Just Give Up And Make Your Entire Thanksgiving Dinner Out Of Jello Molds

In years past, Thanksgiving dinner had to meet two benchmarks: it had to be delicious, and it had to be sufficiently Thanskgiving-y. If you served traditional foods and they weren’t entirely awful, you were doing okay.

But now, depending on your audience, your Thanksgiving may be expected to meet the following criteria:

  • vegan
  • raw
  • raw vegan
  • “intermittently vegan”
  • freegan
  • macrobiotic
  • dairy-free
  • lacto-ovo vegetarian
  • gluten free
  • gluten intolerant
  • Instagram-able
  • Pinterest- worthy
  • nut free
  • tree-nut free
  • peanut free
  • low carb
  • low fat
  • things a caveman would eat
  • under 20 Weight Watchers points
  • ready after the parade
  • ready before the game
  • organic
  • local

Good luck and godspeed! Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a game with no winner. Things are tougher than they used to be. Honestly, they’re tougher than they have to be. Once upon a time, you could make an entire Thanksgiving dinner out of Jello molds. And friends? YOU STILL CAN.

Potatoes

I’m of Irish descent. I like to believe that somewhere out there in the universe, my ancestors know that I have access to so many potatoes –  so many damn potatoes – that I can mutilate them into the shape of a giant, awful donut and the texture of Gak if I so please. Now, the potatoes are going to have to be a potato salad instead of a traditional mash, but I think you could also add plain gelatin to your mashed potatoes and set it into the mold.

Stuffing (Dressing if you’re nasty)

This really captures the essence of stuffing but without the bread and without having been inside a bird’s tushie. You have your carrots, your celery, your little bits of meat… basically everything but your will to live and your breakfast. Because if you’re eating this, you’ve probably lost both.

Cranberry Sauce

Do you serve can-shaped cranberry sauce? Then you have been letting Big Cran dictate the shape of your cranberry sauce-loaf for far too long. It CAN be shaped like a jello mold and I’d argue that it SHOULD be, too.

Squash

The thing about squash is that if served it in its skin and cut lengthwise, it already is compactly and neatly shaped and suitable for consumption by the toothless. That is exactly the kind of thinking that killed the jello mold. You can eat your squash as a jiggly square and you should never let anybody tell you differently.

Turkey

For a gentler turkey-carving experience, replace the revving of an electric carving knife with the gloppy, sloshing thhhwaaaack of a slotted spoon moving through Jello.

Brussels Sprouts

For many palates, Brussels sprouts are a veggie that needs a little gussying up. What could be more gussied than letting your sprouts go for a dip in a egg noodle and cheese sauce swimmin’ hole?

Green Beans

Usually green beans enter the Thanksgiving table not because anyone loves them, but because at some point you look at all of the beige-y brown stuff you’re ingesting and realize that you should probably add something green. Voila – this ring of algae-looking green bean crud! If you’re a green bean casserole traditionalist (the recipe from the Campbell’s soup can), you can still top this with a drizzle of cream of mushroom soup and a sprinkling of freeze-dried onions (aka “astronaut onions”).

Pumpkin Pie

If you can shape your turkey like a dessert you can 100% also shape your dessert like a turkey – through the magic of jello molds!

Coffee

Want some coffee with your pie? Sure, we can do that.

Eggnog

Go ahead, spike it.

 

Thanksgiving Foods That Say “Screw It” So You Don’t Have To

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:

Can-Shaped Cranberry Sauce

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.

Instant Mashed Potatoes

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.

Burned Canned Crescent Rolls

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.

Spaghetti

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.

Frozen Corn, Defrosted

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.

Green Been Casserole

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.