family I’ll have a nice assortment of family members here for Thanksgiving this year. I was talking with a long-time retailer a few days ago and she told me that people will go out of their way to search for and buy the cheapest possible turkey. It might have to be a Butterball turkey or one with a pop-up, but even then people will forage for the lowest price per pound. Get them in the door with that and they’ll buy ready-made pies and expensive pickles unflinchingly.

My dad always brings the turkey, so this is not an issue for me. I’ll make mashed potatoes and corn, the sweet-tart trio of mandarin oranges, cranberry sauce, and pickles, another hot vegetable which won’t be eaten, Jell-O which won’t be eaten, hot bread, and desserts.

I usually put a lot of thought into the hot vegetable which won’t be eaten. I’ve made squash casserole, sweet potatoes with gingersnap or marshmallow topping, steamed green beans, carrots with orange juice or herbs or balsamic vinegar reduction… Often I make a salad along with the hot vegetable, and this year I think I will do that. A salad will be eaten.

Jell-O is the other decorative object on the Thanksgiving table. Nobody eats Jell-O at Thanksgiving, but there are many pretty recipes for the purpose:

Both the decorative objects allow a bit of creativity. Thanksgiving menus can’t be trifled with. You leave out the cranberry sauce or add garlic to the potatoes and you will never hear the end of it.

A vegetable and Jell-O let you add some color to the generally pale Thanksgiving plate. Turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, hot rolls — pale, right? You need some brilliant reds, oranges, and greens to jazz it up.

So sure, buy your turkey. I’ll even believe that for some people this is the apogee of the shopping. For me, it’s all about the produce — both the things people eat and the things they don’t.