To me Thanksgiving is a pretty horrible holiday. Sure it's nice to have a couple of days off and see family and such but the actual meal is awful. I don't mean this to be an attack on those who have prepared my Thanksgiving meals over the years, I mean it to be an attack on the food.
First off, turkey is horrible. It doesn't much matter how it's prepared, it's dry and pretty tasteless. I know, I know, you have a recipe that makes it good, or you fry it and it's wonderful. That's all bull, turkey sucks, you know it and I know it. Why don't we have duck or goose or even chicken if we must eat a bird. Turkey is food for people on a diet, not for celebratory eating.
Not only is turkey horrid, most home cooks aren't properly prepared to cook it right. So you have already stressed home cooks trying to cook some fowl meat that is naturally devoid of fat/flavor. Gee, thanks, that sounds great. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if turkey was any good, you'd make it at home more than once a year.
Perhaps because turkey is so hard to do right or because of the sheer volume of food that is needed, the rest of the meal is like a Sandra Lee show gone horribly wrong. How many cans of food must be killed every Thanksgiving before the carnage ends? Thanksgiving sucks because it's casserole friendly. There's sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, broccoli casserole or any number of other casseroles. All these casseroles have 2 things in common, canned/frozen vegetables and cream of mushroom soup. I don't have much against canned or frozen vegetables, fresh is of course better, but frozen cauliflower or corn or whatever is sometimes the better option. Cream of mushroom soup, however, is never acceptable. It's a deal breaker for me and it's a part of way too many casseroles.
Casseroles are also pot luck and travel friendly so guests can bring someting to Thanksgiving so the host doesn't do all the cooking. Say it with me, casseroles aren't the answer. What casseroles are, is gross. Just the sight of 9 out of 10 casseroles makes me sick. Is a dinner where I'm going to have to pass something that the mere sight makes me throw up in my mouth sound like fun to you? Me neither.
Nearly every Thanksgiving I've been to, I've only been able to eat two or 3 of the menu items. And that's only if there's ham. I usually end up eating rolls and mashed potatoes. If you're unlucky enough to have to travel to a Thanksgiving or hosting your own, you then have to eat leftover turkey and casserole for the next 3 days. It sucked on Thursday, it's going to be 75% worse by Saturday.
My solution to all of this is simple. Pare the meal down, way down. Dump the turkey, make a roast or a ham. Try to make a fresh vegetable, like a ratatouille, sauteed cauliflower, steamed broccoli or something like that. A macaroni and cheese or cheesy potato dish that can be made ahead of time is another nice side dish. If you feel like you still need mashed potatoes or stuffing go ahead and add them too. That's about it other than the bread. All of the creamy side dishes should go by the wayside. It's all just too much and needless. Your host wants to enjoy everyone's company as well so let them by not expecting 10 dishes. My guess is that more food gets wasted on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year and it's wasted because it's gross.
The only other thing to make the day go better would be to dump the Lions from the traditional Thanksgiving day football game and schedule the previous year's Superbowl winner on that day instead. That way we have a better shot at seeing a good football team play. I'd prefer to get rid of the Cowboys too, but over the past 20 years they've been pretty good most years.
This should go without saying, but drink good beer or wine on Thanksgiving. Splurge and buy a couple of Smokestack series beers to take to your host's house instead of a casserole. Go ask your local wine merchant what wine you should be serving at Thanksgiving and get a couple of bottles of each or ask your guests to bring their choice from a list of 5 or 6 wines.
I'm probably never going to get rid of my annual date with green bean casserole, turkey and Detroit Lions football, but a boy can dream. I just have to focus on the good things about the holiday, good beer and my family, and enjoy my long weekend.
Happy Thanksgiving? In my mind there's no such thing.