It’s that time of year–Thanksgiving! I love Thanksgiving. It is a pure joy to me–a feast about friendship and thankfulness and food. What could be more lovely? Girlfriend agrees with me–she says that Thanksgiving is one her favorite holidays, too. It doesn’t hurt that we share it with her best friend, whom I refer to as Boyfriend, and his parents, as well as a dear friend of mine whom I’ve known since I first moved to Seattle. We all pitch in, eat too much, talk, laugh, eat some more, and then hang out and talk into the night. The adults have wine and the kids have sparkling apple cider. There’s nothing but good about the day.
Don’t get me wrong–it does require preparation in order for me not to be a frazzled mess. Although I love cooking and baking, I don’t like getting too tired to enjoy the meal. Over the years, I’ve come up with various preparation strategies that make the actual day go much more smoothly and allow the actual day to be a series of enjoyable tasks, interspersed with a glass or two of wine and hanging out with the family before our pals arrive.
Our meal,like many Thanksgiving meals has elements that are traditional and remain the same each year. We’ve all had Thanksgiving together so often that we know the specific dishes that are looked forward to and that must be included. But, we don’t like to be too dogmatic, so we have other dishes that are added or altered each year. For example, in the “must-have” category: mashed potatoes. In the “changes each year” category: veggie side dishes. We always have turkey, but I often change the way I cook it each year. I like to dabble in different ways to roast it. But, the general principles remain the same.
Several years ago, I started a Thanksgiving dinner binder that holds all of the recipes we have each year, including the ones that we add or subtract, and that includes (most importantly) notes on changes and substitutions and reactions from each year. This binder lives in my kitchen cupboard most of the year, but around this time of year it comes out and has a fairly permanent place on my kitchen counter. The xeroxed or hand-written recipes are encased in plastic sheet protectors so I can use them every year and they are still readable.
When I first take it out each year, I spend some time reminiscing about past year’s meals and thinking about how much fun we are going to have. I also make a list of things each person needs to bring. We usually do the turkey, stuffing, gravy, and the pies. The others do the potatoes, veggies, salad, wine, and sparkling apple cider. We check in with each other about any new allergies that have occurred in the intervening year. This is usually an issue with our family–we seem to always be discovering new food allergies. Which is awesome. Not. Then I develop a “to-do” list.
On the to-do list is what needs to happen in order for the dinner to happen. Firstly, though: I don’t do anything that is stressful to me. I gave that up years ago. Therefore, I’m not someone who has a super-complicated meal that takes days and days to prepare because that isn’t fun for me. It is fun for some of my friends, and I think that is terrific. We all need to do what is best for us. For me, this holiday is time for me to slow down and be fully immersed in the process of cooking and baking. I love it. I don’t even have any book tour commitments this upcoming week (except for some radio interviews), so I get to just hang out, cook, and bake to my heart’s content.
I was at my hairdresser’s the other day, chatting about Thanksgiving, and she was talking about this year was going to be her first year to actually be in charge of the Thanksgiving meal. Usually her sister does it, but her sister and family were going out of town, so it was up to my hairdresser and her family. She was really nervous–but I told her that the meal should be fun and not something that was too stressful. We talked about how our moms would be wrecks by the end of the cooking process on Thanksgiving and how we didn’t want that to be us. So, I gave her some pre-prep tips that she said were helpful. And, I thought they might be helpful to you!
Need recipes? Of course, my book Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays: 60 Recipes for Traditional Festive Treats, is full of them! I have also created a list of recipes that can be found on my site:
Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup–recipes to make your Thanksgiving deliciously gluten-free
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