Thanksgiving is maybe the best holiday. You have all the food and wine without the pressure of looking grateful for whatever Aunt Edna put in a gift bag. I am not alone in my view; the customer ahead of me in line at Target and the cashier agree.
Looking back on my childhood, I feel that much of my mother’s consternation associated with hosting a Thanksgiving dinner could have been avoided with a little common sense.
Here, then, is how to stop messing up this most American of holidays.
The right amount of turkey
I have vivid memories of my mother rising at the crack of dawn to shove a 25-pound turkey into an oven bag, put that bagged bird into a roasting pan, shut it in the oven and go back to bed until the sun had actually come up.
This is unnecessary.
First, figure out how much turkey you need. Figure one pound per person. Want leftovers? Up that to one and a half pounds per person.
Second, consider the size of your equipment. If you’re feeding a crowd but lack huge roasting pans or an industrial-sized oven, opt for two smaller turkeys. If thawed properly, they’ll cook more quickly and more evenly and you won’t need to rent a forklift to get them on the cutting board.
It’s not a competition
Just because you would never use canned green beans in a casserole does not make Cousin Sophia’s green bean casserole inedible. Thank her politely and sincerely for her contribution and make a mental note to suggest she bring rolls next year.
You do not need to keep up with your mother-in-law’s wine consumption. In fact, don’t. You’ll just embarrass yourself. She’s the professional, here. Easy does it. You can pound glasses of that boxed Chardonnay when everyone goes home.
Accommodate where you can. Don’t go crazy.
Your brother decided to go vegan? Good for him. Swap out vegetable stock for chicken stock in the stuffing and set a portion aside for him before adding sausage to the rest of the batch.
Gluten-free cousin? Pick up a small pack of GF rolls. Cheap ones.
Teetotaling aunt? A $3 bottle of sparkling grape juice will make her feel welcome and you won’t feel like a booze-pusher.
Thanksgiving is about people we love and some that we just mostly tolerate. Keep the focus on creating a pleasant experience because at the end of it all, after all the dishes have been washed and bottles thrown in recycling, it will be time to take a nap. And isn’t that the best part of Thanksgiving anyway?