Like most anything else, if I break a big big thing down into smaller pieces, it doesn’t seem so unwieldly. Thanksgiving is like that too.
I like to think of Thanksgiving in three parts. Part One is to figure who is coming, and what (and how much) we’ll have to eat.
I love to break out my recipe box, November Cooking Light magazines, and clipped recipes from years past to put together a fantastic menu.
Everyone I share Thanksgiving with is happy to bring a favorite wine, side dish, or dessert to complement what I’m making. We all have great stories about what we enjoy or where it came from… my grandma’s make ahead mashed potatoes, my mom’s old crockpot cookbook’s creamed spinach recipe, Kathy’s pies, tarts, and cakes – I ask her to bring whatever dessert she likes to make best. Madonna’s appetizers. Molly’s manhattan sweet potatoes! Last year, Tara added a spectacular (and she says easy) corn casserole to the mix.
Part Two, then, is all about focussing on what I need to get ready for Thanksgiving week. I get my game plan sketched out based on who I am having and what I am personally making.
After I finalize the recipes I will be making, I create my grocery list. I like to shop the weekend before Thanksgiving, no more than 4 days in advance of the holiday so that I will only have to make one trip. It’s important that this grocery list is complete and organized. Otherwise I may miss something on what is often my biggest grocery shopping day of the year.
In addition to grocery shopping the week of the holiday, I also write down what else I need to get done in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. For example:
- Sunday: grocery shop, start brining the turkey, do linen laundry
- Monday: contact guests to confirm our plans
- Tuesday: make sure all dishes, glassware, servingware and silverware are clean and table-ready. Clean the house.
- Wednesday: big cooking day! prep food for Thursday, make ahead what I can, make a list of what’s cooking Thursday
- Thursday morning: start the turkey. Arrange the furniture, iron linens, set the table. Cook the rest of the food based on Wednesday’s gameplan.
I also ask for help with important parts Thanksgiving day that are outside of the kitchen. My favorite addition to the holiday was when Neighbor Dave’s family began joining us. I am so thankful that Regan helps with ironing linens, Rollie and Joan carve the turkey and say grace, and Rollie is our official photographer.
Everything goes so smoothly and comes together so well when everyone pitches in to help prepare!
Doing all of the preparation and planning a couple of weeks in advance really sets up a successful and easy-going, special day!