Opinion: Thanksgiving Side Dishes by Lucy Menendez


Peel your eyes away from the 2020 electoral college map and feast them on the greatest map of all time: every state’s favorite Thanksgiving side dish. 

In the midst of the election drama, this “Most Popular Thanksgiving Sides” map surfaced on Twitter. I took the time to deeply analyze the statistics as I am a huge Thanksgiving side dish fan. Yes, please, serve me a nice juicy piece of dark-meat turkey, but leave it to the side of the stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts and rolls! You cannot go wrong with a good Thanksgiving side. 

When I saw this map, my eyes shot to Oregon, which says its favorite side is biscuits. I love biscuits because they are extremely versatile. You could spread them with butter or jam, smother it in gravy, or make a stellar sandwich the next day. Although biscuits are warm, fluffy, and versatile, they are not my personal favorite. 

The bright yellow in the south caught my attention next. Mac and cheese proves most popular in North and South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. My family does not serve mac and cheese as a Thanksgiving side; I don’t think it is a very popular west coast dish served at Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, I would not complain at all if it were on my table, but it has never been and probably won’t be. What makes a perfectly cooked mac and cheese for me? A combination of real cheeses, baked, creamy, light, and not too rich. If that was on my table, I would take a heaping spoonful, but only that. And that leads me to why mac and cheese is not the greatest side. Although mac and cheese is a delightful delicacy, how much mac and cheese are you really going to consume that night, and will you be consuming more mac and cheese than any other side? If so, please don’t. 

I’ve never been a huge casserole fan, but I do love a spoonful of green beans, or warm corn underneath a blanket of gravy. Indiana pulled deviled eggs out of the summer cabinet, and I am loving it. Maine went with the ever so questionable side salad and New Hampshire decided on cranberry sauce. I love jam and jelly spreads, but honestly I have never tried cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. I praise gravy so to try cranberry sauce, I would have to sacrifice a dish that would usually be smothered in gravy just to substitute it for a cranberry sauce glaze. I know my plate on Thanksgiving; it has been the same for years. If I am trying cranberry sauce this year, it will be an hour before the meal where I sneak into the kitchen and test it out. 

I was surprised at the underrepresentation of stuffing/dressing. Stuffing is a treat. You’ve got some turkey meat, bread, flavorful vegetables, seasoning, butter, garnishes, etc. Yes, the stuffing has a high chance of being dry, but again, covering it in gravy will not only fix that problem, but accentuate the entire experience. My mother has made “Grand Daddy’s Dressing” every year, and that dish is taking up half of my plate and I will be going in for seconds. 

Midwest and West Coast chose, correctly, mashed potatoes. There aren’t many things better than serving a grand scoop of creamy potatoes, creating a small hole in the center, and drowning it in gravy. Mashed potatoes are smooth, silky, light, and versatile. You could leave the skin on, season it with garlic or pepper, or even use sweet potatoes. It does not matter, because after paired with gravy, that’s all you’re going to want to eat! To me, mashed potatoes and gravy will continue to be my all-time-favorite Thanksgiving side dish. 

I hope you have widened your Thanksgiving side dish spectrum through this map. Take my advice and don’t switch up your Thanksgiving plate; you only get one plate a year, so make it count.