If you couldn’t tell by the way Christmas music is starting to bleed into our everyday lives, it’s almost Thanksgiving!   People have always argued over what the best part of Thanksgiving is, and I’m here to settle that once and for all, with a little something the holidays are really all about.  


Psychology Today says that the five tenets of comfort food are: Feel-Good, Self-Medicating, The Need to Belong, Nostalgia, and Special Occasions.  

It should be a no-brainer that “feel-good” is probably going to be the most important variable in this equation.  I feel like flavor and mouthfeel are equally important when discussing Thanksgiving, and as such these will be the only factors judged on a 1-10 scale.

“Self-medicating” is used to describe whether or not the food in question is being eaten to suppress negative emotions.  In this case, it’s whatever you immediately reach for as soon as grandma says something problematic. In other words, a 1 is me coming home from work and drinking a big glass of water, a 3 is coming home from work and having a bowl of cereal, and a 5 is me going straight to the Taco Bell drive-thru the second my shift ends.

The need to belong typically refers to food that we flock to when feeling lonely to remind us of our loved ones.  But, in this case, I’m going to tweak it to refer to a 1 through 3 value of how much of a pain passing this dish around the table can be, representing the fact that we live in a society.  

While nostalgia is normally something that cannot be objectively calculated, Psychology Today also says that nostalgia can be intensely tied to strong aromas (Food snobs will often refer to these kinds of involuntary memories as “madeleine moments,” after Marcel Proust wrote about his memories of madeleine cookies).  Thus, this section of the equation will be a 1 through 5 value representing how strongly the dish’s smell correlates to the quintessential Thanksgiving Smell.

And lastly, since the “special occasion” is, obviously, Thanksgiving, this section will be rated 1-5 for how vital the dish is to the Thanksgiving experience (or, rather, how weird it would be to eat it on any other day of the year).  

As such, the Hominess Points of a dish can be calculated as:


Before I get started, I want to note that I’m going to be talking about homemade versions of these things.  I don’t want to shun people who use Stovetop or canned, non-Newtonian cranberry sauce, but we’re talking about the best of the best here.  Also, apologies if your Thanksgiving favorite doesn’t make the list. For instance, I understand that some people consider mac & cheese a Thanksgiving staple, but at the same time rice typically always makes its way into my Thanksgivings since my grandmother is Japanese.  Your experiences are not universal (and neither are mine, go ahead and @ me). But, with my proven formula, you can calculate your fave’s HP for yourself.  

Turkey: 7 HP

Flavor: The flavor of turkey is… more distinctive than, say, a chicken.  I don’t know how to say “cardboard, but in a good way?” while still sounding sincere.  If seasoned with a good amount of poultry herbs, it can at least be… herbaceous. 6/10
Mouthfeel:  If I have to hear a relative say “This turkey is so moist!” one more time I’m going to lose my goddamn mind.  No it isn’t. I’ll give it an official rating of 4/10 on behalf of those of you who know what you’re doing and attempt some sort of brine.
Self-Medicating: Considering how everyone associates turkey with tryptophan (even though turkey has the same amount of tryptophan as any other meat), I don’t think anyone’s reaching for it with serotonin in mind. 2/5
Belonging: Possibly the worst thing to have to pass down the table.  Even if it’s a platter of carved meat and not the whole bird, it’s still big and unwieldy, and is probably just as awkward for the person trying to grab it from you as it is for you to sit there waiting for them.  3/3
Nostalgia: Considering the turkey is the thing that takes the longest to cook, I think it’s safe to say that it ends up being the predominant smell in the kitchen for most of the day.  4/5
Thanksgivingness: I mean, they don’t call it Turkey Day for nothing.  I’m giving it a full 5/5 because I’ve probably been too hard on it up to this point.  

Gravy: 13 HP

F:  This may be controversial, but… what is the taste of gravy?  Again, it’s hard to say “meat water” while making you think that that’s a good thing. 7/10
MF: Regardless of whether or not gravy ends up having the most HP, it really is the unsung hero of Thanksgiving, bringing moisture to everything else on the plate. 10/10
SM: Yes, ok, as soon as grandma starts saying racist shit, I reach for the gravy.  5/5
B: Liquids are, unfortunately, heavy for their size, and, if the gravy boat is completely full, could be hazardous to pass. 2/3
N: Probably the only category where gravy loses out, as I don’t think gravy has a smell? 1/5
T:  How often do you eat gravy? It’s a special occasion kind of thing, even if it’s not Thanksgiving specific. 3/5

Mashed Potatoes: 11 HP

F: Potatoes, butter, cream, salt… what more do you need? … Well ok, there are plenty of ways to elevate plain mashed potatoes, but Thanksgiving isn’t the time for that 7/10
MF: Whether it’s using the wrong kind of potato or not enough dairy or overmixing, it can be hard to get just the right texture in a mash.  But when it’s right… it’s so right. 8/10
SM: It may not be the first thing I reach for, but mashed potatoes can heal most woes. 4/5
B: A big bowl of mashed potatoes is kind of dense, but not necessarily the most cumbersome thing to hold 2/3
N: Again, probably the only category where it really loses out since the potatoes don’t have much of a smell, at least compared to the aromas of the turkey 2/5
T: Let’s face it, you can eat mashed potatoes any day of the week.  1/5

Stuffing: 24 HP

F: You’ve got bread, you’ve got aromatic vegtables, you’ve got sage, and you’ve got all that grease from the turkey juices (Or chicken stock, if the actual act of stuffing a bird isn’t your thing.  Just don’t make me call it “dressing,” fuck off with that.) This shit is nothing but flavor. 9/10
MF: Admittedly, it is still just soggy bread.  Yes it gets crispy on the outside (again, the total exposed surface area will be different if you stuff versus cook separately), but I can get how this might not be someone’s thing 4/10
SM: I feel obligated to take points off here too just because it really seem like anyone’s first pick for ignoring family drama, unless you’re trying to make earplugs out of it. 2/5
B: While stuffing is also usually pretty dense, it’s not exactly heavy.  No qualms about passing around the stuffing here. 1/3
N: They don’t call them aromatic vegetable for nothing.  The smells comin’ off this bad boy? *chef hand kiss* 5/5
T: Only loses one point because things like stuffed pork chops exist the rest of the year.  Like, no one’s gonna side eye you for eating something with stuffing in June. 4/5

Cranberry Sauce: 22 HP

F:  Thanksgiving flavors tend to get kinda rich, kinda fast, so it’s a good thing that there’s a source of acidity to bring to the table.  Unfortunately, it does end up being a little one-note, with attempts to jazz it up with things like orange zest tend to get kind of lost. 7/10
MF: Another excellent source of moisture, even if you wouldn’t want to put on everything like you can with gravy.  7/10
SM: While it probably doesn’t fall under the definition of self-medicating I’ve been using, cranberry sauce does get bonus points for being full of antioxidants. 2/5
B: Usually a small enough bowl to be passed with ease. 1/3
N: Again, no smells here. 1/5
T: I cant think of any applications of cranberry sauce that aren’t either directly Thanksgiving related or trying to invoke the visage of Thanksgiving. 5/5

Should I have not made “how much of a burden it is to pass it down the table” such a big factor?  Maybe, but maybe your family members should remember the real spirit of Thanksgiving, and be thankful for the food that’s already at their end of the table.

Tune in next year to see if they nerf stuffing.  

2 thoughts on “I Scientificly Calculate the Comfiest Part of Thanksgiving

  1. RJG says:

    Claps for the quote block formula with Fancy Font

    1. Riley Johnson says:

      The fancy font was apparently default and I said “ok, perfect, nailed it in one.”

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