Why we love to fight about cranberry sauce, stuffing, and all our favorite recipes

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
cranberries in pot
Photo: REDA&CO (Getty Images)

We’ve all seen it. Usually in the passive-aggressive sense, but people get really defensive if you don’t like their holiday recipes. It’s “my grandma’s ambrosia salad is the only way to make it,” or “my secret turkey is the only one worth making, and it’s delicious and I’ll fight you over it!”

Personally, it’s never been an issue for me. (This is not a brag, my family’s holidays are always potluck and I sometimes make shit right out of the bag, nobody complains but then they hardly touch it.) Most of the sniping I see online and people get really mean to each other. Hold up, everyone, you’re going to start calling each other names over green bean casserole? This interview by Melinda Fakuade in Vox captures and explains the sentiment well, while speaking to Donovan Conley, a food researcher and associate professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.


A lot of the rage, the piece explains, involves memory. If you grew up with a dish that you associate with good times, especially if it’s served on holidays, it feels like yours, and yours alone. So when people slyly harp on your sweet potato and marshmallow dish, it’s hard not to feel like they’re taking a dig at your very soul. Fakuade uses her stepchildren’s attachment to holiday salmon as an example. Since their mother avoided making turkey during the holidays and instead made salmon, the kids couldn’t care less about turkey and gravy. “I’ve made peace with the fact that every Thanksgiving I have to make a turkey and a salmon,” Conley says, “which is fine.”

This year, with the specter of the pandemic around us, we’re facing an especially stressful holiday situation, and comfort has been hard to find. Your environment when it comes to these comfort food recipes is also a factor: all these fond memories are tied in with family, friends, and whoever you hold closely to you, and you may not be seeing them right now. So it’s really easy to get set off right now and get territorial about your holiday recipes. If any of this sounds familiar to you, go ahead and give the piece a read.