After months of rigorous scientific research, late night study sessions that ran on into the early morning, and replacing the majority of my own blood with Mountain Dew Code Red, I have finally reached a conclusion: the '90s were the best decade ever. And thus, throwing a '90s-themed Thanksgiving dinner is an easy way to ensure that you have the best Thanksgiving dinner ever. I mean, it's almost kind of too obvious, right?
The biggest problem with Thanksgiving is that it can be an uptight, un-fun festival of mushy food, ugly decor, and repressed feelings. So what better way to lighten things up than with some splatter paint, the Backstreet Boys, and a few Dunkaroos? Thanksgiving is begging to be given a makeover, just like Rachael Leigh Cook in 1999's She's All That. Or Brittany Murphy in 1995's Clueless. Or Drew Barrymore in 1999's Never Been Kissed.
You get my point! Thanksgiving wants you to cut its hair and teach it to be popular and take it on a trip to Contempo Casuals, but it's afraid to ask. You need to take the reigns here, and give Thanksgiving a '90s update. C'mon! If nothing else, it'll give everyone something to talk about besides football and how someone left the gravy out on the counter and the dog tried to drink it.
If you want to have a successfully '90s-themed Thanksgiving, you have to build a '90s-themed vibe from the get-go. There are lots of ways to accomplish this —neon splatterpainted table cloths, or chopping up some stonewashed jeans to make napkin rings — but I think the easiest and most effective way to make sure your guests are in a '90s state of mind is to create a '90s memorabilia centerpiece.
Gather anything '90s that you still own, and arrange it tastefully in the center of your table, as I have done in the photo above. And remember, the items don't have to all be pieces of '90s memorabilia that everyone instantly remembers — I find that mixing in a few totally forgotten items, like "Blaine" the Barbie DJ dude, heightens the effect, and makes everyone feel like Bill Clinton is still in office. Throw a spray of flowers between Ren and Butthead and —bam!— you've got a centerpiece that would make D.J. Tanner proud. If you're a real over-achiever, take up some glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling (not that they ever really worked, but it's the thought that counts).
Don't get cute with the turkey and try to, say, baste it with Sprite Remix or something. A turkey has always pretty much been a turkey, even back when we were all wearing platform flip-flops and those "tattoo" chokers, so now is no time to start messing with it. The turkey is like Felicity from Felicity's hair — everything goes to hell when you start trying to change it. However, if you would like to become a vegetarian, that would be pretty '90s of you.
Now, the side dishes are a great place to go '90s hog wild. Start with mashed potatoes — which any Thanksgiving party will already have in spades— and upgrade them to '90s-style flavored mashed potatoes. Slip in some wasabi, roasted garlic, or whatever else you got in your loaded mashed potatoes at Chili's in 1996. Also on the homemade '90s munchies front, you can whip up a classy homemade version of Hot Pockets, stuffed with cheddar and prosciutto, or some Chinese Chicken Salad, which your mom definitely ordered at the Cheesecake Factory (possibly after a long day of shopping for high-waisted jeans).
But junk food is really where the '90s snack aesthetic shines — so make sure to set aside some space for all the empty calorie crap that your parents used to try to keep you from eating. Like, remember those mini-pizza bagels, Bagel Bites? As you may recall from their ad, you can eat them any time — and right now, "any time" includes in the middle of a Thanksgiving meal, where you can use them as a post-turkey palate cleanser.
Be sure to serve plenty of Surge, the official disgusting drink of '90s that we are all nostalgic about for some reason, which is now back in production. The same goes for Clearly Canadian. Honor the fallen '90s soft drink Crystal Pepsi in spirit, but if you find a can for sale on eBay, for god's sake, do not drink it. If anyone needs to take the edge off, inform them that the only adult beverages permitted at your '90s Thanksgiving table are cocktails made with Surge or Mike's Hard Lemonade.
Our favorite '90s desserts were all about finger foods and tiny portions, so it would make sense to set the desserts up buffet-style on a sideboard, and give your guests some Spongebob Squarepants paper plates to lay their mini-snacks out on (hey, that show debuted in 1999 — it totally counts).
What should you serve at your '90s dessert bar? Well, after a long hiatus, Rice Krispie Treats cereal is back in action; I suggest serving a big bowl of those alongside Dunkaroos, Teddy Grahams, Gushers and Fruit by the Foot, and then some homemade Jell-O pudding pops to finish the meal.
The music situation on Thanksgiving is low pressure, since ain't nobody dancing with all that turkey-and-Dunkaroo mush sloshing around inside of them. But you should have some tunes running in the background all meal anyway, just to create a little ambiance. Since Thanksgiving songs don't really exist — and thank God for that — I would just go with a "best of the '90s" Spotify playlist. Or, if you're feeling really ambitious/ were a middle-school girl in the mid-90s, toss on Alanis Morrissette's Jagged Little Pill ! It (kinda) holds up, I swear!
What will you give your guests on their way out, to make sure that they never forget your magnificent '90s Thanksgiving, and are ruined for all future Thanksgivings? '90s novelty gifts! Many of the '90s' most classic "worthless yet entertaining" gifts are still around and available for cheap, like Chia Pets and slap bracelets. But I personally recommend tie-in books for '90s TV shows.
You can buy them used for practically zero dollars from online used bookstores, and solidify yourself in guests' memories as "that delightful weirdo who spent actual money on a novelization of Full House."
This is perhaps the Thanksgiving arena in which the '90s has the most to offer. The '90s were lousy with special Thanksgiving episodes — are those even a thing any more? Well, even if they're not, you have plenty to choose from with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Rugrats, Moesha, Kenan & Kel, Rugrats, Boy Meets World, Rocko's Modern Life, The Simpsons, Saved by the Bell: The College Years, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and, of course, all 10 Thanksgiving episodes of Friends.
For lengthier entertainment, you also have a treasure-trove of '90s Thanksgiving-themed movies, including comedies like Pauly Shore's Son-in-Law, Grumpy Old Men, and Addams Family Values (which is technically set in the summer, but for my money has the best cinematic Thanksgiving sequence of all time), or more serious stuff like The Ice Storm, Home for the Holidays, and my personal favorite, Parker Posey's The House of Yes (though I would not suggest watching that last one with your family).
Or, if you are truly dedicated to a full '90s retro Thanksgiving, you could just do like our actual '90s forefathers did after dinner on turkey day, and watch Titanic on VHS.
Happy '90s Thanksgiving, everyone! Pour out some Orbitz for me.