Monday, November 23, 2009

Let Us Give Thanks

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.


  1. where do you live again? because I'll be there at 4.30!!

    I'm a big fan of the day ahead stuff too. Stuffing and sweet potatoes (the kind made with butter and brownsugar and cinnamon and topped with marshmallows) and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and baked beans always taste best made ahead the day before! I like to sit them out in the morning and bring them to room temp, then toss them in the oven for an hour or so to warm them.

    So good. I can't wait for thanksgiving. It's my favorite, and I'm going to my moms this year.

    And thanks for your words re: my pledge post. I'm not a total right wing radical B by the way! But I do pick my allegiances carefully, and a flag? Not on it.
    I carry my fellow country men (about 88% of them. Seems like there are 10-14% terrible people wherever you go. Bad seed kinda folks) close to my heart. I pledge to them in a second. But the flag?
    It's a little weird to me.

  2. This is only my second attempt to preparing Thanksgiving, thanks for all the tips!

    Now I'm hungry, all of that just sounds so goood!

  3. Hi Leah, I've never "done" Thanksgiving, being a backward Brit. Still, I've done Christmas Dinner on many occasions, and even though it has half the prep of your mighty meal, it's quite challenge enough. I salute you, ma'am! Indigo

  4. I just don't get excited of Thanksgiving like I used to. It's not the same since my grandma died and no one gets together anymore. This year we're rebelling and having steak fillets and fettuccine alfredo since it's just the 4 of us. Makes it nice for me because I'll only be int eh kitchen a total of about 30 minutes and my husband does the dishes.

  5. I love Thanksgiving.

    I cheat and buy the already made pies.

  6. My stepdaughter has begun hosting Thanksgiving dinner for us and her mom's family--about 15 in all. She makes lists like yours, and she manages to be pretty relaxed while doing it all (something I never mastered). We all have a wonderful time...the only downside is our lack of leftovers!

  7. I think Thanksgiving is more exhausting than work! But these days we just go out to eat. We do Thanksgiving at Cracker Barrel.