It’s all about the side dishes, y’all


As I write there are scads of folks out there working the turkey. There are a few ways to do it right, and a thousand ways to do it wrong. Some of those cooking techniques are downright dangerous, and I’m sure we’ll all read about them in tomorrow’s paper. I’m not giving cooking tips at this late stage except to say that if you haven’t yet started cooking the bird by now, everyone’s having chicken fingers for dinner.

The turkey’s not really the point anyway. I know Paula’s probably whiteknuckled over such a thing, but deep down we all know the side dishes are the real star. Unless you’re serving one of those turducken monstrosities, but I can’t even wrap my mind around what it takes to put one of those on the table.

The staples – at least down here in Arkansas – are pre-FoodTV Network. That means canned green beans oozing in cream of mushroom soup, with a generous topping of canned, fried onion rings. It means sweet potatoes with brown sugar and tiny marshmallows. It means cornbread dressing with bits of boiled egg and whatever came in that white bag inside the turkey’s butt. It means butter beans and lumpy creamed potatoes. It means butter, butter, and more butter.

Now, you can bring something in addition to these staples, and should. A guest, whether invited or univited, should have some sort of covered dish in their hands when they show up. I know people in other places bring a bottle of wine, but that’s inadvisable around here. In a dry county full of Baptists it pays to know your crowd ahead of time.

You don’t want to be discussed.

And then there’s the jello salad. I think it defines the holiday and southerners in general. You only see a jello salad at covered-dish church socials, after funerals, and at Thanksgiving. No one looks forward to eating these things, yet everyone does. Every Woman of a Certain Age should have at least one good recipe for a festive jello salad, and if she’s a maiden aunt, two.

Dessert is a topic for another day. Besides, you’ve got cooking to do. So do I.