It won't be long until Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, bringing friends and family together to celebrate over a good meal. Some of those holiday feasts can be massive in scale, and there tend to be a few dishes unveiled that are rarely, if ever, brought out the rest of the year. Some of them are almost universally loved, but others? Others are abominable horrors that this writer would be happy to see forever banished from his family's table.
8. Fruit cake
Seriously, fruit cakes are like an unfunny joke that refuses to go away. I'm sure someone somewhere loves these textural nightmares, but I have yet to meet anyone under the age of 70 that does. Is anyone really happy when their Aunt Meg shows up with one of these things in tow?
7. Cheese Logs
While certainly not in the "culinary horror" category that fruit cake resides in, there's always been something vaguely unsatisfying to me about most cheese logs and cheese balls. It's not the cheese, and it's not the nuts they're usually rolled in. I like both of those things on their own. But something weird happens when the two are mixed. It's a texture thing I guess, but I don't like it. If I try to dig out a little cheese for a cracker, the nuts seem to act as an armor-like barrier.
6. Canned Cranberry Sauce
A lot of people I asked nominated this stuff as a candidate for holiday food banishment, and I have to agree. There's something unseemly about the way it slowly oozes out of the can and lands in a dish, retaining the can shape. Maybe decades ago fresh cranberries were harder to come by? I don't really know, but I'll pass on the canned "sauce".
5. Fancy Versions of Green Bean Casserole
Green Bean Casserole is one of the holiday dishes I love. The alchemical magic that occurs when canned green beans are mixed with cream of mushroom soup, a can of fried onions, and topped with a layer of shredded cheese is amazing to me. But some people mess with that simple perfection and do things like using fresh green beans instead of the canned variety.
It seems like a good idea on the surface. Cranberry sauce made from fresh cranberries tends to be a lot more yummy than the canned version, so wouldn't that same rule hold with fresh great beans? The answer is no. I'm guessing that the canned beans are already cooked and have added salt, but whatever the reason, a casserole made with them is a lot more appealing to me than one made with fresh beans.
4. Turkey and Turduckens
Turkey? What's wrong with turkey? Well, nothing if it's prepared well. I've had meticulously brined and seasoned roasted turkeys that were great, but most of the time they seem like a somewhat bland entree that's really just there to be mixed with better tasting foods like gravy and mashed potatoes. While not gross by any means, turkey is sort of boring, and I usually make a seafood gumbo or crawfish étouffée instead.
Then there's the Turducken, sort of the over-the-top monster truck of holiday foods. I've had a bunch of these over the years, and even cooked a couple myself. So what's my beef with Turduckens? I just think they're underwhelming and gimmicky. Ramming a duck into a turkey and then shoving a chicken in, just doesn't end up with as great a payoff as expected. I always found myself digging for whatever the chicken was stuffed with, usually dirty rice or something of that nature. All of that assorted bird meat just isn't THAT amazing together, and the things are pretty expensive to top it off.
I'm just waiting for someone to try to go even more extreme with the concept, and create the "Posskunksquirrel" - a possum stuffed with a skunk stuffed with a squirrel. Living as close to the Louisiana border as we do, someone's bound to try that sooner or later.
3. Too-Candied Ham Before I'm accused of just hating all holiday food, let me say that, like a turkey, it's possible to cook a delicious ham. In fact, it's a lot easier to cook a good ham, as pork just seems more forgiving than turkey, and tends to have a lot more flavor in general. And the flavor of ham can be enhanced with some sweetness added, so people have been glazing them and adding other sweet ingredients as far back as I can trace.
But, like a lot of things, there's a line that shouldn't be crossed, and some people sweeten their ham to the point of it tasting like some kind of meat/candy hybrid. While that may spell culinary delight to some, it makes my appetite take a nose dive. If I wanted that, I'd just head straight over to the pies.
2. Candied Yams
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This is another traditional side dish I have never been fond of. I like sweet potatoes enough, but they're already plenty sweet, so adding brown sugar and marshmallows just isn't something that speaks to my taste buds. I must not be the only one that feels this way, because I asked around, and a lot of people nominated candied yams for the holiday food junk pile.
1. Ambrosia Salad
This is one of those food horror shows that I find genuinely repellent. It seems like the versions I most often encounter are of the green variety, but I've seen orange ones, and other variations over the years. For all I know, ambrosia salad tastes like Heaven, but it looks like something that already got eaten once before. This isn't a dessert, so much as what appears to eat a person's soul after they foolishly mispronounce a word in the Necronomicon. Looking like equal parts monstrous blob and Lovecraftian beastie, I'll forever pass on eating this "salad."
I'll also give honorable mention to weird jello mold dishes that have chunks of fruit and other stuff stuck in them, creating an awful fleshy texture. No thanks Aunt Meg, I'll pass on that one too.