Roundtable: Best and worst Thanksgiving side dishes 

A pie. The Daily Campus Life Section debates on the best Thanksgiving side. Illustration by Sarah Chantres/The Daily Campus

We all know Thanksgiving as the holiday to express love and gratitude for everything and everyone in our lives. But the real prize is getting to overindulge in some of our favorite comfort foods. Thanksgiving side dishes arguably have the best selection, but everyone has their — possibly controversial — preferences. Read to find out what the Life Section is looking forward to and dreading to find out on the dinner table this Thanksgiving. 

James Fitzpatrick, CC 

This question leads to some controversial takes on my part, but hear me out. I love rolls with butter, whether they are King’s Hawaiian brand, or just your average roll, during Thanksgiving dinner. Are they better than turkey or stuffing? To me, yes, and here’s why: Rolls are a great palate cleanser after gorging on the main courses, and they’re versatile, as you can make little sandwiches with them to make your feast more manageable. 

I also love brussel sprouts, specifically maple roasted brussel sprouts with bacon, which adds some pizzazz to an otherwise lousy side dish. I can’t say I enjoy every brussel sprout I eat, but my family always clutches up on the big day with the fancy kind. Don’t knock it until you try it, because casserole can’t compete with some sweet brussel sprouts, but I don’t always enjoy something sweet. 

For my least favorite side-dish, I vote for stuffing. I also happen to not like Thanksgiving turkey, but why exactly? Well, I got food poisoning about seven years ago from rancid leftovers, and they made me the most sick I have ever been. Stuffing has that particular sour-ish taste, so understandably, it brings my tastebuds back to that time whenever I eat it. I used to enjoy stuffing, unfortunately, but I can now handle another dish that I once couldn’t. 

At another point, a loaded sweet potato from Texas Roadhouse with marshmallows and caramel was too much for me to stomach. They are usually prepared less like a dessert during your average Thanksgiving, since there are actual dessert dishes brought to the table, so I usually take a few bites, although they have always been mid to me. 

To bring it full circle, I like most pies except pumpkin pie, which just tastes — blah — to me. Bring me a nice apple or boysenberry pie, preferably with ice cream, and it would tie the bow on my ideal Thanksgiving dinner. Skip the stuffing! 

Kaily Martinez, CC 

As we near Thanksgiving break, thoughts of whether your favorite and least favorite Thanksgiving dishes will be made start to occur. Throughout the years, my family has made a variety of dishes from concoctions you would not believe. 

Every year, the one dish that I look forward to and indulge in is deviled eggs. On a daily basis, I am not a fan of eggs, but for some reason the way that deviled eggs taste is immaculate. When I think about it, I’d like to say it’s the paprika that makes them taste phenomenal. 

However, there is always a dish that you dread to see. While this may feel like an extreme, I do have a bone to pick with the Pillsbury crescent rolls. Once you grab one, it becomes extremely flaky. Not only that, but the flavor is only mediocre. To be honest, part of the reason I have a strong dislike for these specific rolls is because I ate them too much growing up. Although, even as a child, I thought they were only mediocre at best. 

Regardless, with my least favorite dish or without my favorite dish, filling up my plate with food as if I am at a self-serve buffet is always worth it. Alongside other dishes, it is exciting to try recipes I have not had before. At the end of the day, Thanksgiving is a great holiday to spend with your loved ones, and with that, Happy Thanksgiving! 

Karla Perez, ALE 

Unless you’re Chandler Bing, how could anyone hate Thanksgiving? You can attend in dressy or relaxed attire, surround yourself with friends and family, indulge in family gossip and all those wholesome things. However, the thing I look forward to the most is the food. 

In my family, we have a few select dishes that are exclusively made on Thanksgiving — interestingly enough, turkey is not on that list. For me, the most glorious flavors come from the side dishes. I’m not a huge fan of turkey, so I load my plate with a wide variety and generous amount of sides. My favorite of which being bacon-wrapped asparagus. 

I can already hear the clashing sounds of praise and resent for this food. For those of you reading this with a disgusted look on your face, hear me out. I was never impressed by either of bacon or asparagus separately, but after trying them as a combination, my opinion drastically changed. The crispy outer layer of the bacon adds a new dimension of texture to the floppy asparagus. The flavors from each food seep into each other to create a delicious blend of smokiness and freshness. Additionally, this dish only makes an appearance once a year, so it’s impossible to get tired of it. 

My take on the worst Thanksgiving side dish will undoubtedly cause a stir — I can sense the shock already. However, be aware that I am not criticizing this food for it’s taste, but rather it’s unoriginality. 

Macaroni and cheese is an American staple food. Our society would not function as it has without it, but what’s so special about it? Yes, it’s deliciously creamy; yes, it’s versatile, but you can have it whenever you want! It’s too common of a dish to call special. That being said, I will still load my plate with it this year. 

Benjamin Lassy, LE 

It’s hard to imagine something more delightful than a full plate on Thanksgiving day. In my family, different members bring their own dishes to the table, with some staples being the family recipes for stuffing, scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole and a wonderful turkey of course. 

Let me be honest, that plate is a highly competitive space. Inch by inch the free space is taken up by the foods that deserve to be there: Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, etc. These are the essentials, everything else is an accessory to the bird and its accouterments. 

At this point the plate is half full, but now what? While this is a controversial stance, I wouldn’t dare add any vegetables to my plate unless it’s corn. Thanksgiving is not a day to be healthy, it is a day to gorge. However, I do think corn is an exception. It’s optimal for mixing into potatoes or gravy, not to mention that with the addition of some salt, pepper and butter, it’s delicious.  

To appease those in the family that insist on everyone taking a vegetable, take some corn and lather it with butter. So, the things to avoid — sorry to all of my aunts — include: green bean casserole (it’s good, but takes up space and doesn’t mix well), carrots (a worse version of corn) and anything else that isn’t turkey or some variety of bread. Regardless of my strange avoidance of vegetables, have a great Thanksgiving and don’t feel ashamed to make the plate that you want! 


  1. Christopher Oswald, Class of ’72 CANHR

    “Thanksgiving in the Hawaiian Islands”

    Out here on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands (our home for 50 years), two Thanksgiving certainties are that: it will be always warm & sunny outdoors that day, and, there will always be great surf on that day every year. It Never fails.

    So our tradition is to get up fairly early & eat a healthy breakfast (go outside & pick fresh bananas, papayas, coconut, starfruit & pineapple) for s zesty, great energy smoothie. I also cook eggs, bacon, sausage, rice & pancakes on the lanai grill for the youngsters’ surfing-carb requirements too. This all important meal gives us some energy for surfing, plus it lays the base for the Big Island Engorgement Feast later in the day.

    After breakfast, we grab our surfboards, fins, etc., check the online surf reports for surf size, wind direction & live video of where we’d like to surf, & head up to Da Country of Oahu’s North Shore – seven miles of some of the best surfbreaks in the world. I’m 73 now & retired with all kine joint replacements from an active sports life. So I don’t surf the huge surf like overhead Third Reef Pipeline or outside Log Cabins anymore. But I can still Boogie or Paipo Board the shoulders of the mellower breaks, & also experience a great workout paddling & kicking with fins in the clear Pacific Ocean. We go to which ever surf break my grandkids prefer.

    In the late afternoon, after the fun surf session, we drive home, then we last minute prep everything. I sing & play a family tradition song on the uke. We share our gratitude with each other at the table & then we pray, humbled by our abundance. Then we sit down to a full & abundant Thanksgiving Feast (much of it prepared the night before), talking story together, feeling that delicious water-tired feeling that only surfers enjoy (“all spaghetti arms”). AND WE GRINDZ! We eat a variety of Island specialty foods that may or may not be similar to traditional Mainland style Thanksgiving dinners. Our cuisine is influenced by so many cultures out here the list is endless – as are the tastes. As the saying goes, “LUCKY WE LIVE HAWAII”

    Our Thanksgiving menu includes delicious items like sweet and spicy meatballsc – with mango salsa, shoyu ahi poke’, sashimi, coconut sweet potatoes, limu salad (seaweed), opihi shellfish (if I can find),mac salad, avocado salad, mac n’ cheese, Portuguese sweet breads, bacon-date stuffing & wild rice, pork gravy, mashed red potatoes, coconut almond greenbeans – ALL around a garlic & pineapple-glazed ham AND/OR guava glazed, oven-baked pork tenderloin OR Kalua Pig main entree- much more common than turkey in the Islands for Thanksgiving. Not many of locals are huge turkey fans out here.

    A common holiday Island drink is Coconut Cream Island Punch. Occasionally, someone will brew up some Okole Hau (a strong, taro-based moonshine, in minute moderation, of course). I prefer water & lemon.

    For desserts, we enjoy lotsa variety: honey-yogurt pumpkin pie with pistachio-coconut streusel, many flavors of Japanese mochi, pumpkin praline cheescake, sweet potato haupia bars, Hawaiian bread pudding, Portuguese malasadas, macadamia nut snoballs, ube’ chocolate shortbread bars, tapioca pudding, or the entirely decadent guava chifon cake.

    On & on the feast continues. After the feast, we usually share some of our favorite island music classics with whomever shows up, playing Kanekapila-style outside on our lightly-lit beachside lanai until everyone just crashes all at once “where they stay,” feeling so thankful for sharing such a feast, & such a wonderful day in this magical place.

    The main thing at our family table is that we ALL share humility, & we live Aloha, from the heart. A Hui Hou! – Christopher Oswald, Oahu, Hawaii

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