CHICAGO -- Nicholas Mackara isn't about to drive over to his parents' house for Thanksgiving to sit down to a dish of some fancy homemade cranberry sauce that Martha Stewart might serve. He's so determined that his cranberry sauce come from a can that he assigns himself the job of bringing it.
It's a thing of beauty on his holiday table, a log-shaped gelatinous roll with ridges that signal to purists like himself that no one is trying to put an imposter on the menu. "I think the ridges are the most important part," said the 21-year-old resident of Clementon, N.J. "Then you know it definitely came from a can and our mom didn't make her own (cranberry) sauce and put it in a cylinder shape before we got there."
If Thanksgiving is a time for a family meal, it's also a time for a recurring debate: Should the sauce come from the can or a time-honored family recipe? Though it's impossible to tell how many others have drawn that line in the stuffing over this Thanksgiving staple the way Mackara has, it's clear he's got a lot of company. Ocean Spray reports that of the 86.4 million cans it sells a year, 72 million of them are sold between September and the end of December.
On Facebook, groups devoted to canned cranberry sauce have popped up -- from the one Mackara and a friend, Alexandra Shephard, launched a few years back called "Cranberry Sauce in the shape of the can makes my Thanksgiving" to "When Cranberry Sauce comes out of the can with ridges." There's also one called "Cranberry Sauce is only good if it's in the shape of a can," which includes the motto: "If it ain't from a can, it's garbage."
Devotees say the sight of the glistening can-shaped tube of jelly conjures up memories of Thanksgivings of long ago. "It looks like a log of happiness," said Shannon Ervin, a mother of three in Harahan, La.