Eight Superior Alternatives to Thanksgiving Turkey

Nov 21, 2012 at 8:00 am
A great Thanksgiving meal. - image via
A great Thanksgiving meal.

Back in 1981, the great food writer Calvin Trillin made a modest proposal in the New Yorker: That the Thanksgiving turkey be forever abolished in favor of spaghetti carbonara. "The campaign had been inspired," Trillin wrote, "partly by my belief that turkey is basically something college dormitories use to punish students for hanging around on Sunday."

Gut Check is firmly on board with this campaign. There's a reason the food world gushes over a new way of cooking turkey every year (deep frying, brining, spatchcocking, turducken-ing, now steaming): Turkey is dry and boring, the sort of food of which the Pilgrims, who came to America to pursue their freedom not to have any fun whatsoever, would approve. For a chef, it's a challenge.

For the rest of us, it totally violates the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a day of happiness and gratitude and rest, not a day to be spent wrestling with an enormous bird and then pretending to enjoy whatever dry morsel of poultry you've managed to choke down just because it's tradition. (Trillin also had a few things to say about that.) This is America, a land built by people who believed in their inalienable right to say "Fuck tradition!"

That also means you don't have to eat spaghetti carbonara if you don't want to. Here are a few other suggestions for a better Thanksgiving dinner.

Steak There is nothing more American than a thick slab of beef, cut from a big old American steer and then either grilled or seared in a cast iron pan and finished in the oven until the inside is perfectly pink and juicy. It evokes the Great Plains and cowboys and the music of Aaron Copland. (And also the power of American advertising, particularly the "Beef, it's what's for dinner" campaign.) Why should we have to suffer just because the grand American cattle-driving tradition didn't start until after the Pilgrims had long departed from this mortal coil? Remember, Thanksgiving itself didn't exist until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln officially declared it a national holiday. By which time, we had steak.