It's November. And since it's November, Thanksgiving — my favorite holiday — is right around the corner. Which means many of us will be traveling to or hosting family soon, and have already started making plans and arrangements. And, while determining things like "Is Uncle Frank bringing his kids?" and "Who's picking Keisha up from prison?" is definitely necessary, no Thanksgiving-related question is more important than "Who is bringing/cooking what food?" For logistical purposes, this question matters because you need to make sure all the base foods (turkey, stuffing, etc) are covered, and you need to make sure there's enough to go around. But also, you know that you can't just be eating everybody's food. Now, there are certain things (bread, water, ice, etc) you can't really fuck up, so it doesn't matter who's bringing it. But you know the difference between Aunt Kim's potato salad and grandma's potato salad is like the difference between Big Sean and Biggie. Basically, if Aunt Kim is making the potato salad…you're just not going to be eating potato salad that day. Because if you did eat it, you'd want to fight Aunt Kim for making the watery-ass, "Why are there soggy crackers in this???"-ass, potato salad that ruined your entire meal. That in mind, here are a few Thanksgiving foods you're not going to eat unless you're absolutely, positively sure of who made it because you just can't be taking palette chances on such an important day. Chitterlings Those who eat chitlins — and I think it's safe to assume there are maybe seven of you reading this — know that chitlin eating is a special occasion. You don't eat them every week — maybe saving them for holidays, birthdays, and Scandal -- and you definitely don't eat everyone's chitlins. Because the difference between good chitlins and bad chitlins is literally the difference between life and death. There are cemeteries full of people killed by bad batches of chitlins. Potato Salad Seriously, "Who made the potato salad?" somehow manages to be both the Blackest and the most important question you can ever ask anyone in any context. Stuffing My rule of thumb when it comes to stuffing: If the person making the stuffing refers to the stuffing as "dressing," do not eat their stuffing. Collard Greens Because some of our elder relatives like to put meat in the greens. (Which is great!) And, some of these elder relatives — especially the ones without real teeth — aren't exactly vigilant about removing the type of small bones that could break your teeth and/or choke you to death if you're not aware that the greens are filled with a bunch of tiny, tooth-breaking, bones. (Which is not great.) Poundcake Raise you hand if the same two aunts bring poundcake every year. Keep your hand up if one aunt's poundcake is always good, and one aunt's poundcake tastes like a sea sponge. Put both hands up if this always results in an awkward situation where one aunt's poundcake is always devoured, while the other aunt's poundcake just sits on a plate all night long, lonely and untouched like they were their own date to the prom. Mashed Potatoes The right mashed potatoes will be so flavorful and fluffy that they'll make you want to sleep in them. The wrong mashed potatoes crunch. Turkey I didn't know you could mess up a turkey. Until a series of unfortunate events resulted in me eating Thanksgiving dinner with the family (bless their hearts) of one of my college teammates, which then resulted in me learning about the taste, texture, and transitive properties of rare turkey.
Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)
Wait, who else on VSB eats chittlins? I thought it was just me. This makes my heart smile :-)