The Perfect Thanksgiving – A Plan of Action
Thanksgiving, it’s enough to make any working woman groan.
The kids are coming with their kids. You just received an R.S.V.P. from your in-laws and they’re bringing cousin Eddie and his wife. Your youngest son has just announced that he’s invited his new girlfriend. How are you supposed to cope and create a memorable feast?
There are three things you need to do and all the rest will fall into place. You have to organize, delegate and get the timing down to a science.
As soon as possible, write out your menu. By having it on paper, when your sister offers to bring a passing dish, you’ll know exactly what you want her to bring. Note on your menu which dishes are being brought by friends and relatives. Each dish that someone else will bring is one less you have to make.
After deciding on the menu, read each recipe and check the pantry to make sure you have everything you need. Don’t just assume you have enough sage, cranberry sauce, etc.
This is also a good time to replace any dishes that you have broken though the year, especially any glasses. Check your serving bowls and compare with your menu. Is there a bowl or platter for each dish? If not, you need to buy or borrow. Create a shopping list that is only for Thanksgiving dinner.
While at the grocery store, order a fresh vegetable tray and/or a cheese platter, and a couple containers of dip to be picked up the day before Thanksgiving. This will give your guests something to nibble on and keep them busy, but won’t spoil dinner.
Purchase your dinner rolls from a bakery and stash them in the freezer. They can be heated in the microwave and won’t tie up your oven on turkey day. Once you have the food under control, it’s time to think about the house.
If there is one time of the year that you can splurge on a cleaning service, Thanksgiving is that time. Have them come early in the week, then you’ll have only a minimal amount of work come the big day.
If you can’t hire a cleaning service, split up your family into work groups. Ignore any part of the house your guests won’t see. They won’t care if there are dust bunnies under the bed or if your closets are a mess. At the very least, have your family vacuum, dust, clean the bathrooms (remember the mirrors) and then you’re in business.
Make it clear that this is part of the Thanksgiving fun. You are handling the preparing, cooking and timing of the whole event. They can handle the vacuum cleaner.
Thaw out your turkey according to the instructions. This can take days if you have a large turkey. Be sure not to stuff the turkey the night before or leave the stuffing inside the bird for any length of time before you put it in the oven. Improperly handled stuffing can lead to food poisoning which can produce the wrong kind of memorable Thanksgiving.
No matter what, believe the roasting time-table that comes with your turkey. A completely thawed 20 pound stuffed turkey will take six hours to cook. It sounds like a long time, but it really does take that long.
There is nothing worse than planning dinner for 3 p.m. – to be done before the Big Game – and the turkey isn’t done until 4:30. It’s a lot easier to slow down the cooking than to try and speed it up.
Get up early so you’re not rushed. It’s amazing how much you can get done while the house is quiet. This is a good time to double-check your to-do list and make sure you haven’t left anything undone. I once forgot to include the sugar when I made the pumpkin pie.
You can also prepare some of the dinner ingredients ahead of time, such as slicing the celery and onions for stuffing. Let the kids peel the potatoes, set the table and greet guests while you’re keeping an eye on things in the kitchen. Believe it or not, there’s time to socialize while the turkey is cooking.
A memorable Thanksgiving really is worth all the effort. When the feast is over, if you’re lucky, you can convince the men to do the dishes. Be thankful for your family, thankful for the good food and thankful that it’s somebody else’s turn to cook next year.
Sit back and enjoy your coffee and pumpkin pie. You earned it.