Last year I read this article about why food writers hate Thanksgiving (as a work assignment, not as a holiday). It makes perfect sense to me on one hand, because everyone wants tradition on Thanksgiving, not newfangled Asian-Latin American fusion turkey empanadas with wasabi-chipotle dipping sauce. Although I am toying with just serving these on Thanksgiving. If I put them in solo cups, I won’t need to do any dishes at all!
On the other hand, there has in some cases been a generational disconnect. Some dishes haven’t been passed down, some people have never learned to cook or have lost confidence, or some people just never had that happy family experience others take for granted but they want to make damn sure they create for their own family now that they’re adults. Those people still need the classic recipes, and there will be a new crop of them every year. So they need those food writers’ help.
Yet here’s where Thanksgiving is easy, and I’m not going to give this advice often, so you know I’m serious this time: get your Thanksgiving recipes off the package label. Ocean spray gives you the perfect standard cranberry sauce recipe. Libby’s gives you the perfect pumpkin pie recipe. Pepperidge Farm gives you the stuffing/dressing recipe. Cambell’s and Durkee both give you the green bean casserole recipe. And turkey is pretty easy as long as you don’t overcook it to dust. Follow the directions they give you on THAT label, too (just make sure you pull out the bag of guts before you put it in the oven.)
And don’t tell anyone I said this, but those refrigerated pie crusts from that guy who says “tee-HEE” when you poke his tummy? They’re perfectly serviceable too.
Don’t worry about being innovative and creative, because no one’s looking for that anyways. And that food snob who sneers at green bean casserole or cranberry sauce from a can? Well, don’t invite that jerk. He can go sit at a restaurant by himself being smug and lonely. He won’t be missed. (If you ARE that jerk? Lighten up and eat your family fare. It’s only once a year. You can have your culinary foam and your deconstructed whatchamadoodle the next day.)
In a nutshell, what I’m saying is there is no reason whatsoever to stress out about Thanksgiving. Do not worry about giving people the culinary event of a lifetime. Give them something safe, something familiar, something with love in it.
I typically host Thanksgiving in my family, because we play football in the park before dinner.
Depending on the year, I have between 20 and 30 people. This year is closer to 20, so it’s gonna be easy as pie. Especially since I’m making quite a few things ahead of time.
Like the turkey gravy, with this recipe (basically. I’ll probably put my own herbal spin on it a little bit). Shop and Save has a lot of packages of turkey wings, I saw, but just about everybody does. And this eliminates the problem I had a couple years ago, when my husband made pumpkin pie martinis for us and I “forgot” to turn the heat on while I was making the gravy. I stood there stirring and stirring and slurring “why ish dis not thinkening?” So it’s better to be safe than sorry.