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BIG TEN WEST TEAMS AS THANKSGIVING MEAL ITEMS

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A DEFINITIVE AND POINTLESS ANALYSIS

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com

WISCONSIN: TURKEY

Wisconsin is turkey. It’s some people’s favorite, others could take it or leave it, but face it: the whole thing is pointless without it. It’s big, lumbering, meaty, takes four hours to get hot, and leaves you feeling sleepy afterwards, but heck if it didn’t dominate the day.

Wisconsin is the turkey and I will not hear otherwise.

NEBRASKA: STUFFING

You really thought it should be cornbread stuffing, right? That would make sense. Nope, it’s oyster stuffing. That’s right, you didn’t get what you expected out of Nebraska. Neither did Jim Delany. Also, it could be the best thing on the table or the worst, depending on who makes it. Uncle Mike’s a great guy, but he makes a soggy, bland stuffing. You’re starting to miss Aunt Sheila’s old boyfriend Bo. He made really good stuffing, and you just had to deal with him flipping the dinner table now and then.

I wonder what he’s up to these days.

NORTHWESTERN: MASHED POTATOES

Never the star of the show. You’re not showing up just to see mashed potatoes, but, hey, look at that, they’re 8-3 again. Quiet, dignified success with a bunch of white lumps.

IOWA: MAC AND CHEESE

Here’s the thing, a lot of people forget about mac and cheese, at least in this part of the country. You ask them to list off Thanksgiving side dishes, and they’ll rattle off the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole, and so on. They’ll forget about mac and cheese. Then one day someone shows up with mac and cheese. BOOM. That’s Iowa. Out of nowhere, and they’ve dominated the day. They don’t reheat well and they’ll be a rubbery mess tomorrow.

ILLINOIS: CRANBERRY SAUCE

No except your mother wants it, but she wants it, so we’re going to do it, okay? You don’t have to have any if you don’t want. It’s not bothering anyone.

MINNESOTA: GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

Always sort of a novelty. Shows up once a year, and you’re like “oh yeah! that sounds great, I’ll have some”. And then it’s fine. It’s perfectly fine. Tried to talk yourself into elevating it this year. You made mushroom soup from scratch, and fried your own onion topping. It was gonna make the leap from perennial 4th-best side dish to being a real centerpiece contender. The onions turned out kinda limp, though, and it probably would’ve just been best if you used the condensed soup out of the can. People appreciated your enthusiasm for trying something new, but maybe it’s just not that kind of dish, right?

PURDUE: GRAVY

Look, you’ve gotta have gravy, but, and this may be controversial: it’s not going to make or break the meal. It’s just nice when it’s good. Makes everything else a little tastier. Seems like it’s got all the ingredients you need for success: a few spare parts from the bigger menu items, some added fat, a little flour. I always kinda screw it up, though. Starts out looking like this might be the year I put it together, and by the end, it’s thin and clumpy.

Oh, well. Next year. Next year’s the year I get gravy right.