You guys, the food holiday of the year is coming! Thanksgiving is this Thursday. I can’t believe it!! I mean, this year just flew by. I swear it was just Halloween yesterday. But here we are, a few days from Thanksgiving and I’ve got food on the brain. (Like that’s any different than any other part of the year, amirite?) Now, as much as I love food and cooking, thanksgiving isn’t my favorite holiday of the year. But it does begin the holiday season, which absolutely is my favorite part of the year. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to enjoy every little bit of Thursday.
Anyways, later in the week, I’m going to post what I think are essential items for your Thanksgiving menu. But I think there’s something we should discuss before that. Here’s a little secret they don’t tell you about Turkey Day–unless you’re the cook of your family–there is a lot of preparation that goes into arguably the biggest meal of the year. It can be pretty overwhelming at times. So, to help ease the stress–and possibly a bit of the burden–I have a few tips to offer. Let’s get efficient:
1. Plan ahead
I’m huge on planning. Really, I’m one of those people who really needs to know every step, item, and little detail before going in full force on a project. When I was in college I could write a 5-page paper in less than an hour, because I spent the three days beforehand planning every part of it out. Food is one of those times when I let myself be a little freer, a little less structured. Sure, I’ll write out my recipes and buy ingredients. But occasionally, plans change, and I’m okay with that. Cooking is my happy place, and stress only sometimes creeps in there.
But when it comes to a big meal like Thanksgiving, you need to plan things out. Think about your guests–how many there are, who they are, and what they expect and/or want. All of these things will effect what and how you cook your meal. For example, my roommates are all very specific about their dietary restrictions. When I cook for them, I always make sure to accommodate all of them as best as possible.
Once you’ve got your who, gather your what. That means: make a menu. Like I said, there will be more on that in another post. But for now, my tip is to set a menu. It’s like when I wrote papers–know what you’re writing before writing. Know what you’re cooking, so you don’t freak out about not having an important aspect of the meal.
2. Manage your time
Once you’ve got your menu, you can set a game plan (read: a schedule). Some people are really lucky; they have two ovens. So days like Thanksgiving are a bit easier. You’re not constantly shuffling things and out of the oven. For the rest of us single-oven folks, it will take a schedule. Thanksgiving meals–while delicious–often have take a long time to cook/bake. Turkeys in particular take hours.
So plan it out. My mom always brined our turkey an entire day in advance. Then she spends almost the entire next day cooking it. Prep is ongoing, and my dad and I would help cut and dice. But the stuffing went in the oven for an hour or so, but the pies and cheesecake needed an hour as well. And don’t forget your other side dishes! My point is, keep it straight. Know how long things will need to cook. Keep it on the clock and use a timer!
3. Stay organized
My kitchen at home (and here, actually) severely lack in counter space. There’s almost no where to put anything. On a regular cooking day, I do what I can to make things work. But on Thanksgiving, everything gets everywhere. Things can get messy. So stay on top of it! Keep yourself organized.
Use bowls to condense some of your cut ingredients. Use sections of the kitchen to cluster ingredients that go together. Designate a dishwasher to keep those dishes from crowding empty spaces–in my house, it was dad. And keep track of what you’re doing, and who’s doing what, which leads me to…
In other words, don’t be a hero. We all know who the master chef is, who’s in charge (hi, mom!). But just because you can do everything doesn’t mean that you should do everything. The best way to get through this day is to enlist help. Last thanksgiving, it was just me, mom and dad. Like I said, dad was mostly the dishwasher, and the one to drive back and forth to the grocery store in a panic for forgotten ingredients. I was slicer, dicer, washer, and whatever else mom needed me to be. Now, I love cooking, and someday I want to be able to cook the entire meal myself. So, I was all too happy to help out.
That may not be the case in your family. Even if you have to bribe someone into being your personal assistant, do it. You’ll still get all the credit for the meal. But you won’t have to do all the heavy lifting. Lighten your load. Speed up your schedule. And have someone to take your stress out on, if need be. (Maybe don’t say that in your pitch for help, however). Like the Beatles say, we get by with a little help from our friends.
5. Don’t forget to celebrate
Look, what it comes down to is that this is a holiday. It’s a day of celebration, so celebrate! You worked hard. If you’re anything like my mom, you worked your ass off, even with help. Indulge in that beautiful meal you just made. Feed yourself until you’re stuffed so full you feel as big as a turkey. Become as big as a turkey if you want! Have dessert. Have seconds of dessert! And most importantly, drink that glass of wine you’ve been eyeing. Drink multiple glasses! Enjoy your loved ones, your family. That’s what this day is all about! Oh, and don’t even think about cleaning up. Someone else will do it, or another day will come. For now, just have fun. You’ve earned it!
I hope that you found some of these tips useful. If this is your first time hosting a thanksgiving, I wish you luck and grace–and great wine! Don’t stress. Use these tips, or others from seasoned hosts, like your mom or grandma! Either way, find something to be grateful for during this season. I offer my thanks and love to all of you. Thanks for coming on this journey with me 🙂
What are some of your turkey day tips?