Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I suppose that’s odd. Most people choose Christmas, right? It’s not like Christmas isn’t nice: I like presents as much as the next girl. But Thanksgiving is both social and food-centric. It’s a lot less about the stuff than it is about the who and how. Plus it appeals to my desire for complete and total immoderation. I can follow all my baser instincts into the territory of making two pies, enough food for at least a dozen people and bourbon in everything.
So even though we have roughly 20 days until the big event, I’ve already started my planning. After prepping half a dozen Thanksgivings before I even graduated college (yes, 6 in 4 years–my roommate was Canadian so we celebrated both) and at least a turkey a year since then, I’ve got the whole thing down to a science.
First of all, if you haven’t ordered your turkey, it might be too late. These days, I get mine from Holy Cow Delivery. They’re humanely raised on a farm in western Virginia so I feel good about buying from them. And they taste freaking fantastic. I had to put the order in two weeks ago, but if you can sweet-talk a farmer or a butcher to procuring something similar for you, do it. Whole Foods also carries marvelous turkeys, but in my experience, they were more expensive than buying direct.
Next, you need a menu. Here’s mine in the form of a Pinterest board: roast turkey, andouille sausage cornbread dressing, homemade green bean casserole (no canned soup here), biscuits, mashed potatoes and bourbon vanilla cranberry sauce. I think one of our guests is bringing sweet potatoes and I may ask someone else to bring a salad. I’ll also have various appetizers, most notably deviled eggs, mixed nuts and black olives for snacking. The actual Thanksgiving cooking isn’t always perfectly predictable, but with snacks and libations, no one will notice if dinner is a bit late. Finally, I’m not a huge fan of traditional Thanksgiving desserts, but I love Mexican chocolate pie so that’s what I’ll be making. I think a guest may bring pecan pie, but if not, I’ll make a pumpkin or apple for those who prefer a more traditional take.
I often do shopping in several shifts, both because it spreads out the expense and because it gives me several shots at remembering everything. I’ll get all the canned and freezer-worthy goods this week, the baking ingredients and alcohol next week and the produce and dairy the following week. I refuse to enter a grocery store the week of Thanksgiving. It’s just too much of a madhouse.
Finally, now is the time to nail down the guest list. We’ve invited everyone we need to invite and gotten replies from everyone, but if you don’t have your guest list together yet, it’s best to get that fixed before you finalize your menu. If people want to know what to bring, ask if they have a specialty or family favorite. I always try to fit those in when I can, especially during a holiday when some might be missing family. Almost everyone has one thing they do well, but if not, you can always use more beer, wine and pre-dinner snacks.
I’ll continue my Thanksgiving planning as we get closer and I’ll have a few more planning posts for anyone else who likes to go for all-out homemade entertaining. It’s not easy or simple, but frankly, I love it and think the people I love are worth it.
Do you do anything special for Thanksgiving?