strong dumb take

Only Fools Waste Time on Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce. Photo: Carlina Teteris/Getty Images

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for so much. Most of it I won’t share with you here because it’s you-had-to-be-there or know the person sort of stuff, but one thing I will tell you is that I am grateful to be able to share a correct opinion with you: canned cranberry sauce is the best, and fresh cranberry sauce is for fools.

Canned cranberry sauce is the most humble, dependable guest at the Thanksgiving table. It knows it isn’t the star, like the turkey, or your family members. It isn’t even the most important side dish, like the stuffing, or your lesser-known family members. It just sits there politely, quietly jiggling, ready to spring into action to enhance the other, more attention-seeking dishes, masking a dry turkey breast, livening up bland mashed potatoes, or just providing a lovely, tangy break for your tastebuds during a marathon of rich, beige-colored foods.

Yes, almost everything I described above can be accomplished by fresh cranberry sauce as well. But fresh cranberry sauce is mushy and belligerently tart, and sometimes the skins get stuck in your teeth. Plus, it takes at least half an hour to make. People are already busy preparing so much for Thanksgiving — the turkey, the stuffing, what they’re gonna say when their nosy relatives ask why they’re not married yet — why add another recipe to the to-do list? Just crack open a sweet can of jelly instead. Ideally, it should be a can of Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce, but on this point I am flexible. The brand doesn’t matter as long as it’s in a can, and the insides are full of firm, smooth, purple-red jelly with little ridges on the sides that hold their shape when it slithers out onto a dish, so you know exactly where to cut to get the perfect, sweet slab.

Not everyone agrees with my good and correct opinion, and that makes me sad for them. Once, when I was sharing it with someone I thought was a friend, they scrunched up their nose and said, “Canned cranberry sauce is essentially just candy,” which is true. It’s also true that candy is great, and that in the end, this person just reinforced my point. Someone else said it doesn’t technically count as a sauce if it’s a solid, but I say that you still put it on other foods, which is the whole point of a sauce. They also said the can shape is tacky, which is rude and incorrect, because a can shape is beautiful.

Still, I am thankful for these wrong but well-intentioned people for inspiring me to reflect on how good canned cranberry sauce is, and how good my opinion is.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Only Fools Waste Time on Cranberry Sauce