Turkey is the least important dish served on Thanksgiving.
Like the headmaster of a prestigious New England boarding school, the turkey is a mere figurehead — a symbol for what Thanksgiving represents. Beyond serving this function, the turkey provides the least taste satisfaction and interest during the meal.
Everyone knows that Thanksgiving dinner would be nothing without its side dishes. I will admit that I’m vegetarian, so I abstain from turkey already; however, even before going vegetarian, I found the turkey to be a waste of time. You already know you’re going to absolutely stuff yourself with food on Thanksgiving; why sacrifice any stomach space on, what Berry Phillips ’20 calls, “a vehicle”?
And it’s true. How often do you just eat the turkey straight? You have to smother your turkey with stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, or it will be boring. For that reason, it makes much more sense to forego the turkey and go all in on your sides — brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, green beans. Not only do you save room by eschewing the turkey, you get to eat more of the actually appetizing components of the meal and might — might — have an ounce of space for dessert. You’re eating pie regardless of space, but it would be nice to feel just uncomfortably full as opposed to unbearably full.
The turkey is less tantalizing to the taste buds for a reason; there’s only so much you can actually do with it. You brine it, you roast it, that’s it. Meanwhile, you can make potatoes any way you want — mashed, roasted, hash browns — not to mention the many different types of potato. And your vegetable options are only limited by your imagination. Literally every dish but the turkey allows you to go off the book, be creative, and personalize your Thanksgiving dinner. Really, that turkey is limiting you.
Also, let’s not forget that by upholding the notion that we must eat turkey on Thanksgiving, we’re killing turkeys everywhere. Every year, we kill an estimated 46 million turkeys for this holiday. You can roast and eat a turkey virtually any time during the year, but because the turkey is the figurehead of Thanksgiving, we insist that this poultry alone be eaten.
Mind you, there are far more delicious meats one could consume instead — meats that actually taste good on their own. My family has replaced the turkey with a heavenly ham before; no complaints there. We also once threw our entire Thanksgiving tradition out the window and had an “Italian Thanksgiving”: chicken parmigiana, pasta, eggplant rollatini, and so on. At no point did anyone lament the lack of turkey.
I do not wish to say that some people can’t roast a darn delicious turkey. But the reality is, all of the Thanksgiving sides enhance the turkey so exponentially that the taste of it is lost among all the other flavors.
I dare you to eliminate the side dishes from Thanksgiving and see if people are content with just the turkey; I am sure one of your annoying relatives will skewer you. Meanwhile, you eliminate the turkey from Thanksgiving — I bet you’d receive some light griping, then everyone would start digging into your variation of mashed potatoes and get over it. Similar to an iOS upgrade, people will act like the world is crashing down then forget once they’ve adapted.
So, in the future, do all the turkeys a favor and do yourself a favor: toss the turkey and save the sides.