once was. So, there’s not that much to get excited about.
Dressing: Wet bread. I don’t care how much onion, celery, mushrooms, Tabasco sauce, sausage and oysters you put into it, dressing is still wet bread. And starch. Big yawn from me.
Potatoes: Sweet potatoes or yams mixed with pineapple and topped with marshmallows is an extra sweet way to serve yet another starch. By the way, I am absolutely sure there were no marshmallows at the First Thanksgiving.
Now mashed potatoes, real mashed potatoes, are delicious and worthy of some discussion. I don’t care if you boil them with garlic or just in salt, or if you mash them or whip them, if you add margarine, milk or cream, the end product is delicious. The potato flavor is enhanced even more when topped with a layer of any type of hot, thick gravy. Yes, mashed potatoes do qualify as a starch if you want to be technical. In my biased estimation, it’s a vegetable, gravy or no.
Dinner rolls: Any day of the year you can bake brown and serve rolls from the grocery. Or those roll-up crescent-shaped ones from a tube in the dairy section. They are most definitely a starch and not a once-a-year item. I could pass them by.
Ambrosia: By definition, food for the gods. No one ever serves enough. Couldn’t be easier to make – can after can of drained Mandarin oranges, drained canned chunk pineapple, and coconut out of the bag. Note: Cooks of America – immediately cease and desist with adding sour cream and baby marshmallows to this holy dish. Again, there were no marshmallows at the First Thanksgiving. No, there probably wasn’t any ambrosia then either, but it tastes so good, who cares.
String Bean Onion Ring Casserole: OK. It’s made of string beans so that part qualifies as a vegetable, and a green vegetable at that. But, the canned mushroom soup in the casserole negates all the good stuff. Those fried onion rings cause your breath to reek for at least a full day. If you just have to kiss someone, either skip this dish or find a recipient who has also eaten the same string bean casserole you have. I’m not sure this halitosis-producing dish deserves a spot on my plate.
Pies: In my entire life, I have never awakened at 3 a.m. and thought, “If I just had a piece of pumpkin pie.” Fresh strawberry pie, yes. Pumpkin, no. I think the only reason they had pumpkin pie at the First Thanksgiving was because, well, there were a lot of pumpkins that were going to go bad during the winter if they didn’t get used. Besides pies and Jack-o-lanterns, what can you do with a pumpkin? Now, apple pie. There are a lot of apples in the fall and apples make such a delicious pie. No, you cannot count either pumpkin or apple pie as a fruit. Then, there’s pecan pie. Lots of nuts in the fall. My choice amongst the three? Pecan, with a big blob of real whipped cream. There are enough calories in one slice of my homemade pecan pie to put a layer of winter insulation on you that would last until spring. That would work great if we were still Pilgrims who chopped fire wood every day, hunted for meat in the forest, and cooked from dawn to dusk. Instead, we are Americans who sit in front of a flat screen TV while we watch football and eat a second helping of pie while our cholesterol level rises.
My dream Thanksgiving dinner? Mashed potatoes and gravy with a small mandatory slice of white meat on the side. After all, I am a patriotic American and therefore obligated to eat at least some turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Ambrosia on a salad plate.
Then, I’d hit the pie table.
Susan McClurg Berman