Thursday was Thanksgiving here in the USA and during the World Cup broadcast on FOX, in order to fill time Alexi Lalas was presented with a cooked turkey as a prop. Alexi plucked a leg off the turkey – saying it’s his favorite part – and began to eat while moaning in faux pleasure. Clint Dempsey, playing the role of Texan in the Fox studios, remarked that he preferred his turkey deep fried. And Eni Aluko (Nigerian born, England international footballer) looked on at the mock gluttony and said that she might want to bring Thanksgiving back to England. Well, good news! I happen to be an American Thanksgiving expert and I have some tips for anyone in England or any other country who wants to have a traditional American style Thanksgiving.
First, let’s start with the food
When your guests arrive there should be a “charcuterie” plate set out with the following: black olives (from a can, for children to put on their fingers), devilled eggs (make sure to never have enough of these, people should not be allowed to fill up on food that tastes good and is easy to make), Hickory Farms summer sausage (this has the right amount of salt and fat to prepare your body for the food assault to come), cheese cut into perfect square slices, and Ritz crackers. If you want to add anything fancy to this plate, resist the urge. It will only start the fighting early when your sister in law says “oh these (insert thing) are FANCY. You guys are always do FANCY.”
Side dishes are the true star of any Thanksgiving meal and as such care should be taken to prepare as many of them as humanly possible. Here’s a list:
Candied yams. This is actually sweet potatoes baked with brown sugar and marshmallows and is a classic. If you can get this canned, you should. If not, don’t skimp on the sugar or marshmallow because as you’re going to soon discover, the real star of Thanksgiving is carbs. Dishes should have the highest possible glycemic index. This is not a meal for the weak livered.
Next up is “stuffing” which should never be actually stuffed into a bird (according to the FDA) but should actually always be stuffed into a bird because you’re going to cook that turkey to a minimum of 165F and everything within a 1/4 mile will be sterilized. Stuffing needs to be made from bread completely devoid of any nutritional value. If the bread was crafted in a laboratory and costs less than a $1 a loaf, you’re hitting the mark. Think about bread you’d feed to a pigeon or a duck. That’s what you’re aiming for, after all we are going to gavage on this food.
Mashed potatoes are up next and do not even THINK about fancying this dish up. Colcannon? Not canon. This will be the only truly edible dish on the table (along with gravy) and as such should pack as many calories and be as destructive to your body as possible. That means butter, cream, and plenty of salt. I have seen the occasional cook who can’t make mashed potatoes (they make some kind of inedible paste) and if you can pull that off, you could actually have the perfect Thanksgiving, where nothing is edible.
Gravy. Here are the two things that gravy needs to be: salty and plentiful. it doesn’t really matter where the gravy came from. Some cooks prepare it from the drippings (if there are any left after incinerating the turkey) but it could come from a packet for all anyone will really care. Just remember that a good rule is that every person eating at the table will want 1 cup of gravy per plate of food. So, I always make three cups per person. Is this healthy? No. Is it healthy to have dinner with family members you probably don’t like while drinking huge amounts of alcohol in order to cope? Also no. But that’s the real spirit of Thanksgiving!
Green bean casserole is a mythical dish, like big foot or the Loch Ness monster. Supposedly made from green beans, Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, and canned fried onions but no one has ever actually eaten this dish or seen it in the wild.
Cranberry “sauce”. This is actually what Brits would call “jelly”. But the key things about this dish is that it must come from a can, set on a plate like a log, and have little ridges in it. Anyone attempting to make cranberry sauce from actual cranberries should be banished from the family for a period of two years.
Brussels Sprouts and bacon. This is a newcomer on the Thanksgiving scene and is an acceptable addition. Care should be taken, however, to make sure that somehow the sprouts are overcooked and the bacon is soggy. No one should, at any point, enjoy eating Thanksgiving dinner. You are performing a civic duty, stuffing yourself with huge quantities of barely edible food, you are not here to enjoy yourself.
And now the main, the star of the meal, the Turkey. Turkey is the perfect American food. First, it’s an indigenous bird and wild turkeys still roam the American countryside. Wild turkeys are also incredibly loud and annoying. But the most important thing about Turkey is that it’s fucking huge. The meat is horrible and bland (even if you “brine” it) but there is always a lot of it. Picking the meat off a turkey carcass can take hours after thanksgiving is over. I mean, no one will want to eat it, but there will be a lot of it.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends that you cook Turkey to 165F. If you follow this recommendation, you will render the entire upper portion of the bird completely inedible. You can “brine” it all you want but any meat cooked to this temp will still be dry. And this is the point, actually. You’re not eating for pleasure, you’re eating out of a sense of obligation to family and country. Just pile on more mashed potatoes and gravy.
If you try to “chef” the turkey and cook it to 145F (and keep at least part of the turkey edible) you will gross out 80% of your guests who will remark “OH MY GOOD IT’S STILL BLOODY! SHOULD IT BE BLOODY?” Depending on your approach to the social interactions at Thanksgiving, this could be a good or bad thing since it will invariably start the inevitable family argument.
Some people have taken to deep frying their turkey and this is a viable option mostly because there is a good chance you’ll set the house on fire. It also shows a dedication that is very American. Deep frying a turkey is a way to take a food that is essentially inedible and by adding danger and oil, trying to make it good. God bless the USA.
There are also people who, instead of opting for making something delicious as a main meal like Lasagna, BBQ, or pulled pork, choose to “spatchcock” their turkey. This means cutting the backbone out of the bird and laying it flat like roadkill. This has the added bonus of making the entire bird inedible when cooked to 165F and also making for an autopsy-like presentation. If you choose to cook it to 145F, it can also be “bloody” which is a Thanksgiving I’ve never seen but I would personally love to attend.
Desserts should be apple pie, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie – at LEAST. There should also be tons of whipped cream available. Generally no one complains about dessert. This is the best part of the meal, because it’s over!
One last thing about food: when piling the food on your plate you should make sure that EVERYTHING is touching. There should be turkey piled on stuffing with mashed potatoes on the left and candied yams on the right. Throw some cranberry sauce on there, some brussels and then smother the entire thing in gravy and you have yourself a truly American Thanksgiving. There’s a reason why the KFC Famous Bowl was their most popular meal of all time.
That about covers the food segment and now I have some tips for social interactions.
There will inevitably be an argument (or multiple arguments) on Thanksgiving. The trick is to pick the correct time. If you like eating in silence, get that argument going before dinner. Ask your racist uncle what he thinks of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. If you like a truly tense evening, start the arguments during hors d’oeuvres by asking grandpa to regale you with stories of what it was like during the 60s. And if people are sticking around too long after dinner is done, clear the room by telling everyone you think it’s ok for Qatar to use the state apparatus to entice, arrest, torture, and jail LGBTQ+ citizens.”Hey it’s just their culture! And frankly, it’s cultural imperialism to tell them that they’re wrong! What ever happened to cultural relativity???” Whooo doggy! That will clear a room.
Look, bottom like in terms of family interactions is that everyone is going to be uncomfortable. We generally all don’t hang out together anymore and opinions these days are very strong and tightly held. It’s ok, look at your phone a lot, walk away from people when they say something crazy, and just remember that the bars are all open after dinner and you can always go out and get obliterated.
For entertainment, if the family eats early enough we will sometimes watch Football. Here in the States that means American football and usually it’s two teams that aren’t great and that a lot of people hate. This year, for example it was the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants of football. England should do something similar and choose two teams that most people despise, I recommend Tottenham and Chelsea.
This is a good time for folks to take a nap. Just go ahead and pass out where you’re sitting and when you wake up blame it on the “l-triptophan”.
As the night winds down it’s imperative that you remind folks that they MUST take leftovers home with them. If you did this right, you will have an unbelievable amount of inedible food and the key thing to do at the end of the night is to make sure people take it home with them. You don’t want to have to throw all that food out yourself, make other people throw it out for you.
I think I’ve covered the basics of Thanksgiving in the USA. I hope that you all give it a try. Remember, if you’re not hitting at least six of the seven of the deadly sins (lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride) then you haven’t done it right.