Halloween is over and folks are starting to play Christmas music. But there’s no need to rush into the holiday spirit, we still have Thanksgiving to look forward to!

Thanksgiving is sometimes overlooked, but it’s a very important celebration. When else are you allowed — nay, expected — to eat to your heart’s content until you have to unbutton your pants under the table? Plus, Thanksgiving is the most acceptable time to indulge in fall cocktails with your family (or your significant other’s) without judgment.

Although everything eaten on Thanksgiving is delicious (maybe even your favorite foods), some things are better than others. Some are better on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year. In fact, some things seem to only be eaten on Thanksgiving, and not on any other day of the year. I don’t know why this is, but I’m ready and waiting to tuck into the delightful feast that comes around every fourth Thursday of November. Loosen those pants a little and dig in!

1. Turkey

Turkey is the holy grail of Thanksgiving. Without turkey, would Thanksgiving even be a holiday? (Excuse me, tofurkey for all the vegetarians out there.) Whether you like light meat, dark meat, or a little of both, no Thanksgiving dinner is complete with a little gobble-gobble on everyone’s plate. But on any other day of the year, turkey is pretty… average. Why do we get so hyped about it the fourth Thursday of November? Regardless, thanks for being the star that you are, turkey.

Thanksgiving rating: 5 / 5
Any other day rating: 2.5 / 5

2. Stuffing

Stuffing is one of those dishes that is only eaten on Thanksgiving and no other time. Seriously. When’s the last time you went out to dinner and swapped your fries for a side order of stuffing? Have you ever gone to the grocery store thinking, “I’m going to make stuffing tonight!” Nope. We save this combination of bread crumbs, spices, and herbs just for this special day. Does your family have a secret recipe or stick with the boxed version like mine does? (Tbh, it tastes just as good.)

Thanksgiving rating: 4.5 / 5
Any other day rating: 2 / 5

3. Sweet potatoes

There are so many ways that people prepare sweet potatoes for consumption on Thanksgiving. Sweet potato casserole, twice-baked sweet potatoes, diced sweet potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, and my personal favorite, candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. Plus, the orange color is just so festive for fall. But unless you’re swapping your regular french fries for sweet potato fries — which are delicious, hence the above average “any other day” rating — sweet potatoes aren’t a common food. P.S. Can anyone really tell the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?

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Thanksgiving rating: 4 / 5
Any other day rating: 3 / 5

4. Pumpkin pie

If turkey is the holy grail of Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie is the… crown jewel? I don’t know, I’m mixing my metaphors. But a successful Thanksgiving dinner is not complete until the pumpkin pie is cut, served, and eaten. Perhaps with second helpings. Don’t even get me started on all the various drinks, desserts, and snacks that have bastardized the pumpkin spice flavor; pumpkin pie is the OG and deserves all the credit, even if your particular pumpkin pie doesn’t have homemade crust. We won’t tell.

Thanksgiving rating: 4 / 5
Any other day rating: 4 / 5

5. Mashed potatoes

Just because sweet potatoes get a lot of love on Thanksgiving doesn’t mean their cousin should be ignored. Regular old mashed potatoes might be less colorful, but they’re nearly as excellent on Thanksgiving. Especially loaded with butter, garlic, and herbs and topped with a healthy ladle of gravy (see #9). Mashed potatoes are slightly more delightful on Thanksgiving than on any other day because it’s Thanksgiving! We’re in a thankful mood, and we appreciate potatoes!

Thanksgiving rating: 3.5 / 5
Any other day rating: 3

6. Green bean casserole

Green bean casserole is the distantly related aunt who doesn’t usually make it to family gatherings but always shows up with bells on at Thanksgiving dinner. This dish has no place on the table the rest of the year, but what turkey day would be complete without that so-weird-it-works recipe of green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and French fried onions? Don’t even say the words “green beans” to kids any other day or they’ll shriek, but no one says no to green bean casserole. Make sure to get a hearty helping, because you won’t be having this again for another 365 days.

Thanksgiving rating: 3.5 / 5
Any other day rating: 1.5 / 5

7. Cranberry sauce

Other than cranberry and vodka drinks (#basic) and Regina George’s cranberry juice diet, cranberries don’t get much love outside of Thanksgiving. My family has a tradition of making homemade cranberry sauce every year, and even though it’s not my favorite dish on the table, I have such fond memories of blending the cranberries, oranges, and walnuts with my mom while growing up. And hey, no judgment if you just eat the jellied kind that comes out of the can.

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Thanksgiving rating: 3 / 5
Any other day rating: 1.5 / 5

8. Whipped cream

Serious question: Cool Whip out of the tub or Reddi Whip out of the spray can? My vote is spray can, of course, because 1) it comes out in a pretty swirl and 2) you can spray it directly into your mouth, duh. Maybe whipped cream isn’t exactly a “Thanksgiving food,” but if you’re not putting it on your pumpkin pie, you’re missing out on one of the best dessert food combinations ever. However, because it’s not a Thanksgiving food, it actually rates higher on any other day.

Thanksgiving rating: 3 / 5
Any other day rating: 4 / 5

9. Gravy

Who would have thought that meat juice and flour would taste so delicious when combined? Gravy might be one of the most unattractive dishes on the Thanksgiving table, but it’s also one of the most versatile. Ladle it on your turkey, your potatoes, your rolls (see #16); it’s basically the Thanksgiving condiment that’s acceptable on everything. Just don’t eat it straight out of the gravy boat. It might taste good, but it’s not soup.

Thanksgiving rating: 3 / 5
Any other day rating: 3 / 5

10. Macaroni and cheese

We’ve reached an awkward item on the list that is actually better any day that’s not Thanksgiving. Look, macaroni and cheese can do no wrong. It’s basically the #1 comfort food in America. But that’s exactly why it doesn’t shine on this day—it has every other day of the year, so it takes a backseat to every other glorious dish. There’s no need to skip over it completely, but make sure you save room for everything else.

Thanksgiving rating: 3 / 5
Any other day rating: 4.5 / 5

11. Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts have been having a their moment lately. They used to fall toward the very bottom of the totem pole, way beneath carrots and broccoli, above only lima beans. Recently, the culinary industry has completely revamped their image with thousands of recipes that are a surprise and a delight; even 5-year-olds could appreciate brussels sprouts after they underwent their makeover. Hence why they’re better when they’re able to be enjoyed as a re-discovered specialty instead of a Thanksgiving side dish.

Thanksgiving rating: 2.5 / 5
Any other day rating: 3 / 5

12. Cornbread

Cornbread: we eat it with barbeque, and we eat it with Thanksgiving dinner. In my opinion, it’s better with barbeque. It just complements pulled pork and baked beans better than turkey and green bean casserole. As a carb that’s basically intended to balance out a meal of meat and veggies, cornbread is a pretty standard item that doesn’t really deserve a glowing review any day of the year. If anyone has had incredible cornbread, please share.

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Thanksgiving rating: 2.5 / 5
Any other day rating: 2.5 / 5

13. Squash

Squash has also been revamped as a vegetable with the popularity of the “spaghetti squash” movement, which is why I actually believe it rates lower on a regular day than on Thanksgiving — if we want to eat a pasta dish, give us real pasta! Squash on Thanksgiving, when it’s allowed to retain its true form instead of pretending to be something it’s not, is more preferable.

Thanksgiving rating: 2.5 / 5
Any other day rating: 2 / 5

14. Pecan pie

Pecan pie just doesn’t make sense. It’s nuts and syrup, which go together much better on pancakes for breakfast than stuffed on a pie crust for dessert. Pecan pie is to Thanksgiving what fruitcake is to Christmas. No one actually likes it, but it’s been a tradition for long you can’t just get rid of it. The only advice I have is to douse it in whichever form of whipped cream you prefer.

Thanksgiving rating: 2 / 5
Any other day rating: 1 / 5

15. Creamed corn

Corn is a versatile vegetable. There’s corn on the cob, grilled corn on the cob (if you’ve had it, you know it’s different), corn off the cob, popcorn… and creamed corn. Unlike green beans, which get better when added to a soupy mixture and baked into a casserole, corn just doesn’t fare as well in a creamy recipe. We’ll put up with it because it’s a holiday, but we’d all be better off without it.

Thanksgiving rating: 1.5 / 5
Any other day rating: 1 / 5

16. Rolls

Like cornbread, rolls are just a carb to balance out meat and veggies. Or to give us an excuse to eat butter. And while I am a huge fan of carbs and will never say no to a bread basket, rolls are the absolutely most basic item at a Thanksgiving feast. They’re average on a good day, but they’re definitely sub-par when sitting next to candied sweet potatoes and a boat of gravy. Speaking of, could you pass the gravy for me to pour over my roll?

Thanksgiving rating: 1.5 / 5
Any other day rating: 2.5 / 5

17. Rachel Green’s monstrosity

Oh, Rachel. She wanted to contribute so badly, and she tried so earnestly, but somehow she sensed nothing wrong with adding “meat” to a dessert dish. I’m no cook, but… common sense?! The friends try to fake their way through it for Rachel’s sake, but even famous actors aren’t that good at acting. But then there’s Joey, who says it best in his own words: “I mean, what’s not to like? Custard, good! Jam, good! Meat, good!” Just don’t try this at home, folks.

Thanksgiving rating: 0.5 / 5
Any other day rating: 0 / 5

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