10 Ingredients Our Food Editor Says You Might Want To Avoid This Thanksgiving

Folks are funny about food. We all know that kids are picky eaters, but grown-ups have been known to hang onto their food quirks, too. As you get ready to cook for family and friends this holiday season, take a moment to consider what foods are “safe” and what foods are “polarizing,” and plan your menu accordingly.

Black and white photo of family cooking
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You can’t please everyone, but you can nip any Thanksgiving tantrums in the bud if you’re aware of these potentially divisive ingredients.

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Fennel

Fennel-and-Potato Gratin
JENNIFER DAVICK

When folks hear that something tastes like licorice, many slam on the emergency brake. A member of the carrot family, fennel does have an anise-like flavor that some find off-putting. The flavor of fennel can be quite sharp when raw, but it mellows nicely when cooked, adding depth and sweetness to recipes.

If your family and friends are fans of fennel, we love it cooked in this Fennel-and-Potato Gratin, but it’s fantastic raw in the Cranberry-Fennel Slaw that accompanies our Pork Tenderloin Schnitzel recipe. Both would be fantastic additions to your holiday menu.

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Mushrooms

Mushroom Gravy
ANTONIS ACHILLEOS; PROP STYLING: AUDREY DAVIS; FOOD STYLING: EMILY NABORS HALL

My Dad detests mushrooms. I don’t know if it’s the flavor, the texture, or simply the idea of ingesting fungi, but he is most definitely NOT on team mushroom, and he’s not alone. Lots of folks get squeamish about chowing down on ‘shrooms. However, if you are into these fun-guys, check out our favorite mushroom recipes—everything from smothered steaks to green bean casserole.

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Brussels Sprouts

Brown Sugar-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANTONIS ACHILLEOS; RECIPE: ANNA THEOKTISTO; FOOD STYLING: RUTH BLACKBURN; PROP STYLING: CHRISTINA DALEY

If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, it’s probably because your mom and grandmother boiled them on the stovetop until they were soggy, mushy, and your house smelled like cabbage and sadness. Today’s Brussels are roasted or pan-fried until crispy, and often paired with bacon. They’re even delicious raw when paired with a tart dressing.

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Beets

Jessica’s Harvard Beets
VICTOR PROTASIO; FOOD STYLING: MARGARET MONROE DICKEY; PROP STYLING: AUDREY DAVIS

I’ll admit—I used to be of the mind that beets taste like dirt. And I have many friends who still feel that way strongly. We are not wrong; beets are indeed earthy. That flavor comes from a compound called geosmin, according to The American Society for Horticultural Science. Some folks are more sensitive to it than others; you can tone down the dirt notes by pickling beets or roasting them, like in this beautiful Rainbow Beet Galette.

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Olives

Fried Olives with Blue Cheese Aïoli
VICTOR PROTASIO; FOOD STYLING: CHELSEA ZIMMER; PROP STYLING: CHRISTINA DALEY

The same bold briny flavor that makes olives great for snacking and in salads turns some people right off. But if your guests aren’t the kind who pick olives off their pizzas, treat them to a tasty appetizer like these Fried Olives.

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Lamb

herb-crusted roasted leg of lamb - Southern Living
GREG DUPREE; PROP STYLING: AUDREY DAVIS; FOOD STYLING: EMILY NABORS HALL

Holiday feasts in the South are usually reserved for mainstays like turkey, ham, or beef tenderloin, because lamb is one of those meats that everyone can’t agree on. But if you do feel like taking a risk this season, the Herb-Crusted Roasted Leg of Leg of Lamb is a delicious choice.

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Shrimp

Southern Living Pickled Shrimp Deviled Eggs on a gold surface
VICTOR PROTASIO, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: MATTHEW GLEASON 

My mom would knock you down over a plate of fried shrimp; others refer to them as “cockroaches of the sea.” If you’re not worried about scaring guests away with crustaceans, might I recommend our recipe for Pickled Shrimp Deviled Eggs? They’re a great holiday appetizer!

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Cabbage

Southern Fried Cabbage
PHOTOGRAPHER: ALISON MIKSCH / FOOD STYLIST: MELISSA GRAY / PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA BROCKMAN

Red, green—no matter the color, cabbage gets a bad rap. Some folks think it’s too crunchy when raw, or too stinky when cooked. OK, but have you tried it fried? Give this recipe for Southern Fried Cabbage a try, and it might just become your new favorite vegetable.

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Blue Cheese

Southern Living Blue Cheese Dressing on a salad
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

Blue cheese is one of the funkiest foods out there. And while some folks love Blue Cheese Dressing, it’s resemblance to ranch dressing can cause some big problems for salad lovers. If you love blue cheese, more power to you—you’re welcome to have my share!

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Anchovies

Anchovies
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I’m embarrassed to confess that I’m still mostly on team No Anchovies. As a Food Editor, I know that it adds incredible umami to Caesar Salad dressing, that they melt away and lend dishes an incredible savory richness. I get it. I appreciate them. And I I won’t turn my nose up at a dish made with anchovies. However, you won’t find any in my pantry—their robust fishiness is just too much for me. And that’s OK—you don’t have to love EVERYTHING. If you are indeed a fan of the tiny fish and want to learn more, check out our handy guide to cooking with anchovies.

If you love all these foods, then congratulations! If you don’t, it’s OK—just remember the rules of Southern etiquette your mamma taught you and be a gracious guest this holiday season.