Thanksgiving dishes in need of an update? Try these twists for the holiday

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There will always be a sentimental place in our hearts for the typical Thanksgiving dinner: the mashed potatoes, the tart cranberries, the juicy gravy, the creamy pumpkin pie and, of course, the perfect turkey as the star of the feast. Yet some of these traditional turkey day staples are time-consuming and labor-intensive. And let’s face it: Some of us are just not that great at cooking.

Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and yams can all easily come out under-seasoned and dry if you aren’t trained in the culinary arts. There are ways to revitalize Thanksgiving dinner while still giving a nod to the tried-and-true favorites.

Why turkey?  

The turkey is obviously the most high-profile dish on the table; therefore, whoever is responsible for continually checking and basting the beast will be the most stressed-out one in the room. Spending a lot of money on a turkey, waking up at 5 a.m. to begin preparation just to have your aunt criticize you for it some nine odd hours later and having bland turkey occupying half of the refrigerator space for weeks after just isn’t going to work for some of us. There are businesses that will prepare the central focus of your meal, and it doesn’t have to be turkey. Prime rib, honey baked ham and vegetarian options are offered at several businesses for scheduled pickup.

American holiday with international twists

Rather than celebrating this very American and often mistaught holiday, we have the option to take a more progressive approach and put international twists on Thanksgiving favorites to show our support for inclusion, tolerance and social justice. You don’t necessarily have to have a personal connection to the country you are drawing culinary inspiration from, but take this as an opportunity to learn, critically research and try something new and different!

Forget the boring dinner rolls, Armenian Za’atar bread can be spiced with pumpkin seeds, thyme and oregano to blend perfectly with classic Thanksgiving flavor profiles. Travel to Zimbabwe for your starch side dish and swap out mashed potatoes for Nhopi, a mash of butternut squash and peanut butter. To finish off your trip around the world, perhaps bring your guests to the Mediterranean with baklava — the sweet and nutty flavors of this multilayered treat share similar tastes with the traditional pumpkin pie.

We at the Clog strongly suggest and encourage that you research the culturally rich and diverse additions you may want to make to your Thanksgiving meal and consider why you want to make them in the first place. Take this time to reflect on the meal and gratitude you may have for other places in the world and their cultures.

Have a potluck – but don’t let anybody reveal what they are bringing!

This idea has the potential to be disastrous — and the potential to be amazing. Nobody is allowed to coordinate with each other about who brings what, yet everyone is responsible for bringing a nontraditional dish to the table. Yes, this could easily result in a cacophony of dishes that disagree with one another or lead to a table only consisting of a variety of green beans. However, since many people will be having a Zoom Thanksgiving this year, that may not matter. While you may not be tasting the dish, sharing food is a way to celebrate culture, reminisce about childhood favorites and honor hometown traditions with the people you love. The risk of bringing something funky to the table (virtually or with a small-pod gathering) is big, but it could be worth it.

We at the Clog want to wish you a happy and safe break over these next few days. Remember to rest, take care of yourself and above all, cherish your blessings! Be humble and grateful.

Contact Morgan Saltz at [email protected].