Thanksgiving is overrated. It’s nominally a celebration of a rare moment when Native Americans and pilgrims got along. But in truth, it’s a day of sharing a table with relatives you spend most of the year avoiding.
At least we get some good grub to balance out the halftime shows and awkward silences. You’ll have a long day of shoving food in your mouth while waiting for your relatives to go home. To help you make the most of the day, here’s our definitive ranking of the best and worst Thanksgiving foods.
Does your family serve ham at Thanksgiving? They don’t need to—with brined turkey and assorted sodium-laden sides, there’s already enough salt on the table to float a battleship. Save the ham for New Year’s Day, when you’re hungover AF and need that salt to survive the hydration.
12. Green Beans
Better known as the last thing on your plate. Even when prepared perfectly, green beans are soggy and taste like dishwater. They’re the perfect vegetable for people who hate food.
When you’re hungry and it’s out and warm, you love bread. When you’re halfway through the meal and too full because you pre-carbed too hard, you want to swear off bread forever. But when it’s time for your midnight leftover sandwich, you come crawling back.
Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t suffer if you served chicken. In fact, the turkey could be improved by any meat. Turkeys are just big, easy to kill, and happened to be roaming around when the pilgrims got hungry back in the day. As a cold cut, it creates a quality deli sandwich, but turkey is vastly overrated as a meal centerpiece.
9. Pumpkin Pie
Serve that maize the cob for the fun of rolling on a butter stick/pretending you’re a typewriter while you eat it. But kerneled or creamed work just as well for as a butter delivery service.
These should be a requirement at every Thanksgiving dinner. No one has ever complained about being served a ball of baked meat, unless you’re a vegetarian, but let’s face it, it’s not their day.
6. Sweet Potato Pie
Sweet potato pie is pumpkin pie’s under-appreciated and demonstrably better cousin. We should really replace all the pumpkin bullshit in our lives with sweet potato things. Unfortunately society hasn’t boarded this train with me yet. In three years when every white girl in America is Instagramming their sweet potato latte, remember where you heard it first.
5. Brussel Sprouts
Brussels sprouts have a bad reputation for good reason. They’re little heads of cabbage that smell bad. Do me a favor, though—imagine them as baby cabbage that never wanted to grow up and found a secret vegetable potion that allowed them to stay young forever. Don’t they seem more fun? If that didn’t work, douse ‘em in a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake ‘em to a crisp. I’ll take care of the rest.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Marshmallows or not, these tubers brighten any table. Done right and they vault into the top three.
3. Mashed Potatoes
Any other thing mashed up would just be considered baby food. Not potatoes. They’re a full on side dish. Really, this speaks to the strength and versatility of potatoes as a whole. You can season mashed potatoes with just about anything and they’ll come out amazing. Sweet potatoes have a higher ceiling, but mashies win out with consistency.
2. Cranberry Sauce
Sweet, delicious, stands on its own but also goes with everything. What’s not to love? Save me your organic homemade garbage, though—I want the real Ocean Spray shit straight out of the can. Preferably still in the can shape if you can manage. I’m talking ridges and all.
Everyone’s family makes stuffing differently, and everyone only likes their family’s stuffing. This unique quality makes it the most interesting and frustrating Thanksgiving dish all at once. It’s a side capable of standing alone. Good stuffing can elevate a Thanksgiving meal, but bad stuffing can completely tank it. Fortunately, my mom’s stuffing is even better than her red sauce. LOVE YOU, MOM.