Mrgan Garber in The Atlantic:
There may be an art to preparing Thanksgiving dinner, but there is an art, as well, to putting that dinner on a plate. The stakes are high: Get a little pour-happy at the moment of truth, and your turkey-to-gravy ratio gets completely upended; arrange your selections poorly, and suddenly your brussels sprouts are infiltrating your stuffing and potatoes. And then there's the cranberry sauce! Even a tiny bit of the stuff, misplaced, can turn an otherwise perfectly assembled plate into a mess of tangy hot-pink. If you, like me, have known the plight of the mis-proportioned meal, help is here. I asked Dan Pashman—author of the book Eat More Better, leader of the podcast The Sporkful, and general expert in the field of food consumption—for help engineering the optimal Thanksgiving plate. Here's his advice:
1. Use Your Mashed Potatoes as Construction Materials
Mashed potatoes, Pashman says, are “the structural backbone” of the Thanksgiving plate: “They're flexible, they're structurally sound, they're delicious, and they go well with most other things.” Everyone knows the myriad benefits of the mashed potato moat, the depression that allows your potatoes to become a lake-like storage vessel for your gravy; Pashman advises taking that basic structure and running with it. You can use potatoes, Pashman points out, “to cordon off other areas of your plate,” creating divisions that keep each food item in its place.