By the Way

The great Thanksgiving debates: Stuffing or dressing? Canned or crafted?

My family makes several different kinds of cranberry sauces, which look nothing like these. These were made by a food writer with too much time on his or her hands. From bottom right clockwise, chipotle, lemon tarragon, ginger-miso, sweet and smokey, truffled.
My family makes several different kinds of cranberry sauces, which look nothing like these. These were made by a food writer with too much time on his or her hands. From bottom right clockwise, chipotle, lemon tarragon, ginger-miso, sweet and smokey, truffled. AP 2013

There’s going to be a lot of debate this Thanksgiving. Like, a lot.

Who should win “The Voice?” Who should Alabama beat in the National Championship game? Who deserves to be leader of the free world?

You know, questions sure to result in calm, well-reasoned discussion.

But while we can’t have two presidents — or an end to Alabama fans’ smugness, apparently — we can have two kinds of stuffing. Or dressing. Whatever.

On Thanksgiving, if the question is “this kind” or “that kind,” the unanimous answer is both. The people have spoken.

At my household, it’s not uncommon to see at least three kinds of cranberry sauces and two kinds of dressing. Or stuffing.

(Seriously, what is the difference? It is nearly as confusing as the difference between Chris Pratt and Chris Pine.)

All I know is I was raised on a Midwestern recipe with apples and raisins and no cornbread. My Southern-bred significant other refers to this as “fruit salad.”

But the sauce is where there is no compromise.

My parents have been married 40 years and they still maintain separate cranberry sauces. My father prefers a chunky, zesty relish that is on the drier side. My mother prefers a more traditional soupy sauce with whole berries.

And I prefer it straight out of the can with a spoon. Who says you can’t teach class?

My cooking contribution generally includes sliding a chilled can of cranberry sauce onto a serving plate without so much as a dent in one of its glistening ridges.

(Cue my mother shrieking in alarm.)

Shake. Open. Serve.

It’s the kind of 5-second preparation Americans can really get behind.

Here’s the key, though. Dislodge the cran-coction at or near the spot from which it will be served. Traveling by foot with a slippery cylinder of gelatin can end with it splatting onto the floor. (Although, I hear it bounces and can be rinsed off under the sink. I would definitely not know that first-hand, though.)

Some people like to get fancy and slice the jellied sauce. Maybe even sprinkle orange zest on top for that certain je ne sais quoi.

These people are probably trying to either impress out-of-town guests or their Instagram followers.

I say let the fruit of American manufacturers’ labor be evidenced by machine-like indentations and a slight metallic aftertaste.

Cranberry sauce is far from the most-disputed item on Thanksgiving tables. What’s yours? Lets us know. You can comment or email Lauren Walck, and I’ll do a follow-up compilation if there are enough responses.

Lauren Walck: 228-896-2393, @laurenwalck

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