By Maya Mabern
It’s getting a bit colder and my favorite holiday of the year is approaching: Thanksgiving.
Much like my love for my second-favorite holiday, the Fourth of July, my reasoning has absolutely nothing to do with the origins of the celebration — I’m never actually in the mood to be patriotic — and everything to do with the food consumed.
Every year in early November, I find myself in a conversation with friends about our favorite Thanksgiving dishes. The responses are typical: cranberry sauce, stuffing and the like. Then, I’ll pull out my favorite, which is always met with looks of confusion: macaroni and cheese.
I grew up assuming mac and cheese was an essential part of a Thanksgiving meal. As someone who isn’t a fan of turkey, mac and cheese became my main course. Come to find out in college, not everyone has it on the holiday.
What I ultimately realized was that mac and cheese on Thanksgiving might just be a Black thing. Or maybe a Mabern thing. So here are some other elements of my family’s Thanksgiving that I feel bad if you’ve missed out on.
- Sweet potato pie
I’d never had pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving until I went to a friend’s potluck a few years ago. I didn’t hate it, but I couldn’t help but think, “Why would anyone have this on Thanksgiving when sweet potato pie exists?” It’s the sweeter, graham-cracker-crusted cousin of pumpkin pie. It’s denser, it’s richer, it’s better overall. I shan’t be swayed on this.
- Sweet potato casserole
If you didn’t get your sweet potato fix with pie, there’s always inevitably a sweet potato casserole lying around that was brought over by a third or fourth cousin. It’s essentially the sweet potato pie filling stuffed in a tray, topped with giant marshmallows and baked until crispy on the outside. It’s strange this isn’t served as a dessert — and maybe even stranger that it’s served on the same plate as mashed potatoes — but I haven’t passed it up yet.
- Collard greens
This is a Thanksgiving veggie staple, but to be honest, I don’t know if you’re missing much by not having it at your meal. I’ve never been a big fan of collard greens, but I get why one would be. They’re pretty flavorful and salty when made well, but they’re not exactly my thing. Even still, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without some relative trying desperately to get me to eat them.
- Glazed ham or ribs
Yes, I know, turkey is traditionally the meat served at Thanksgiving dinner, but as I’ve said, turkey is dead to me. In walks the inevitable thick slices of glazed ham and overly saucy ribs, served on aluminum trays. They’re often served as side meats, but I’m looking to draft a petition to get them bumped up to main-course status. I will keep you posted on how that goes.
- Falling asleep on the living room couch immediately after (or while) eating
For some, Thanksgiving is a time for white tablecloths, cashmere turtlenecks and dinner talk that is simultaneously stifled and politically tense. At my house, I sit at the table for maybe five minutes before I eventually nod off in the family room, listening to the mellow sounds of my 9-year-old cousin playing Fortnite and my mom and grandma arguing about where to store the leftover stuffing.
Now, of course, because I won’t be with my family this year, I’ll have to replicate this by falling asleep on the living room floor of my apartment as my roommate watches Netflix in the next room.