The great Thanksgiving debate – Are these the best and worst sides?

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Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and reflection, so I thought I would court controversy by giving my opinion on the best and worst sides.

But first, let’s get the main dish out of the way – the Wall Street Journal recently asked the question “Is it still Thanksgiving if you don’t serve turkey?” My thoughts on the matter: No! Now, onto to the sides. Here is my ranking from best to worst:

Mashed potatoes

I know I’m supposed to be crazy about potatoes because I’m Irish but I’ve always thought it was this side dish that should be called “stuffing.” I’m not saying it shouldn’t be included – after the turkey it’s pretty much the next essential Thanksgiving item.


Cranberry sauce

I’m old fashioned (if you consider 1970s America to be old fashioned), so I like things that come straight out of a can. I know, if you’re a gourmet type I’m sure you prefer the whole-berry kind, but it’s not Thanksgiving to me without that beautiful gelatinous cylinder on the table. Just slide the whole thing out onto a plate and I’ll be happy to serve myself – and, the ridges from the can provide a nice impression to help measure out a slice! These leftover hockey pucks are also essential to making the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches that I will live on until Christmas.


Brussels sprouts

Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon are a huge favorite of mine and apparently a Thanksgiving staple in some parts of the country yet I’ve never had them hint hint. (I can’t really make Thanksgiving requests because I’ve never done any help whatsoever with the cooking. But as sides go, this is one of my favorites.)


Green bean casserole

Before indulging in this year’s Thanksgiving meal, please remember to include a prayer for Dorcas Reilly, the woman who invented Green Bean Casserole, who passed away this year at age 92. She created the recipe for The Campbell’s Soup Company, which called for green beans, cream of mushroom soup, topped with crunchy fried onions. Green beans are an essential side. The question is always whether to bake them into a casserole or leave them be. Well, this year, in honor of Dorcas, let’s all have the casserole.


Sweet potato casserole

Here’s where we get into some serious controversy. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. Is this an appropriate dish? Everyone has an opinion. Some have even blamed this side dish on “corporate interests” trying to get America hooked on marshmallows.

Personally, I don’t mind this sweet dish – I don’t really like to eat it but I like the look of it on the table and if you don’t want to eat the marshmallows, you can just dig down and get yourself some regular sweet potatoes.



Is salad needed on Thanksgiving? Some people insist on salad at every meal but I think we can do without it for one day. To me it’s just taking up valuable real estate on the table and in your stomach. No salad!


Mac and cheese

Are you trying to kill me? I don’t even consider this a side dish – it’s too heavy, especially on Thanksgiving. Not that I would call it an entree either – it’s basically a low-budget dinner for students and post-grads with no money. And don’t tell me you have a special artisanal recipe – no amount of truffle oil can make mac and cheese taste sophisticated. No thanks!


But remember, no matter what side dishes you serve up this Thanksgiving, remember the one thing that is always welcome at the holiday dinner table (at least at my house)...heated political debate.