Cranberries, stuffing and turkey: Why do some Thanksgiving foods divide the dinner table?

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For some, Thanksgiving can be disappointing if one is hoping for some delicious, homemade cranberry sauce, only to realize it’s coming straight out of a can. Can’t think of the other side any other way.

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Since Thanksgiving often brings friends and family together to enjoy one big dinner, this can result in debate about what is the best Thanksgiving dish and what is the “right” way to make it.

Although the history of Thanksgiving goes back hundreds of years, it was not an official celebration until 1870 when Congress made it a national holiday. Back then, food historian Sarah Wassberg Johnson says that a lot of “Yankee hype” turned the holiday into the grand feast it is today.


Since the holiday originated in the New England region, dishes such as turkey, cranberry and pumpkin pie have become synonymous with Thanksgiving to this day. But as the holiday celebrations grew, some parts of the country put their own regional twists on classic dishes.

For example, sweet potato casserole comes from African slaves in the South, as the dish, also called yam (even though it’s not quite the same), usually originated from a starch grown in West Africa. Cornbread stuffing and pecan pie are also very popular in the South, while oysters in stuffing are common in the Northeast. The Thanksgiving meal also played a big part in being able to produce food in a factory, such as canned cranberries and pumpkins.

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The country has many other regional and personal favorites, and Johnson says the reason people get so defensive about the way their favorite dishes are prepared is indifference.

“Now it’s more about the family and the foods. But I think there’s a lot of pressure to keep things as usual,” Johnson told USA Today. “The tradition of doing everything the same way may have some kind of tyranny.”


Christopher Arturo, a chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, said he himself has seen how strongly people feel about Thanksgiving food, once a screaming match between his mother and sister over stuffing had to be broken. He said that growing up, the one thing people always remember about Thanksgiving is the food. So, watching things change is like taking away one’s childhood.

“There are a lot of positive memories, and then someone is like, ‘Oh, we’re going to change this.’ It’s like, ‘No, please don’t take away my happiness,'” he said.

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Stuffing/dressing is made in many ways, but the more vegetables you add to the dish, the better, said Wesley McHorter, director of culinary nutrition at the University of Texas Health Science Center at the Houston School of Public Health.

“There’s a lot of things you can put out there,” he said. “If you can add some vegetables and other whole grains to it, that’s going to make it a better meal.”

There is also a division among people making stuffing inside their turkey or just on their own. The inside of a turkey can add more flavor when it’s cooked, but it can also cause food poisoning if it’s not cooked properly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends For people to cook it to put it inside the meat before cooking it in the turkey. People should make sure the center of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and wait 20 minutes after removing everything from the oven to let the stuffing cook a bit more.

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Sweet Potato Casserole

One of the most diverse dishes at Thanksgiving, sweet potato casserole can serve as a side or as a dessert, depending on what it is. It can be made just on its own, or it can be topped with pecans or marshmallows.

Wesley said he does have marshmallows in his casserole because of the sweetness, but nutritionally, it doesn’t really do much.

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“The marshmallow isn’t adding nutritional value. It’s just adding some sugar sweetness to the dish,” he said.

Most recipes involving marshmallows call for using about two cups of it, which equates to about 57 grams of sugar. eat so much, While this isn’t all that bad for you, the American Heart Association recommends that women eat no more than 24 grams of sugar a day and 36 grams for men.

cranberry sauce

McHorter said people are missing out on too many nutrients if they like it out of a can. It also depends on whether people add sugar to add sweetness to the dish.

Homemade cranberry sauce often packs more nutrients than canned.

Arturo said that those who prefer the canned version probably prefer it for texture reasons, but if you want to please both sides of the argument, you can make cranberry sauce and before you finish it, you can. You can mix it with cranberry juice and the canned version. ,

“Throw it in the fridge and then you have an amazing cranberry sauce out of the can too,” he said.

For those who prefer the canned version, the fiber is pectin that gives it a jelly-like texture rather than a sauce. There isn’t much of a difference between the two in terms of ingredients, but in canned cranberries, the berries are ripe enough where it completely breaks down into jelly, where a homemade version would have cranberry chunks.


For a turkey, McHorter said cooking it is one of the best ways to cook it because it not only keeps it juicy, but doesn’t add any extra fat or butter.

Arturo said that bringing it in is not only healthier, but it also provides the most flavor. But a way to escape? deep fry it, because it’s not only healthy, but “so many things can go wrong.”

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Things to be aware of when adding too much sodium to turkey, such as Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend Adults eat no more than a teaspoon of table salt. McWhorter said people should focus on not overcooking their turkey and that there really isn’t much of a difference between preferring lighter meat versus darker meat.

“Many of us will just dump a ton of gravy, especially if we over-cook the turkey because it’s too dry,” he said. “Focus on cooking it and don’t overcook it, and it will make it better all around.”

Even if there’s no meeting in between for your Thanksgiving, Johnson said people should let families know what’s going to happen for dinner. If a meal is being made in a way that you can’t stand, there’s no shame in making a small batch just for yourself or someone else by your side.

“People shouldn’t feel ashamed of what they want to eat and shouldn’t be forced to eat something they don’t want to eat, because it’s ridiculous.

“Life is too short for bad food,” she said.

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5,

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