Saturday, November 14, 2015

Meatballs? Soup? Sweet potatoes? Nope. The best Thanksgiving side is a volcano!

I'm starting to dream of Snoopy, Garfield, and Kermit the Frog as tall as my house, followed by a turkey wearing a hat with a buckle. That can only mean that Thanksgiving is coming. Today's theme: weird side dishes.

First you need nibbles to keep the family from getting too drunk while they wait for dinner to be ready. Home economics teachers from 1974 (New Holiday Cookbook) suggest mashing together a few convenience foods, shaping the mass into balls, and baking it:

I can't figure out why Cheez Whiz gets called on by brand name and Bisquick gets no love, even though that's surely what Mrs. Dorothy Smith had in mind for "biscuit mix." I also cannot imagine what these would be like, except for greasy and kind of bland considering how much 3 c. of biscuit mix would dilute a pound of hot sausage.

If you need a hot soup as part of the spread, the same home ec teachers recommend this in the Thanksgiving section:

...because who wouldn't want to accompany a perfectly roasted turkey with canned chicken heated up in cream of mushroom soup?

I tend to skip the nibbles and soup. They waste prime real estate that could be taken up by potatoes. If you're the sweet potato type and think the marshmallow-y versions are too sweet, 250 Ways of Serving Potatoes (edited by Ruth Berolsheimer, 1941) suggests this:

Mashed sweet potatoes topped with grapefruit slices and candied grapefruit peel. Gag-inducingly-sweet potatoes with candied battery acid, as I'd call it, but maybe not that bad if you like sweet potatoes and grapefruit? Or maybe it still sounds just as terrible to you as it does to me, a person who detests both.

The recipe that makes me want to run to my favorite park and kiss a wild turkey is from the 22nd edition of the Ohio State Grange Cook Book (1968):

Full disclosure: the name alone is enough to sell me. When I was a kid, I'd build my mashed potatoes into a little nest shape, put a big lump of butter in the middle, let it melt while I ate something else, and then eat a hole in my potato wall, loosing butter "lava" onto the imagined villages below. (They were usually heavily populated by peas.)

Okay, to be honest, I did that well past childhood, but one day when I was visiting my mom as an adult, she noticed and made me feel like an idiot. Now I remember my volcano-building is only safe when nobody's watching.

Mary A. Nye understood my passion, though, and she wasn't afraid to shout it out to the world: potato volcanoes are awesome! Nothing stopped her from giving instructions to build and bake a family-size potato mountain and fill it with cheesy Welsh Rarebit "lava." We even have permission to put parsley trees and pimento villages at the base. I'll bet they won't last long...

Admittedly, I'd leave the mustard out of the rarebit and maybe swap in a little hot sauce, but otherwise, this wouldn't even be relegated to side-dish status at my Thanksgiving table. It would be the main event. Thanksgiving should be all about burying the villagers in lava and being thankful for a chance to clean up the cheesy, potato-y aftermath.


  1. Canned mushroom soup in mushroom soup? Genius! I think I'd forgo the turkey and just eat the potato volcano, mashed potatoes are my life :D

    1. Sounds like we'd get along pretty well on that front! :-)

  2. Those potatoes sound amazing!!

    1. I'm glad other (presumably grown-ups) think so too!