Are Thanksgiving Foods Overrated, Underrated, or Just Rated?

Abe Lincoln made the day a National Holiday in 1863, but would he love dried-out turkey?


Flickr/Sarah Lou

This is the one day a year where the country as a whole has an excuse to eat as much as possible with no shame

Thanksgiving is a beloved American holiday known for one main thing: food. This is the one day a year where the country as a whole has an excuse to eat as much as possible with no shame. Every family has their unique interpretation of a Thanksgiving meal, but there are many traditional Thanksgiving foods that are found at every table.

For a holiday that is known for its delicious meal, it would be expected that the food is top tier. But is it? Are traditional Thanksgiving foods deserving of the praise they receive or are they overrated?


  The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Thanksgiving is turkey. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without a big roasted bird sitting in the middle of the table. One thing about turkey is that it takes forever to make. The preparation can take all day, and then, the turkey gets cooked for hours (just to make sure it really won’t fly away). My grandmother, for example, has a very specific ritual.

She finds the perfect fresh turkey, bathes it, rubs it in herbs, and stuffs it. This is even before cooking! Once she begins cooking it, she bastes the bird with melted butter every hour. In total, it takes about five hours of attention. Is all of this hard work worth it? It’s not. Sure, anyone can go to the store and buy pre-made turkey. However, packaged turkeys will never be as good as homemade birds. No matter how well a turkey is made, it is a common complaint that turkey is dry; this is just the consistency of the meat. I’ve never heard anyone say turkey is their favorite Thanksgiving food.

Even though it is the main course, the dish is often overlooked and overshadowed by the sides.

As an ex-vegeterian, I never felt as though I was missing out when I couldn’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Now that I eat meat again, I always add some turkey to my plate, but I never go crazy. Thanksgiving turkey is comforting because it is a key figure of the holiday. However, it takes an insane amount of effort for a mediocre dish that is often ignored. For these reasons, I classify turkey as overrated.

Mashed Potatoes=Underrated

  Think about the most beautiful thing that exists; picture the beauty in its looks, touch, smell, taste. Now, imagine something ten times more beautiful than that. You are now thinking about mashed potatoes. I don’t think I can put into words my love for mashed potatoes. They are a delicious cloud of perfection that melts in my mouth. My grandfather is always in charge of the mashed potatoes, and he executes this task beautifully.

After peeling the potatoes, they are mashed together with butter, sour cream, and chives. Delicious. However, just about any mashed potatoes have me begging for more. Mashed potatoes are very popular in terms of Thanksgiving food, so one might say that they aren’t underrated because most people love them. However, I disagree. I don’t think mashed potatoes could ever be rated enough.


  Gravy makes me uncomfortable. It often supplements mashed potatoes or turkey. When the mashed potatoes aren’t mashing or the turkey isn’t turkey-ing, gravy is poured all over in order to mask the mistakes of the other dishes. Gravy works great in this sense. However, the taste of gravy rubs me the wrong way. A sauce should not be meaty. End of story. The smell of gravy is putrid and the consistency is just plain nasty. “Gravy tastes like cat food,” stated Emma Moffett. I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Gravy is overrated, but the only rating it should get is zero stars.

Cranberry Sauce=Just Rated

  Cranberry sauce isn’t my favorite Thanksgiving dish, but I have a good amount of respect for it. Now, when I mention cranberry sauce, I mean real, homemade cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce from a can is just downright disgusting; I wouldn’t even classify that as cranberry sauce.

It’s just a big jelly cube.

When it is made right, cranberry sauce is the perfect amount of sweetness to complement the other savory foods on the dinner table. Making cranberry sauce can be a meticulous yet relatively easy task. Using things such as berries, sugar, and orange juice, a bunch of ingredients become a sauce! Recipes can be found everywhere. Cranberry sauce is also very versatile. It is delicious on food but also by itself. I could just take a spoon and dig in.

It can also be used on leftovers after the dinner is over. However, it isn’t something I would dive for right away; I would be perfectly fine waiting for my turn as it gets passed around the table. Cranberry sauce is also commonly liked, therefore I think its rating is deserved. 


  Stuffing confuses me. If someone asked me what stuffing actually is, I don’t think I could give a solid answer. All I know is that a bunch of bread and other things get thrown together and then stuffed into a turkey. I just don’t vibe with it. Stuffing is sometimes dry and bland. Whether it’s inside a bird or being served in a bowl, I never jump to add it onto my plate. Stuffing can also be a hassle to make.

My grandmother always begins creating it the night before, and goes through a long process of perfecting her dish. My grandmother’s stuffing is tasty, but this isn’t the case for all stuffing. Stuffing needs to be homemade in order for it to taste good. It isn’t something I would pass up, but it’s not something I would dive for. Stuffing is a very popular Thanksgiving dish, so for mainly this reason, I say it’s overrated. I don’t think stuffing is the worst meal, but I don’t think it’s the best either. Stuffing is one of those foods that is only for Thanksgiving. 

Sweet Potatoes=Overrated

  I am not a sweet potato enthusiast. Regular potatoes are good enough; why do we have to have sweet ones? Potatoes are meant to be savory anyways. Mashed potatoes are the perfect invention; why should anyone make another potato dish? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Sweet potatoes rub me the wrong way. I’m not sure whether it’s the weird consistency, the off-putting taste, the bright color, or a combination of the three, but overall, I’m not a fan. Mashed potatoes are more than enough for me, so I will not be reaching for any other potato dish this Thanksgiving. 

Casseroles=Just Rated

  The term casserole is very broad because someone can throw just about anything into a pot and call it a casserole. However, there are a few casserole dishes designated for this American holiday. On any other day besides Thanksgiving, I would immediately stray away from casseroles, but there are some exceptions on this day. My Thanksgiving dinner usually consists of a green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole.

My grandmother makes the green bean casserole which is a mixture of green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and crinkly fried onions. I am biased, but I think she does an amazing job. I always love her sweet potato casserole which is yams, crushed pineapple, brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows. Although I am not a fan of sweet potatoes, they work in this dish because of the sweetness. Casseroles are a basic dish that can be found at any time of year. I do not usually like casseroles, but I enjoy some good Thanksgiving ones. 

Pumpkin Bread=Underrated

  The desserts of Thanksgiving are insanely better than the dinner meals. Pumpkin bread is an example of a delicious fall dessert that is often served on this holiday. Pumpkin bread is delicious. The thought of it makes my stomach grumble and mouth water.  It gives off the perfect taste of autumn: sweet and warm but not too sweet as in sugary. Pumpkin bread is super easy to make. Just grab some canned pumpkin, sugar, flour, and orange/cranberry juice.

There are so many recipes online as well. A lot of desserts provide complications, but this is an easy and delicious option. Pumpkin bread is a harvest in your mouth. It isn’t the most common Thanksgiving dessert, so more families should bake a loaf of pumpkin bread for the table. 


  Pie. I love pie. Pie is often overshadowed by other desserts such as cake or brownies. It is rarer to hear someone want pie for dessert than something like cupcakes, and this shouldn’t be the case. Pie is a fabulous creation of delicious goodness. There are so many kinds of pie, and each variety is just as good as the last. Thanksgiving is known mainly for apple pie and pumpkin pie; both are works of art. If I had to choose between the two, I would probably lean towards apple pie only because nothing can beat the combination of the sweet apples and the crumble crust.

Don’t get me wrong, pumpkin pie is just as valid. Pumpkin pie is more seasonal, making it special for the holiday. Pumpkin is the most fall you can get. Taking a pumpkin pie is like taking a bite of an autumn breeze. However, neither of these take the position of my favorite pie. My personal favorite is lemon meringue pie. Oh my gosh. Lemon meringue pie must have been a gift dropped from the sky because it is so beautiful. The graham cracker crust matches perfectly with the sweet meringue and the tangy lemon. It is genuinely just perfection. There are a million other variations of pie that can be served at Thanksgiving. No matter what pie is on the dinner table, I will definitely be digging in my fork. Don’t ask me to share. 

  My opinions might anger some because I know how territorial people can get over the food on this holiday. Overall, I believe that traditional Thanksgiving foods are overrated. Of course, there are some exceptions, but a majority of the foods this holiday are not my favorite.

However, Thanksgiving goes back so far that the traditions of this holiday will not change. Yes, I will still have gravy and stuffing at my dinner table. But, that doesn’t mean my plate isn’t going to be full of mashed potatoes, pumpkin bread, and pie. While eating away this year, think about whether or not the popular foods on the table are worth the hype. It’s definitely a controversial dinner conversation to spice things up this Thanksgiving.

I love Thanksgiving because of the welcoming feeling. This holiday is about spending time with loved ones and reflecting on the beauties of life. No matter what is on the table, I always look forward to spending this holiday with my family.