Keep Calm and Thanksgiving
Photo by: Linda Pugilese for Martha Stewart
We’re hosting Thanksgiving again this year. I love doing it, but people always ask me “Aren’t you super stressed out about it?”
The short answer is no, but I probably should be! After all, Thanksgiving Dinner is when you invite your very best friends and family for what amounts to the American Decathlon of a Dinner Party and you never want to disappoint.
I get all of that, but I like to think of Thanksgiving as just a big chicken dinner. Once you break it down that way, it takes the pressure off and you can have more fun. Plus, you can do most of the cooking ahead of time. And, unlike most dinner parties, everyone is weirdly prepared to chip in, which is great. Mr. Handsome and even the Man Cubs seem more willing to help out with moving tables and chairs, etc. because it’s Thanksgiving.
Apart from milking any and all goodwill and help you possibly can, I also highly recommend getting your T-Day Game on early. Here’s my 5-day prep step program. Live and learn, Pilgrims!
5 Days to T-Day: Finalize the Guest List. By now, your guest list is sorted and you should know who’s coming. If you don’t: Passive/aggressively call, text, and email those tardy stragglers to find out if they want to be fed on Thursday or not. And think twice about inviting them again next year. Humph!
4 Days to T-Day: Plan your menu. It’s common advice because it’s true: Never, ever make anything you haven’t made before. This is not the time to get experimental, Possum! Stick to the tried and trues (even if that means pasta). People will have more fun if you are relaxed and you can’t be relaxed if you are sweating out some complicated Martha Stewart-type dealio in the kitchen.
3 Days to T-Day: Go shopping for everything you can. Cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie filling, stuffing mix, potatoes, coffee and booze can be bought well in advance. I’ve seen women get shouty and grabby over the last ornamental gourd at Wholefoods. You want to side step that action if you can.
2 Days to T-Day: Set the Table. This might sound premature, but you can at least get the tables and chairs sorted. Count the napkins and find and iron the tablecloth, etc. Wash and ready the stemware and any special serving pieces you plan to use.
1 Day to T-Day: Start your oven! This is when I do most of my cooking. I buy a Frozen turkey and leave it in a sink full of lukewarm water. I haven’t killed anybody so far and my bird is always juicy! I kid you not, stuffing is actually better when it’s been made and refrigerated the night before.
T-Day: Cook the Bird. The potatoes are peeled, the stuffing is made and the corn is ready to boil. All I do on the day is give the house a quick once over (giving special attention to the bathrooms because…Man Cubs) and assemble the drinks and a hearty cheese + charcuterie platter. And just BTW: I FEED NO ONE until 3pm, so it’s take-away or burgers from a drive-through for lunch. I am not cooking lunch on Thanksgiving Day… are you kidding me?
At 2pm, I shower and dress and am downstairs, playing music, with a LARGE glass in hand What?! It’s Thanksgiving! And am ready to greet my guests on the hour. BTW: First Guest to arrive gets a job.
That’s it. Enjoy, don’t stress and remember, if it all goes pear-shaped, there’s always Chinese.