Every Thanksgiving has one: the participant who just doesn’t care. If you’re thinking “I don’t know, I haven’t really cared enough to notice who that would be,” then it’s you, buddy. It’s you. It’s hard to have a dismissive attitude toward a holiday that’s based around gratitude and food, but these folks manage. Asked to bring a dish to pass, they’ll bring, at worst, a literal empty dish, and at best, one of the following items.
Obviously if you’re bringing one of these because you were asked to, because it’s your tradition, or because of financial or dietary reasons, I’d never judge you. But if that isn’t the case, please realize that nobody is picturing you traipsing through the supermarket squealing “Oh, goody! I’ll bring the canned cranberry sauce – what a treat!” We picture you tossing the jar into a basket on the way to dinner, with a shrug and a resigned “Eh, screw it.” And if you don’t literally say “eh, screw it,” these foods will do it for you:
If you’re supposed to bring the cranberry sauce, and you serve a can-shaped loaf of congealed cran-slop, it better be a joke. Like, maybe your friend group thinks it’s funny when food takes the shape of its packaging, or maybe your family always made fun of your grandma’s canned cranberry sauce – which presumably she brought because she was drunk or hated all of you. Okay. Fine.
But really, if you have been trusted with cranberry sauce, don’t turn it into a joke dish unless you know everyone’s on board — because seriously, can-shaped cran-sauce is the gag gift of Thanksgiving. If everyone’s bringing silly dishes, go for it! It’ll be like a jokey Yankee Swap but with foods instead of dollar-store items. Think hard, though: do you really want the person in charge of meat to bring Spam? Because that’s where things are headed when you serve canned cran.
In college, the dining hall publicly posted comments and complaints. Despite our youthful desire to send in some sort of filthy comment, my friend ended up writing a wholly serious question: “What with the instants?”
Again, I ask to you: what with the instants? At their most basic, mashed potatoes are as easy as it gets: boil, add some kind of dairy or dairy-equivalent, mash. There’s really no need for instants, which by the way look like soap flakes. I think they probably taste like soap flakes too – but I can’t be sure, because I don’t know any little boys from the 1920s who got soap in their mouths because they sassed their parents.
If Thanksgiving Dinner is high school, the turkey is the homecoming queen or head jock, the stuffing is the cool indie kid who knows all the good music but doesn’t play the popularity game, and the rolls are that kid who you see in the yearbook Senior year and say “wait… does he go here?” It’s no surprise that a lot of us don’t bother with homemade rolls, or even ones from a good bakery.
Rolls are clearly a low-tier Thanksgiving food, and usually Pillsbury’s will do just fine. But if your job was to handle the rolls, and all you can produce is burned crescent rolls, you really didn’t try hard. I think that about 3/5 of food-related arguments on Thanksgiving include the phrase “ALL you had to do was the ROLLS.” Another 1/5 will contain the related complaint: “We gave you ONE thing. ONE.” The other 1/5 are usually weird family stuff that you should probably deal with.
No no no no. There was I guess a “campaign” a while ago to make spaghetti carbonara the official Thanksgiving food. Yeah. That’s about as much of a campaign as when the Yippies ran a pig for presidential office in the 60s. Not gonna happen. I think pasta is fine on Thanksgiving – as a vegetarian, it gives me a nice main dish. But you know, don’t we have enough carbs? As long as some dumb-dumb didn’t burn the rolls?
What it comes down to is, if there’s going to be pasta it should at least require a reasonable amount of effort. My grandma used to make lasagna every year. Lasagna is fine. Stuffed shells are fine. Spaghetti is NOT fine unless someone brought a toddler who’s going through a spaghetti-only phase or something.
A lot of people feel like you’re supposed to serve some kind of a “vegetable” on Thanksgiving. Me, I like my dinner to be a food version of trash fiction: 50 Shades Of Brown. Even these vegetable folks usually pay lip service to the whole well-rounded diet thing by defrosting a pack of frozen corn. I suppose defrosting the corn yourself isn’t quite as bad as handing your host a bag of frozen corn and asking them to do it, so there’s that. To make it more like the first Thanksgiving, you can call the corn “maize” and steal it from your neighbors.
Let’s be clear. This dish says “screw it” to complicated recipes. It says “screw it” to health. It says “screw it” to pretension. However, it says a resounding “hell yes!” to deliciousness. Yeah, we all know you didn’t have to slave over the green been casserole – but we all love you for your lack of effort. Of course, I’m talking about the kind made of frozen beans, canned soup, and freeze-dried “onions” (“astronaut onions,” if you will). By far the best – and dare I say, an essential – lazy Thanksgiving dish. This dish is why someday I’ll finally get that “sodium 4ever” tattoo, or maybe a salt shaker inside of a heart, and just hope that I’m never in a situation where I want to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. I’d forego that for this dish.