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Stress free thanksgiving
November 10, 2011 5:15 PM   Subscribe

Food Lab Filter: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt presents the "Complete Guide to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving"
posted by AceRock (30 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
if this is not "eat tacos and drink margaritas with drag queens and play katamari damacy until you pass out on a pink leopard print fainting couch" then i am sorry but it is just not a good guide.
posted by elizardbits at 5:22 PM on November 10, 2011 [15 favorites]


Reminds me that I'm thankful for my mom and sisters taking care of all this shit without me.
posted by Think_Long at 5:24 PM on November 10, 2011


Stress is as traditional to Thanksgiving as turkey.
posted by Trurl at 5:26 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't see anything in there about not inviting any family.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:27 PM on November 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


If no one drinks too much, gets too wound up about having The Most Perfect Thanksgiving Ever, burns the brussel sprouts/dinner rolls/their hand, and leaves the table in a storm of tears and recriminations, then it's a pretty great Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite meals, what with the stuffing, gravy, brussel sprouts, squash, etc., dessert is pie, which is always a plus, and the leftovers are really good. Add friends, music, and wine. I could learn to like this idea.
posted by theora55 at 5:51 PM on November 10, 2011


Also: if you're making a lot of foods, you should have a list of all the foods you are making and refer to it frequently. If you are sufficiently anal, you even put on the list the time at which each thing goes into the oven/on the stove/whatever. That way you're not constantly thinking "oh shit, I knew I figured out how I was going to do this but I forgot".

(I don't remember if I did this last year, which was the first time I was hosting a Thanksgiving. But it helps.)
posted by madcaptenor at 6:48 PM on November 10, 2011


Enjoy Chinese food at a restaurant with friends. See a movie. Repeat at Christmas. Leftovers are fattening as hell.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:57 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


My Thanksgiving last year was amazing. I hosted, my sister flew in to be the exec chef, we made sure every invited guest had just enough to do to feel involved in the process but not so much that they were interfering, and I am always so worried about big events getting out of my control that I work out the details weeks in advance, so the day runs like butter. Also, I have a clearly designated "Now is the time to start drinking" moment where all the heavy lifting is done and nothing can be fucked up too hard if I accidentally double my bourbon.

Last year was the first year I really grokked why some matriarchal types are obsessed with always getting to do a certain holiday, because getting it right makes you want to just get it rit every year, and never end up in a position to fail.
posted by padraigin at 7:29 PM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


if this is not "eat tacos and drink margaritas with drag queens and play katamari damacy until you pass out on a pink leopard print fainting couch" then i am sorry but it is just not a good guide.


omg can i come over for thanksgiving please?
posted by louche mustachio at 7:55 PM on November 10, 2011


What does the J. stand for? Is it a secret? Why do Americans do this? Ditto with the middle initial. Is it a family tradition thing? A screen actors guild rule? What was J Edgar Hoover's excuse? Then again, there's Tolkien and Rowling, so maybe it's not just an American thing, and just a weirdo thing. I'll stop ranting now.

I'm doing turkey in the Weber Smokey Mountain, this dressing, these beans, and some sort of pie - haven't decided on pecan or pumpkin. For moi fellow Uhstrayins who might say I'm a race traitor, Thanksgiving is celebrated in Norfolk Island (with a public holiday to boot), and if it's good enough for one Australian territory, it's good enough for mine.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:59 PM on November 10, 2011


American Thanksgiving is the best American holiday ever. Seriously it is my FAV-O-RITE...

...but it's absolutely uncanny how even the most well intentioned families can end up imploding, re-forming, exploding again and then finally re-patching themselves together in some sort of tatterdemalion bag of bruised egos and wounded pride within less than 24 hours. And we don't even drink in our family.

But when the turkey is right, the turkey is riiiiiight, and every other year we go to my in-laws and don't even have turkey, we have an old family recipe of German rouladen and red cabbage and sauerkraut and that's pretty rockin' too. And we still do stuffing even though we don't have turkey, so that's nice.

Seriously guys! Thanksgiving is the best ever. It is worth all the weird family shit that occasionally surfaces, like when your wife's still unmarried older sister runs off with your newborn baby and hides in the basement, just holding him close to her chest, softly weeping as she rocks back and forth while the rest of the family is looking at each other like "what. the. hell."

Even that was pretty fun! Cause of the stuffing!
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:05 PM on November 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


I take my wife and my two dogs and go to the woods.
posted by LoudMusic at 8:12 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanksgiving is, for me, the biggest, bestest holiday. For our family (or at least my father's side), it was just about the only time we were all together, my dad, his two brothers, and all the kids. That, plus some of my uncle's close friends, and each year we'd have roughly 14-20 people over. We'd have to rent a table to fit everyone. There were fights nearly every year, after which, we'd make up, and exchange stories about past fights and how silly they were.

Then I left for Asia. The first year I was gone, my dad didn't go, choosing to spend the holiday with his girlfriend's family because he wasn't speaking to his youngest brother, and didn't for years afterwards. The next year, my youngest aunt and uncle, and their three kids stayed home. A couple years later, my uncle, the one who always played host, died. My dad passed away last year. Thanksgiving now is my mother and sister alone in their apartment. My cousin goes up to Kalamazoo to be with the surviving uncle and his family, leaving my aunt to spend the day with family friends. And, because of the school calendar in Japan, there's no possible way for me to make it back for Thanksgiving. In some way, I really feel responsible (hugely egotistical of me, I know) for the slow dissolution of the main thing that kept us together as a solid unit. When I was there, my dad was willing to drive up to Chicago to see me (my sister and I lived with our uncle), and since everyone else was there, the youngest uncle would come up too.

Here, now, in Japan, I make a go of it. The first try was in my old 3 room apartment (not three bedroom, three room), with my two-burner countertop gas stove and my 9"x9" toaster oven. Now that we've got a house, (and, thanks to Ikea, a table that can expand to fit 10 people), and I've got a smoker and a counter top convection oven, I can actually make a real feast. I've got my wife, and we invite our closest friends (only one of whom is an American. Other than him, we've got a Welsh friend, and Australian, and the rest of the guests are Japanese) and make them our family for the day. We do it on Saturday, because it's the only day we can (but by then, the torrents of the games are up, so we can watch the Lions lose while I finish dinner). There's nothing that makes me happier than being able to have people together again, though it gets me pretty weepy, needing to have my surrogate family, rather than being able to be with my folks back home.

Anyway, guides like this are a lifesaver. I've been planning the dinner since last month. One smoked-turkey, then another that I'll cut up so it'll fit in the convection oven, boneless breasts flanked by bone-in legs and thighs. Mashed potatoes (of course) mixed with carmelized onions, corn, and roasted garlic. Two kinds of stuffing (sausage and apple, and mushroom), biscuits, macaroni and cheese, real giblet gravy, pumpkin pie (thanks Costco) and all the rest. And, since I just found out one of the Japanese guests doesn't eat meat, I'll probably smoke some scallops for her, and make a salad and some smoked salmon as well. Given time, I'd love to make some rillettes for an appetizer, but I'm not seeing myself having enough time to make pork stock at the moment. With all of that, there's a reason this is the only time of the year where I write out the meal and make a schedule for what gets cooked when. Luckily, I still have that toaster oven.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:29 PM on November 10, 2011


Pfft. No Thanksgiving spreadsheet? Amateurs!
posted by gingerbeer at 9:16 PM on November 10, 2011


It's hella easy when you've been doing it as long as I have and all the adult kids are pretty well traditionalists as well as good to help. Grandkids just stay outta the way and eat all the olives. (Stick your fingers in the holes, not your thumbs. That way there's at least a couple left for the adults.)

Going to branch out this year with a stuffed artichoke appetizer and make dirty rice instead of homemade turkey noodles (although there is some flack about that, so may wind up doing both.)
posted by BlueHorse at 9:42 PM on November 10, 2011


and some sort of pie - haven't decided on pecan or pumpkin

This isn't difficult. One of each, of course. Maybe apple, too...
posted by rtha at 10:40 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


My complete guide to a stress-free Thanksgiving: don't be an American.
posted by Decani at 12:18 AM on November 11, 2011


And have to make do with bad teeth and no pie? No thank you.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:26 AM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanksgiving was one of my favourite things about living in the US. Being rounded up with other singletons, waifs and strays to form an improvised family and be fed is a wonderful experience.
posted by nowonmai at 5:05 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


In my family, it was never the food that made Thanksgiving stressful.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 5:47 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


My brother's started hosting Thanksgiving every other year; our grandparents are both deceased, but he bought our grandparent's house, and between that and having two kids he's adopting this weird "family tradition torchbearer" attitude. So every other year, my parents and two of my three aunt-and-uncle sets and a few of my cousins who still live in the area all gather at his house, where we do the full-on turkey-and-trimmings-and-desserts thing, and my uncle makes the steamed cranberry pudding he's always made and we dig out the same dish for the cranberry orange relish that we've been using for years and we make sure to make two different kinds of apple salad because Cousin Tom never liked raisins in his, and...

But then every other year my brother is over at his in-law's for Thanksgiving, and various other family members join their in-laws, so that leaves my parents and one aunt and me and well all just say "fuck it" and go to a chowder house in Rhode Island the following Saturday and eat whatever the hell we want.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:02 AM on November 11, 2011


My stress-free thanksgiving: Remember stores will be closed, so make sure you have food in the cupboard. Otherwise ignore it entirely.

Last year I ended up traveling for the holiday because my then-housemates wanted to have a giant feast thing and I wanted no part of it. It was a giant pain in so many ways. Thankfully I live alone now; I will spend the day happily eating my usual meals and being COMPLETELY ALONE.
posted by egypturnash at 7:42 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


yeah im not seeing anything in there about going to the orphans thanksgiving after hte family thanksgiving, getting lit on bourbon and eating fistfuls of turkey leavings

god food blog guy way to care too much about food
posted by beefetish at 8:31 AM on November 11, 2011


We'll enjoy a fantastic buffet at a nearby historic inn, and then spend the rest of the day doing absolutely nothing but enjoying our cats and bird in the peace and quiet of our home. Yes sirree, that's my idea of stress-free.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:07 AM on November 11, 2011


Metaffilter: I have a clearly designated "Now is the time to start drinking" moment
posted by theora55 at 11:08 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Being rounded up with other singletons, waifs and strays to form an improvised family and be fed is a wonderful experience.

This is the. best. way to do Thanksgiving. Done it that way many times, & it is indeed stress free. Crack beers at noon, shoot baskets, watch movies, eat at 4. Perfect.
posted by yoga at 12:31 PM on November 11, 2011


it's absolutely uncanny how even the most well intentioned families can end up imploding, re-forming, exploding again and then finally re-patching themselves together in some sort of tatterdemalion bag of bruised egos and wounded pride within less than 24 hours. And we don't even drink in our family.

Maybe you should start.
posted by Panjandrum at 12:36 PM on November 11, 2011


My father's now in a nursing home and my sister and mother aren't really interested in doing holiday stuff without him there. It upset me at first--he's been there for about a year and a half so this first came up last Thanksgiving--but now it feels kind of freeing to me. It means that my honey and I can start our own holiday traditions and do what matters to us. Last Thanksgiving, we went out to a buffet, ate all kinds of lovely things, then went for a long walk in the snow. It was beautiful, and we had the path by the river all to ourselves. Then we went home, watched something silly online, had nookie, and took a nap. I think it was the best Thanksgiving I ever had.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 2:13 PM on November 11, 2011


Three Weeks Out: Advanced Planning: Plan your menu!

I am already a week behind! I am making my stress face!
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 2:24 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Years ago, the first morning we woke up in our new house was on Thanksgiving Day. We were awakened around noon by the man next door yelling at his wife, "Whatya mean, you haven't started cooking the turkey? My folks will be here at two expecting to eat. It takes all goddamn day to cook a turkey!" Followed by the sound of a thrown punch and screams.

I have made it a point NEVER to get all het up about Thanksgiving preparations.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:27 AM on November 12, 2011


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