A version of this post was originally published on November 23, 2013. It has been updated and edited to reflect both the new year and to accommodate additional entries. Consider this the HD remake of the original post.
Ahhh, Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday. I actually have a lot to be thankful for. I have a loving girlfriend, an awesome job that lets me neglect to put on pants for days at a time/encourages me to show up for work drunk, and the English language has a seemingly-endless variety of ways to say that food is terrible. And what better time to do so than now, when food is foremost on everyone's mind?
Let's do this thing.
Corn Pudding — How to Make Corn Pudding in Four Easy Steps, Probably Because Masked Men Have Taken Your Loved Ones Hostage and This Was on the List of Demands For Some Reason:
— Step One: Create a substance akin to corn-flavored jell-o using milk and concentrated depression.
— Step Two: Weep in apprehension as you contemplate what Step One portends.
— Step Three: Add corn pieces. You should probably attempt not to throw up directly into the bowl, although it's doubtful anyone would be able to tell the difference.
— Step Four: Decide your loved ones aren't worth it and give up.
Green Bean Casserole — I will concede that it is theoretically possible for there to exist a Green Bean Casserole that isn't terrible. I'm just not sure it's ever been done. There's no individual ingredient to this dish that I actively dislike, but when their powers combine, it summons Captain Vomit. I honestly feel bad for the crispy onions on top of these things. Poor crispy onions; the rancid cream and soggy vegetables don't actually love you — they're just using you for your good looks. You should dump them and get with a burger who'll like you for you.
Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows — Why is marshmallow? Why would you do this to a perfectly good sweet potato casserole, America? 1) They're sweet potatoes, they don't need marshmallowy death glue to give them more sweetness, and 2) if you really want to add something sweet, use candied nuts or (pending allergy issues) something else with some sort of crunchy texture as a crust. Why would you leave disgusting, half-melted depth charges in your sweet potato casserole? Are you hunting for U-Boats in there? Is the inside of every sweet potato casserole a scene from Das Boot? Please let it be so; I desperately want to believe.
Canned Cranberry Sauce — Oh good! Purple jello that tastes of unwashed gym sock laced with disintegrating pieces of mandarin oranges and vicious, seething hatred. Just what I always wanted.
Instant Gravy — "Gee, I'd love some sandy mud to top off my mashed potatos/turkey. Yes, more gritty bits, that looks lovely. Why, of course the constant danger of disgusted suffocation is something I look for out of my dining experience, why would you ask?"
Chess Pie — If you've never had Chess Pie (I hadn't until last year), it's pretty much just a sugar pie topped with sugar. I wish I was exaggerating. It really is roughly 85% sugar and 15% pie crust. You can look it up. On a related note, here's a clue that a thing is too sugary for human consumption: I won't eat it. Years of Surge abuse mean my bloodstream is roughly 68% high fructose corn syrup, so if I'm looking at a food and going "whoa, hey, wait a minute," that should tell you something.
Frog Eye Salad — I'd never heard of this before, but according to the New York Times, this is something quite a lot of people google in some of America's more unfortunately white states.* It apparently consists of pasta salad mixed with "whipped topping," egg yolks, wholly unnecessary fruit (is there ever a reason to use mandarin oranges in anything?), and that old reliable standby of both horrifying casseroles and the Foods That Should Not Exist series: marshmallows. I have to imagine this dish was originally created by someone in the 50's with a lab coat and goggles mumbling, "they told me I was crazy for putting pasta and marshmallows together! I'll show them! I'll show them all!" and then laughing so evilly that St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch would think they were being unnecessarily dickish.
Pig Pickin' Cake — This dish, North Carolina's entry on the linked NY Times post, starts out with such theoretical promise. "Pig" is an excellent way to start any dish. "Pickin'" is weird, but we're talking about the South here, so you have to make some allowances. But then you get to "cake," and this whole thing sails completely off the rails. Turns out, Pig Pickin' Cake contains no pig whatsoever. It's apparently just plain cake mix covered in Cool Whip and pineapple. Think, ye faithful, on the cruelty of promising delicious pig and then bait-and-switching with Cool Whip. Think on it, and weep for mankind.
Pumpkin Pie — There is nothing redeemable about Pumpkin Pie. It's sandy gourd sludge inside a bewildered pie crust that must be wondering what the hell someone just did to it. You can say "you just haven't had good Pumpkin Pie," and you'd be technically correct, but only because there is no such thing. Pumpkin Pie makes Chess Pie seem infinitely more palatable by comparison.
Editor's Note: The following is probably not appropriate for Thanksgiving. I do not care. I'm including it anyway, since it was part of the original post — and because making yinzers unhappy is pretty much the driving force behind my existence at this point.
This final entry is not a Thanksgiving food. I realize that. But a) you try coming up with a full slate of bad Thanksgiving foods when it generally has the best food of any holiday (no, Passover does not have the best food of any holiday, you're just so drunk by the time the food gets there that you think horseradish on matzoh tastes delicious), and b) I ate this meal for lunch Friday then immediately went home to write about it.
Also, everyone in/from Pittsburgh is about to really hate me. Fuck it, here we go:
Primanti Brothers Sandwiches — Since I moved to Pittsburgh, people have been telling me to go to Primanti Brothers for a sandwich. It is, without fail, the first question anyone who has ever lived here asked me when I told them where I was headed. I finally went there recently. I wasn't expecting it to live up to the hype, but I wasn't expecting it to be terrible, either. My sights were firmly set on mediocre.
How sadly, gravely mistaken I was, for my sandwich cannot be truly said to have been a sandwich. It was the anti-sandwich whose birth portends the Crust Times. It was the ur-example of sandwich corruption. It was listed as a cheesesteak, but in truth, it was darkness given form.
You know, you'd think, given that it's located in the same state as Philadelphia, that Pittsburgh would understand what actually constitutes a cheesesteak. A cheesesteak (pay attention, Pittsburgh) is either thinly-sliced steak or steak tips topped with either Cheese Wiz (if you're in Philly) or actual real cheese product that doesn't come out of a fucking spray can (if you're in a city whose entire population hasn't apparently suffered a fucking head trauma), like provolone or cheddar or swiss. You can mix and match some combination of onions, mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes (*shudder*), mayo — that's pretty much up to you. But the steak and the cheese elements are pretty constant to something called a "cheesesteak." What is not a cheesesteak is one slab of mildly meatlike substance (which, given its total lack of anything resembling flavor, I have to assume was some form of industrial insulation) topped with a single depressed slice of white American cheese. That is not a cheesesteak, Primanti Brothers. That is like if pure, platonic Horror were capable of having an orgasm. I fully realize that sentence makes no sense. That just gives it something in common with the fact that people from Pittsburgh fucking love Primanti Brothers.
But that's only the first part of what made this the worst sandwich I've ever had. The second part is that Primanti Brothers sandwiches are as tall as they are wide, which...why? Why the fuck would you do that to a sandwich? Sandwich integrity is a serious issue — if your sandwich is falling apart on the way to your mouth, you're not fucking enjoying it very much, and if it's such a perfect sphere that it would bring Archimedes to tears, you have failed at sandwiching.
Third, there's a thing sandwiches need called "sauce" or "some type of condiment." You may have heard of it before. It acts as a lubricant and makes the sandwich-ee say something like "Yum!" as opposed to "Oh dear, I seem to have put the Mojave desert in my mouth." With cheesesteaks, usually the jus can accomplish this without any help, but since you can't make jus from a hobo's discarded winter coat that you are pretending is meat, I was SOL here. As it is, the only vaguely sauce-like thing you'll get on a Primanti Brothers sandwich is the weird, vinegary, possibly-motor-oil liquid on the coleslaw, which succeeds neither as a flavor nor as a structural element.
Fourth, that fucking coleslaw. I mean, come on. I like cabbage. I pretty much love everything in the brassica family. And you can put coleslaw on a sandwich. It's been done before with great success. But not a) when it's FUCKING VINEGARY COLESLAW OH DEAR GOD WHY, or b) when the coleslaw is so cold and the sandwich so lukewarm that it fucks up the temperature differential so much that it tastes like it's been sitting out on the sidewalk for the last three days. Temperature differentials in food are fine if you know what you're doing — they're one of the reasons burritos are so delicious — but not if your sandwich is roughly 40% cabbage poop encased in disconcertingly cold bread, and if another 50% of that sandwich is *chokes back sobs* french fries. Poor, innocent french fries who never did anything to you and never even had a chance. What kind of monsters are you, Pittsburgh?
Steel City, we need to talk about this potato thing. I'm guessing at some point you were hanging out with the other cities, and the following conversation happened:
Pittsburgh: "Dude. DUDE. I just came up with the best idea."
Pittsburgh: "French fries...on a sandwich."
Los Angeles: "You mean, like...on the side?"
Pittsburgh: "No no — as a topping. I'm a fucking genius."
DC: "...I dunno, dude. That sounds...I mean..."
Chicago: "I think what DC is trying to say is that's just really dumb. I mean, I'm the one who came up with putting the sauce on top of the pizza, and even I think french fries as a sandwich topping is stupid. For Christ's sake, even Philly would tell you that's a terrible idea if he wasn't busy beating up an elderly woman."
Pittsburgh: "FUCK YOU GUYS, IMMA DO WHAT I WANT! PIEROGIS ON A SANDWICH, DEAL WITH THAT SHIT!"
St. Louis: "Well gollee gee whillikers, guys, I don't think we need all this swearing, back where I come from people are just simple folk who—"
New York: "Shut the fuck up, St. Louis, no one likes you."**
San Francisco: "HEY LOOK GUYS, I'M DRESSING UP LIKE A NUN AND THROWING CONDOMS AT PEOPLE, AREN'T I WACKY?!"
While I admire the obstinacy in your viewpoint there, Pittsburgh, sometimes when people tell you a thing is terrible, it isn't because they're jealous of your genius, it's because that thing is terrible. Please, please stop. You don't need to put potatoes on everything. Really. French fries and pierogis don't need to be shoehorned into every possible meal. I mean, I like french fries and pierogis, but there are places they should not go; as a sandwich topping is one of those places. There's a reason you're the only place that does that in the entire universe, and it isn't because you're ahead of the curve, it's because you have a serious addiction issue. It does not taste good. It has never tasted good. I don't know why you think it would ever taste good. Just put them on the side like a sane person would.
* One amazing thing? Despite the fact that Frog Eye Salad is, at least according to Wikipedia, most commonly associated with Utah because Mormons (of course it is), it isn't the most popular unusual recipe in Utah — that belongs to something called "funeral potatoes." I have no idea what those are, but they sound pretty dire.
Also, I'm assuming DC makes the list with "corn pudding" primarily because people are googling "wtf is corn pudding." I never saw the stuff until I had my first Thanksgiving in Ass-End-of-Nowhere, Virginia, and no one here even eats it now that there aren't any family members left who remember the Great Depression.
** 2014 Update: Wow, in retrospect, this line turned out to be horrifyingly prescient.
Image via Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.