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Let’s Settle This: The Biggest Thanksgiving Debates, Decided

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the holiday we know and love without a little friendly debate. For many of us, it’s holiday tradition to tuck into that second (or fourth) slice of pie and jovially debate the best Star Wars or not so jovially argue about the direction of American politics. But there are some debates that come up about Thanksgiving every year and we’re here to finally settle those questions for good.

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“Stuffing” v. “Dressing”

The Debate: What do we call that delicious mix of bread, veg, stock and other goodness that Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without? Many folks go for “dressing,” claiming that it is the side with which you “dress” the turkey. Other distinguish stuffing from dressing by saying that we can only call that delectable mix “stuffing” if it’s actually cooked in the turkey (something most chefs don’t recommend for reasons of food safety and taste). The people that make these arguments are wrong.

The Verdict: Stuffing. Dressing is a liquid you put on salads, you monsters.

“Sweet Potatoes” v. “Yams”

The Debate: Like “stuffing” v. “dressing” this debate revolves around common names for the same thing, and the differences are often regional and cultural. We’re not going to brave the fight over if these healthy and versatile veggies are better or worse with marshmallows on top, after all, your taste may vary, but we can actually solve the name game.

The verdict: Sweet Potatoes. According to Bon Apetit, the root vegetables we know variously as sweet potatoes and yams are actually all sweet potatoes. The mix up came when some farmers in the 30s wanted to distinguish their orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Actual yams are very different from sweet potatoes: they’re bigger, they have different skin and they, most importantly, aren’t very sweet. Now you know.

Cranberry Sauce: Canned or From Scratch

The Debate: Despite some people finding the gelatinous, magenta stuff that comes out of the can appetizing, just as many people loathe that version of cranberry sauce. The argument goes that cutting along the lines of the can and that satisfying slorping noise and the lump hits the plate is just a much of tradition as the bird and mashed potatoes. Other are loathe to call a mysterious solid “sauce.”

The Verdict: From scratch. I respect the tradition of the can but here me out. From scratch cranberry sauce is one of the tastiest things you can make ahead of the big day and it’s super-impressive to bring it if you’re a guest. Here’s my secret: use red wine instead of water when making it! I like to use a merlot or zinfandel and it gives the sauce and amazing, complex flavor that will amaze everyone.

Turkey v. Ham

The Debate: There are some people, apparently, that think because Thanksgiving is a big family dinner that it’s acceptable to serve ham instead of a turkey.

The Verdict: Turkey. Duh. Benjamin Franklin didn’t advocate for the turkey to be our national bird for you to defy him and serve ham at thanksgiving. I will allow it only if Turkey is also an option.

Can Jello be a “Salad?”

The Debate: This isn’t so much a debate as a cultural relic of the fifties when Jello and canned food were seen as the future of cooking and housewives across America subjected their families to all sorts of culinary atrocities and triumph. The ubiquitous green bean casserole comes from this era too.

The jello salad has a long and varied history all over. In my house, my step-mother always makes “Under the sea salad,” which is a concoction of pears, lime jello and cream cheese that is…actually delicious.

The Verdict: Not salad, but not bad! Thanksgiving is about tradition and if that tradition comes out of a jello mold, go for it. Just don’t forget that an actual salad should probably contain a fresh vegetable or leafy green.

Which pie?

The Debate: The are so many classics to choose from? Traditional pumpkin? American apple?  Souther Sweet potato or pecan? There’s just so many choices when it comes to dessert…

dean winchester saying "pie"

The Verdict: ALL OF THEM. Yeah, I said it! Why skimp on the best part of the meal? Pie keeps for a long time, you can enjoy the leftovers as breakfast for days! (Pie has fruit in it so it’s a breakfast food).  Thanksgiving is not about holding back so bake as many pies as make the family happy! Just don’t forget the whipped cream.

When Does Christmastime Start?

The Debate: I know what you’re saying. By bringing Christmas into this Thanksgiving post, I’m part of the problem, but the question of when to start the most wonderful time of the year is a contentious issue across this great nation. Some folks feel like once Halloween is in the rearview, it’s fair game for Yuletide and most of those people seem to work on the decorations at your local mall. But when do we start the transition? Is it okay to put up lights before you roast the turkey?

The Verdict: Just do what makes you happy in these trying times. Thanksgiving itself keeps moving, so it’s not actually a good date to work around (by this time last year thanksgiving had already happened!) so if you want to start getting in the spirit early…go for it. Christmas makes people happy, so if you like listening to holiday tunes or watching a Christmas movie before your turkey dinner, have at it or at least don’t be an ass hole to those that do.

We’ve passed our judgments but we’re sure there are more debates to settle and arguments against our (very wise) decisions, so sound off in the comments with your Thanksgiving opinions!

(Image: Magda Ehlers from Pexels)

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Jessica Mason
Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.

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