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Honestly the chives are not important. The cheese is important.

Honestly the chives are not important. The cheese is important.
Photo: Claire Lower

I like to think of myself as calm, normal, almost relaxed observer of Thanksgiving, but in truth, I’m kind of a tyrant. I hide my more tyrannical tendencies by volunteering to host and cook most of the meal, so I can make sure the turkey is moist, the cranberry sauce is sweet enough, and the Jiffy corn casserole is on the table.

My philosophy behind this is two-fold: You can’t make a demand without offering to perform the associated labor (or some other sort of labor, as a trade, whether it be setting the table or moving furniture), and you should always defer to the host. If you offer bring “any dish the host needs,” bring the thing they ask for. If they cannot make your favorite, offer to bring it yourself. This keeps things civil.

People have a lot of emotion tied up in their favorite dishes. Turkey is the most obvious one, and dads are the most likely to be upset if you try and swap it out for another protein, but a lot of people also have feelings about sides. I cannot imagine a Thanksgiving without Jiffy cornbread casserole, so I always offer to make it unless someone else wants to. (My friend Bec usually makes it now, after tasting it the year I brought it to her house. It is a very powerful side dish.)

Everyone has their must-be-on-the-table, non-negotiable dishes, and I want to know yours. I have, somewhat unexpectedly, become a turkey person (furthering my sister’s case that I am transforming into our father). I used to not care a whit about turkey, but it’s now a point of pride to present a juicy, flavorful bird to my friends and family each year. I also require mashed potatoes, a sweet potato dish of some kind (here’s this year’s selection), and a pecan pie.

Share your thoughts in the comments, so you can find your people. Are you team pecan pie, team apple pie, or team sweet potato pie? Does turkey matter all that much to you? What is the most important starch? Let me know, then I’ll round up your delightful comments to share with the world. (I can’t wait to cross reference the results against Sarah’s list of dishes that should be banned from the Thanksgiving dinner table. I bet there will be a fair amount of overlap.)

 



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