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Guest Column: The great holiday season food debate

My sister came down from Yakima to spend Thanksgiving with us. Our conversation ranged from grandkids to Seahawks to, of course, food. The reason we got together in the first place was to feast on what my wife was preparing in the kitchen. My sis called me a “foodie.” A purveyor of food. She said our whole family was a bunch of foodies, and she is right. Growing up in the Marvin household, I learned to take my food seriously. So I claim expert status on the subject and will endeavor to settle the debate once and for all.

Which is better: stuffing or mashed potatoes? I heard it on the radio, the day before Thanksgiving. The radio personality, who shall remain nameless because his opinion doesn’t matter, would have you believe that stuffing kicks potatoes’ butt, to the extent that mashed spuds do not even belong on the same table, and therefore there is no debate. Potato lovers everywhere, or at least within the reach of his broadcast, were given a chance to defend the mighty murphy … until they were shot down by this tater hater.

Of course I don’t know if that was his real opinion or just something to get the calls coming in, but it worked. The phone lines lit up with people who had strong opinions one way or the other. And the debate raged for days, spilling over into the holiday weekend. I cannot just stay silent and accept his assessment, so permit me my two cents worth.

If your mother was one of those that hovered over you at dinner, and chided you for putting olives on your fingers, (no, mom, I’m not saying this was you)you could still get away with making a mashed potato volcano on your plate, and filling it with corn and then gravy. Yes, I admit I still do this. Stuffing just has no place in this tradition, or ritual, if you want to call it that. And in reality, good stuffing is great but bad stuffing is awful. There are so many variables. Stuffing (or dressing if you’re from down south) can be made from many things and include a wide variety of edibles. It’s risky at best, unless you made it and know exactly what’s in it.

But, a potato is either red, gold or white. Unless you’re talking about those purplish “fingerlings” which, in my mind, don’t qualify as potatoes. Yes, call me a purist. Or a potato snob. Although I do have a place in my heart (read: stomach) for a sweet potato. That’s just the way I yam.

I have nothing against stuffing, I just don’t want to be told that it is the be-all, end-all complement to holiday turkey. I offer a better option. The answer to the question of mashed potatoes or stuffing should be: Yes. Or, to be more precise in the spirit of good table manners: Yes, please. Don’t make me choose. It doesn’t have to diminish the size of my mashed potato volcano to place a spoonful or two of stuffing next to it. Yes, they can co-exist.

And no, I don’t want to hear about calories. Not when I have waited all year for this holiday feast. On this one day a year I can have my cake (well, pie anyway) and eat it too. And to carry the idea to its logical conclusion, let me say this about making the hard choices. Turkey or ham? The answer is yes. Give me a generous portion of each. Green bean casserole or candied yams? Yes, please. Pecan or pumpkin pie? Yes, indeed. I can place a sliver of each on the same dessert plate, and thereby neither pie baker feels bad. It’s all about not hurting anyone’s feelings.

I am writing this because we will get another chance to get it right on the 25th of this month. Whether celebrating Christmas or the winter solstice, or the cessation of school for two weeks, or whatever, load up your plates without fear of having to choose (isn’t this a great country we live in?) and sample everything. You can always go back for seconds of your faves.

And as for me? At the end of the meal I shall willingly slip into that Tryptophan coma, filled to the brim with holiday goodness.

—David Marvin works in production at The Dalles Chronicle.


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