Family Secrets For A Successful Thanksgiving Dinner

Having happily orchestrated the family Thanksgiving dinner for almost 30 years, it is now time for me to pass the baton (or drum stick) to our next generation. The kids in our family now have careers, are purchasing homes and establishing their own traditions. I do want to continue to welcome the family to our home for Thanksgiving; however I do realize the day will soon come when they turn to me and say, “Mom (or Aunt Dee Dee), we would like to host Thanksgiving this year.”  In all honesty, I am not sure I am ready for this news.

So, this year, I have decided I will prepare a booklet to pass along to the kids. They can refer to it if they like or place it in the drawer to be displayed when I arrive for dinner. It is their choice entirely, but I feel like this is the year. It will be fun! I decided I am going to organize the booklet in the following fashion. There will be three chapters…

Chapter One: The Timeline. The first section will include a countdown to Thanksgiving Day dinner. And, believe it or not, that begins a month ahead. I have to make plenty of room in my freezer for all of the “make ahead” items. Two weeks out, I place the order for my free-range birds. One week out, we order the floral arrangements for the tables. (Some years we have invited Marines from Camp Pendleton to join us and that has been great fun. It depends on how many are deployed vs. on the base, so it varies year to year. The young adults in our family enjoy visiting with the Marines, and they enjoy a home cooked meal. I also send them home with a box of chocolates to share with their comrades in the barracks.)  One week out, I am shopping and cooking up my individual pumpkin cheesecakes that can be frozen. Four days out, I am cooking up all the ingredients for the stuffing–the mushrooms, celery, onions, sausage, and so forth. Two days out, I set the tables, clean the stemware and my husband sets up the bar. Day of is always well-timed, as we get the turkey in the oven at the appropriate time, and so forth.

Chapter Two: My Recipes.  I must have 50 magazines and cookbooks with all kinds of exotic new recipes for Thanksgiving dinner. I am not sure why I bother to save them because every time I am tempted to try a new recipe, the crowd shouts, “Noooo, we want you to make your famous stuffing. No figs, no chestnuts. Just the good, old-fashioned way you always make it.”  So, here I will share with them the recipes they know and love–from gravy, to stuffing, to fresh cranberries, and, of course, desserts, which mostly include the word “pumpkin” in them.

Chapter Three: How To Cheat.  Let’s admit it, sometimes life gets in the way of a holiday celebration. November throws me a few curve balls now and again, and my well-planned schedule goes completely sideways. So, here I will prepare a list of all the local resources I have used to help me get a delicious dinner on the table. The good news is that I have tested each and every one of them and found what I consider to be the absolute best solution if I am not able to make it myself.

As I sift through my notes and start to create this booklet, I am hopeful that the kids embrace it with the love and good intentions with which it is assembled. I am kind of excited to share this with them. Keep your fingers crossed that they love it too! Happy Thanksgiving one and all! We really have so much to be grateful for.