The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The DI ranks Thanksgiving dishes — and you can’t argue with it

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Lisa Chasanov

The air has a cold bite to it and you’ve spent days going back and forth from the grocery store because of forgotten ingredients for your latest project. You sit down and enjoy the calm before the storm on Thanksgiving Eve.

Closing your eyes and recollecting on the past week’s chaotic festivities of meal prepping, indulging in numerous phone calls with extended family and deep-cleaning every crevice of your living space, you keep trying to remind yourself of one important thing.

“It’s for gratitude,” you tell yourself continuously. “This holiday is for family and appreciation.”

Suddenly, it’s early the next morning. Relatives are arriving, food is cooking and the kitchen is a mess. Dogs bark and children scream and you believe you’re going to lose your mind. Now you’re sitting at the Thanksgiving table and you can’t help yourself from excitedly taking a picture of the turkey you have prepared for all of your Facebook friends to see.

The bliss of looking down at the Thanksgiving spread is shattered when your old relative spews some horrific obscenity mixed with a reference to the Pizzagate conspiracy theory that you are positive would get you canceled on Twitter for even being associated with the relative.

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    Aside from the madness, the stress and the time put into the holiday, Thanksgiving is centered around an extensive meal to feed your close family or friends.

    Here at The Daily Illini, we sat down to rank and reflect upon the dishes on the Thanksgiving table that we looked forward to consuming — or left to dry on the table for all of eternity — each year as we celebrate Thanksgiving. While we had differing viewpoints on each dish, we produced a tier list that summarizes our collective opinions on Thanksgiving foods.

     

    S tier

    The “S” in S tier stands for “superior” or “supreme.” This tier exemplifies the dishes we have deemed to surpass even the traditional letter grading scale.

    Mac and cheese

    In all of its forms, mac and cheese is a crowd favorite. From low-effort microwave easy mac to the labor-intensive oven variety, to deny the greatness of mac and cheese is sacrilegious. Although not every Thanksgiving table includes mac and cheese, this dish is one of the most consistently enjoyed sides in the Thanksgiving canon. 

    Mashed potatoes

    What is there to say? Am I to comment on perfection? Although we often take this starchy substance for granted, a masterfully mashed potato is among the most desirable platters on the Thanksgiving spread. Out of all attendees of the side-dish party, it is among the most charismatic and attractive, but it humbly allows its flashier counterparts to take center stage. Still, it’s among the first to be scooped up by adoring dinner guests and devoured with passion. The whispers of butter coax you into seconds, thirds and beyond, sending you into a carby catharsis only rivaled in fervor by the sweaty, lethargic state of being accompanied by your third plate of turkey.

    Pumpkin pie

    While the Thanksgiving turkey often basks in the limelight, the pumpkin pie is undoubtedly the true star of the show. Forget about your friends and family; pumpkin pie is what makes the holiday special. The creamy texture paired with its remarkable flavor practically assures its entry into the dessert hall of fame.

     

    A tier

    A tier is for overachievers. Dishes in this tier are fantastic. No qualms.

    The dinner roll

    Whether they’re Hawaiian rolls fresh out of the package or balls of homemade elegance out of the oven, no one is really disappointed by the humble dinner roll. Dip it in soup, pair it with assorted meats or munch on the carbohydrates alone. The only factor holding this commodity from perfection is its simplicity. Yet, does its plainness make it all the more worthy of an S tier? It’s relatable, it’s reliable and it’s familiar. Its relevance within the meal is up for debate and for future pondering.

    Green bean casserole

    This casserole looks like 12th-century gruel as you make it, but you must trust the process. The off-putting presentation as you shove the dish in the oven is soon forgotten with the first forkful of green beans. The fried onions are perfectly crispy and — if you get the ratio right — are a heavenly compliment to the rest of the flavors. There will likely be no leftovers once Thanksgiving day has come to an end. 

     

    B tier

    B tier is above average, but not amazing. Would you enjoy it? Yes. It’s still better than most, but not extraordinary. 

    Cornbread

    Cornbread is a classic. Its crispy exterior and crumbly inside are perfectly combined with most sauces or dishes on the Thanksgiving table. Some argue cornbread cannot really be eaten alone, as it is a dry and uninspiring bread alone, while others are ready to fight a battle to defend cornbread. Making cornbread needs to be an extremely thorough process, or don’t even bother bringing it. If cornbread is not made right, the serving dish will be neglected throughout the evening. In general, cornbread is mainly paired with fall meals like chili and various soups. With that being said, pair cornbread with your spread carefully and meticulously.

    Gravy

    Gravy may quite possibly be the best roleplayer of all time. While it’s not its own item on the dinner plate, it enhances nearly every single item on this list when added. With the addition of gravy, turkey jumps up from C tier to A tier. However, gravy shines the most when paired with mashed potatoes. If the potatoes are Batman, the gravy is Robin.

    Stuffing

    As I shovel a delectable brick of sage-scented, dense bread onto my plate, I am transported to a simpler time. Some days, I yearn for a time when society could bond over a shared enjoyment of salty, chewy mush. Did food need to be texturally interesting, labor-intensive or flavorful? Absolutely not! What a ridiculous question. While some Thanksgiving enjoyers are indifferent toward this delectable Minecraft food, I would go to battle for it sooner than I would for any country. Patriotism as a sensation pales in comparison to my grumbling tummy when I catch a passing whiff of this delicacy. The only thing chaining stuffing to B tier is its controversy.

    Brussels sprouts

    Kids on bad sitcoms often whine and complain about eating their Brussels sprouts. As a small child, I saw that media representation of Brussels sprouts and internalized it. I would refuse to eat Brussels sprouts, not because I knew I didn’t like them, but due to the sitcom media pushing an anti-Brussels sprouts agenda. As I grew older and more mature, I became aware of the true beauty of Brussels sprouts and their positive significance on the Thanksgiving plate. Brussels sprouts provide a nice break from the other high-cholesterol meals given on the holiday. They’re a chance to eat your greens and — to everyone’ disbelief— they’re actually quite yummy. Brussels sprouts are not what you come to Thanksgiving for, but you come to appreciate their presence with increased maturity.

    Deviled eggs

    Deviled eggs take a talented person to make them. If they’re not made correctly, then intense criticism, piercing glares and tears are to be expected. A good egg has to be made by a deviled egg wizard — or your aunt that’s really good at making them. These little devils are so addicting that I often accidentally eat 12 of them. Still, the maker of the dish can make or break the holiday. Choose wisely who holds this honor.

    Pecan pie

    Like that annoying cousin you see once a year, pecan pie makes its presence known at Thanksgiving dinner. Your family will moan and lament when pecan Larry spouts some new conspiracy theory he read on a political Facebook group, but you can’t help but smirk to yourself, endeared and entertained. Pecan pie may clog your arteries the same way that Larry spreads harmful rhetoric to impressionable children, but it also warms your heart and sweetens your weekend. Enjoy it in secret, if you know what’s good for you.

    Salad

    Do I come to Thanksgiving for the salad? Absolutely not. Still, a case can be made for why salad should grace every holiday table. I mean, if you’re shoveling forkful after forkful of heavy meat and carbohydrates down your gullet, the occasional burst of grassy freshness may be the perfect response to your digestive tract’s ensuing cries for help. Although I am not counting down the days in November until I am able to feast upon the leafy green salad, I would immediately feel its absence. If one year it were to randomly disappear, I would not feel right about the holiday. Have a green thing on your plate this Thanksgiving, if only for political posturing.

    C tier

    Do they have the potential to be in a higher tier? Yeah. Still, they’re oftentimes just average.

    Corn on the cob

    Corn on the cob is not only historically accurate to the holiday, but it’s also unique in the way the food is customizable to an individual’s preferences. You want corn with butter, salt and pepper? Okay, go for it! You want to make the corn an elote? Okay, go for it! It’s up to the childlike wonder and whimsical imagination of the lucky bearer of the corn. However, compared to other Thanksgiving dishes, corn is okay. Corn can be eaten at almost any time of the year with the same customizable feature, so what makes it so worthy of being placed higher on this Thanksgiving food tier list?

    Ham

    Some people bring ham to the Thanksgiving dinner table because they prefer it over turkey. Ham’s sole purpose is to upstage the star of the show. Yet, in the opinion of The Daily Illini, ham falls short of any sort of upstaging. It’s just another overrated, mediocre schmeat.

    Turkey

    The star of Thanksgiving and arguably the most time-consuming dish is the turkey. This brilliant bird often sits as the centerpiece for the proud cook to display as a showcase of dedication to the meal. However, the turkey falls short of impressive in most cases. Why would you choose to load your plate with turkey when an array of other goodies sit in front of you? Compared to other festive dishes, it’s mid.

    D tier

    These dishes are below average and often have many flaws. Yikes!

    Steamed vegetables

    I didn’t come to the function for my daily dose of vitamins and fiber. What even is Thanksgiving, if not a government-mandated deviation from all norms of health? Save your cauliflower and carrots for quite literally any other day — especially if you’re intending to steam them. Ew.

    Potato salad

    Potato salad either has dedicated followers or firm haters of the dish. You’re an outlier if you hold a neutral opinion about potato salad. This salad arrives on your table unseasoned, weirdly chunky and dry in most cases. Put in between most other Thanksgiving dishes, it falls flat. Why scoop potato salad when there’s literally any other option? It sounds cruel, but Thanksgiving is not a time for potato salad. If you plan on bringing a potato salad, save it for the Fourth of July or your baby cousin’s first birthday party in a small rural farm town.

    Cherry pie

    The best thing about this dish is not its flavor, but its cultural significance. Where would I be without the hit song “Cherry Pie” by ’80s pop metal band Warrant? Aside from drunkenly yelling “She’s my cherry pie” at a local bar’s karaoke night, actual cherry pie is lackluster. Its weird-textured filling makes the pie crust soggy and it’s simply no match for its competitors on the Thanksgiving table. The dish is not unique, as it only consists of a few flavors. Fighting in support of cherry pie is a challenging feat and I personally wish you luck.

    F tier

    Ew ew ew! Get this thing away from me!

    Sweet potato casserole

    When I was four years old, my family and I decided to take a trip to our local Texas Roadhouse. There, my grandfather decided to order the sweet potato casserole. As I was early in my youth, I did not understand what was being put in front of me. Later that night my body did, and soon regurgitated the meal. I learned a very important lesson that day: Sweet potatoes are a bane not just to my existence but to the world’s.

    Cranberry sauce

    Hated by many, cranberry sauce is dead on arrival at many Thanksgiving gatherings. A passing glare is all that the jellified substance receives and the true beauty of its taste is kept a forbidden secret. Its cylinder shape is reminiscent of ancient Greek columns upholding divine flavor. It’s said that an artist is not truly appreciated until they have passed, and maybe the day that cranberry sauce does not find itself among the other Thanksgiving offerings will be the day it is finally understood. 

    Minnesota salad

    POV: You walk into your family’s Thanksgiving celebration. Greetings from distant relatives and warm embraces bring a smile to your face. What a pleasure it is to be home from a distant land and back in your childhood home. The sweet smells of spices and seasonings make you float head first toward the spread sitting upon your dining room table. Wow! Stuffing, mac and cheese and turkey galore! But wait, what’s that? Your world slows and you lose balance. Sweat beads roll down the side of your head. “This can’t be,” you think. There in front of you is a horrific dish, only to be made at your conservative relative’s Fourth of July party. An eyesore, a horror and something only comparable to the Grinch’s sock is slyly sitting in front of you. Minnesota salad — also known as the weird marshmallow casserole that no one touches — has ruined your evening. If you are a deviant and scary individual, you will volunteer to bring this to the function, even if no one asked you to. Don’t be that guy.

     

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    About the Contributors
    Lillie Salas, Features Editor
    Hello! My name is Lillie Salas, and I am a sophomore majoring in journalism. I have been working at The Daily Illini since my freshman year. I began as a staff writer in features and then had the opportunity to be promoted to features editor during my second semester. I am so honored to work with such an amazing staff and I look forward to working with the Champaign-Urbana community to share our stories. For any inquiries, contact me at my email below.
    Lisa Chasanov, Managing Editor for Reporting
    Howdy! My name is Lisa, my game is delivering quality news to your phone screen, coffee table and recycling bin. Since fall 2022, I have had the honor of writing, editing and often-unsuccessfully pitching content for The Daily Illini. During my time at the 152-year-old news source, I have served as a reporter at our news desk, summer editor and assistant news editor. Most recently, after a rewarding year of bringing you hard-hitting stories such as “Uncut: Dissecting Circumcision” and “‘Surf’s Up’ could be the film of the summer,” I have taken over as managing editor for reporting. In my free time, you can find me performing open heart surgery in dark alleys, communicating telepathically with small woodland creatures and engaging in otherwise dubious activities. If you would like to summon me for any reason, you can find me at [email protected]. Good Yard. Stay tuned for more.
    Jack Larson, Assistant buzz Editor
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