Thanksgiving is really a spread more than a meal, if you think about it. Cranberry sauce, gravy and turkey notwithstanding, dishes don't necessarily appear together because they compliment one another.
Whether they're part of a family routine or a conviction of what the holiday meal is supposed to include, tradition demands that the dishes share a table. While in the right cook's hands, the homeliest of dishes can be wonderful — when it comes to the soft, mashed, beige-toned universe of Thanksgiving sides, some traditions, even well-established ones, ought to perish along with that pitiful Broad Breasted White you hauled home from Trader Joe's.
4. Corn Pudding: Corn is good and all, but fresh corn is not usually putting its best kernel forward come late November. And on a holiday where sticks of the yellow stuff [editor's note: that would be butter, although this is kind of a Kubrick moment here] drop like bodies in a World War II flick, there are infinitely better butter-delivery systems than a dense thick slab of this. Maybe add macaroni and cheese and take away the corn and egg?
3. Oyster Stuffing: Our stepmom does this pretty well, but we've had some stinkers: A mealy specimen riddled with celery chunks and studded with whole, slippery, canned oysters seemingly the size of deflated tires. We don't mind a brined bird, but we cannot suffer a brined stuffing that smells like the floor of a grubby fish market.
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2. Green Bean Casserole: No, we're not bagging on the fried onions. Those canned wonders are this dish's redeeming quality. Some Campbell's-doused green beans oven-bludgeoned to the point where they're olive-colored and softer than Wonder bread? We'd actually rather eat turkey.
1. Turkey: Yeah, we know it's not a side, but we'd still like it to disappear — and not necessarily under a blanket of gravy. Unless a whole bird is fried or smoked or it's dismembered and the parts made into mole, confit and so forth, turkey pales (literally) in comparison to dozens of other meats that ought to replace it, in no small part because the turkey most people gulp down bears no resemblance to the lean, flavorful wild bird a Pilgrim would have capped with a blunderbuss. Why not a platter of roasted quail, a suckling pig, a whole salmon or prime rib? You could make all the gnarly sides you wanted and guests wouldn't even pretend to eat them.