Here we are at the start of Thanksgiving week, with only three workdays before the holiday. Of course, if you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, every day this week is a work day.
Work, as in plan the menu, make the grocery list, set up a timeline for all the chores so that you can use your best planning skills to assure that everything is done and ready to go when the big day arrives.
There was a time when I just made Thanksgiving happen without the timeline. I shopped, I chopped, and I cooked. Everything was done on time: the house was clean, the food was yummy, and a good time was had by all. Well, okay, not Uncle Billy, but he hasn’t been the same since he left the carnival… But I digress.
So as I was saying, I used to get it all done, while working full time, raising a couple of kids, and trying (against all odds) to domesticate my husband. What happened? I’m either not as good at multi-tasking as I used to be, or I just have more time to worry about getting it right, so I do. Worry, that is.
Now, unless I review each recipe and create a sub-divided and categorized grocery list, I worry about not having all the ingredients I need here in the house. (Hmm… let’s see, four eggs for the stuffing, two for each pumpkin pie…) Unless I figure out how much oven time each dish needs, and create an actual schedule for Oven Availability, I’m semi-frantic about the timing, and having everything done on time. I’m serious. If anybody needs to borrow my oven this week, I’m going to have to consult the grid I created. Picture it: My neighbor comes to the door and says, “Hi, my oven’s on the fritz—can I bake these brownies over here?” I pick up my clipboard, and a super-fine Sharpie, and say, “Gosh, Holls, looks like I could squeeze you in between the broccoli cheese casserole and the deep-dish apple pie. How’s 2:37 work for you?”
Last year, I took the advice of the experts and baked my pies early in the week and froze them. They were really wonderful, and it sure took some of the pressure off Thanksgiving day. This year I’m taking that to a whole new level. This year, not only am I baking the pies early, I’m making the stuffing ahead, too, since it always seems to taste better the day after Thanksgiving anyway! (Shh—don’t tell the stuffing—I’m tricking it into thinking Wednesday is actually Thanksgiving. Bwah-ha-ha!) I’m even blanching the green beans a day ahead, but then I always was a rebel.
I’ll have my two coffeemakers set up and ready to go, my table set, fresh towels, fresh flowers and fresh Uncle George all present and accounted for. I’m making three appetizers which (you’re way ahead of me on this one, aren’t you?) do not require the use of the oven! Great stuff like my famous black bean salsa dip with chips, BLT roll-ups and a cheese ball with crackers. This keeps the riff-raff spread throughout a couple of rooms, as they forage while waiting for dinner to be served.
It’s all a well-choreographed dance in three acts: snacking, gorging and why-did-you-let-me-eat-so-much.
Thanksgiving’s always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s inclusive of everyone and it reminds us of how much we have to be grateful for. When we all finally sit down at the dinner table, I make some cheesy little statement about how fortunate we all are. Humble murmurs echoing the sentiment are heard. That’s it. No gifts, no competition, no bills. Just family, food and lots of talking and laughter. Thank God for the laughter.
But when the last slice of pie has been eaten, and the plates are stacked in the sink, I will have another reason to be thankful: I don’t have to do this again for another year.