I'm a big turkey eater and it doesn't even have to be Thanksgiving. 365 days a year, I'm quite happy with a plate of turkey, mashed
potatoes, gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce. I don't even mind when they arrange the slices like a little tent atop the dressing to make it look
like you're getting more turkey than you really are. I expect deceptive advertising on my plate and it doesn't bother me, just so long as the turkey
is carved off a freshly-cooked bird and the cranberry sauce is jellied-style Ocean Spray or the store-brand clones they sell in some markets.
One of the reasons I like buffets in Las Vegas is that at even the crummiest of them, it's usually possible to get all these things.
(Wait: I take that back. I don't think they have freshly-carved turkey — or any other kind, or even anything that's fresh — at the absolute worst
buffet in that town, which is at the Boardwalk Hotel and Casino on the Strip. Want to see a buffet that would cause the Tasmanian Devil to say, "I'm
not that hungry"? That would disgust Mr. Creosote? That makes your old high school cafeteria look like the Four Seasons at Sunday brunch? Then
leave your taste buds home and hurry to the Boardwalk — and do it soon because as a public service, they're razing the whole building some time next
year. It will take 300 tons of highly-explosive jet fuel to bring down the hotel and 400 to implode the macaroni and cheese in the buffet.)
I have eaten roast turkey with all the trimmings in many fine restaurants across this great nation of ours and earlier today, we
Thanksgivinged at a renowned eatery on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. I had great turkey, great mashed potatoes, great gravy, great carrots, decent
stuffing and dreadful, inedible cranberry sauce. I don't know what was it in it except maybe — and I wouldn't swear to this — cranberries. It was
some concoction they apparently made on the premises because it would have been beneath the dignity and cuisine of an upscale eating establishment to
just open a tin of Ocean Spray...but, you know, they should have. In many of the places where I've dined on turkey, the folks in the kitchen try to
whip up something better and they always fail miserably. It's especially futile when they cross-pollinate and give us "cranberry-mango relish" or
"cranberry-apple compote" or some other aberration of the form. That's nonsense. Plain ol' canned cranberry sauce is one of those things you just
can't improve on. They'd have better luck trying to come up with a new recipe for salt.
So to the chefs of the world, I say: Give up. Those of you who think you can make a better cranberry sauce are making ridiculous fools
of yourselves. Put all that marvelous culinary invention into making the veal parmesan not taste exactly like the chicken parmesan. Spend the time
inventing a creme brulee that won't have pulled away from the edge of the dish by the time it's served to us. Work on perfecting that marvelous trick
of making the food too cold to eat even while it's residing on a plate that's too hot to touch. But forget about reinventing cranberry sauce. You're
not going to beat the Ocean Spray people at their own game so just admit you've failed and open the damned can.
While we're at it: What's with this semi-berry cranberry sauce? There are two basic categories of cranberry sauce — the jellied kind
and the one that contains the whole berry. The whole berry variety has but one purpose: It's to be eaten if and only if they're absolutely out of the
real kind, the kind any decent human being favors. Cranberry sauce should be jellied through and through, and with no skins or seeds in it. Everyone
But apparently, some restaurateurs think you can compromise on the necessities of life. So you say, "May I have some cranberry sauce to
go with my turkey?" and the bus boy brings you a little cup of semi-gelatinous, dark purple ambivalence. It's halfway between jellied and berry, with
disemboweled cranberry pieces throughout...like real cranberry sauce that they didn't finish making. Having worked in network television, I am way
too familiar with the thought process at work here. Some clown who clearly doesn't belong in the food service industry says to himself, "This is
great. We can satisfy those who like their cranberry sauce jellied and those who prefer it to contain the whole berry." This would be a brilliant
idea except that nobody prefers it to contain the whole berry. Nobody! Do you hear me?
Don't write and tell me you do. You're lying.
All right. That's all I have to say about cranberry sauce. Next time I'm in this mood, I'll tell off these snotty places that when you
ask for ketchup, they don't bring you a bottle...they bring you a little, insufficient dish of the stuff and you have to spoon it onto your fries or
burger, then ask for another and probably another. They think it's classier but we know they're just too friggin' cheap to buy a couple of cases of
Heinz. Thank you.