There’s an infographic going around the internet, detailing each state’s favorite Thanksgiving side dish. Choose the side you think Minnesotans like the best. Here are the options:
1. Crawfish étouffée with dirty rice, dusted with paprika and Tabasco.
2. Pan-seared escargot stuffed with caramelized Brie.
3. Mashed potatoes.
OK, we’re all going with No. 3, the ol’ Pummeled Spuds. But it sounds so bland when we know better. We jazz them up with dehydrated chive fragments, and, of course, there’s our secret ingredient, salt!
It makes us sound so dull. I’m not saying it’s the wrong answer; everyone always has mashed potatoes. Someone’s always in the kitchen at the last minute, punishing the spuds with an electric mixer, trying to extirpate the dreaded lumps, so it resembles flavorless Cool Whip. Heck, you can put some sugar in the potatoes and use them for pie topping; who’d know?
Here’s the thing, though. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe any of these “Favorite X of states” graphs. I believe that we all expect mashed potatoes, but that it’s no one’s favorite. Mashed potatoes are a given. They are assumed. Favorites are something else. There’s:
• Yams — autumnal in color, and if they’re made with enough sugar it’s like dessert in the middle of the meal, but also a plant.
• Lefse — technically, mashed potatoes. Butter it up, add some sugar, sprinkle with cinnamon — it’s also like dessert. If Ben & Jerry’s made a Yam & Lefse Ice Cream you’d say eww, but put that stuff on your plate, and it’s heaven.
Also, if you put sugar on your mashed potatoes, people would think you were odd, but put sugar on your dried and rolled mashed potatoes that have a Norwegian name, and it’s tradition.
• That green bean casserole with the crunchy onions that come out of a can no one ever sees in the store but somehow appears in your cupboard in November, as if brought by the Unhealthy Onion Elves.
• Scalloped potatoes served Irish-style — you know, O’Graten — and they’re always slightly undercooked, so it’s like eating pliable poker chips.
• Divots of puréed cranberries, which came from a lurid crimson log you had to spank until the cylinder was birthed, shuddering, onto a plate.
“Excuse me,” you interrupt, “but stuffing is my favorite.” To which I say, “I didn’t see your hand up and wasn’t taking questions, but do you have something to add?”
“Yes, Mr. Columnist, stuffing is my favorite.”
“That it might be, but because it resides within the turkey, it cannot be a side dish. It is an interior dish.”
Anyway. I might be wrong. I asked my wife what she thinks the favorite Minnesota Thanksgiving side dish is. She didn’t hesitate.
So maybe the click bait chart was correct. But if someone ever calls you to ask your favorite for some useless holiday story, please, be inventive.
Tootsie rolls injected with bouillon. Candied frog livers. Mashed sparrow. Spam-and-toothpaste canapés. Just so we don’t seem so predictable. I mean, we are, but they don’t have to know that.