I ran into my friend Suki Tutthill at the bank yesterday. She is hosting 31 people for Thanksgiving dinner. I groaned. Too much work. “No”, she said. “Its a free for all. I’m not even allowed in the kitchen. The women bring stuff and cook. The men do the clean up and I provide the place. Finding the dishes after everyone leaves can be interesting,” she chuckles. Hmmm. Sounds like fun. My simplify Thanksgiving this year is going to my daughter’s house and bringing the cranberries and a salad. We are a games playing family and enjoy the day long into the evening where turkey sandwiches, snacks, cards and loud competitive family stories are as much a part of the day as the dinner.
Our holiday get-to-gethers need simplifying in the future. Welcome holidays “lite”. No more wobbling, overloaded from the table and packing on the pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year.
My plan is to unsweeten the sweet potatoes, salads that don’t sog, berry and apple pies without bottom crust. No side dishes and snacks with cream and sour cream. (Rich side dishes can be the centerpiece of another dinner.)
Lighten the work load, too. Mash the potatoes with the peelings on. Make stuffing on the side ahead of time. Smoke the turkey. Smoked turkey takes one and one-half hours on a kettle barbeque with a drip dish at the bottom and the guys do it, leaving the kitchen and oven free for other things. Gravy made days ahead by roasting a chicken and two turkey thighs. On the big day, just reheat. Use paper plates and paper napkins with dinner served buffet style. Yup! Traditions can and do change.
I used to try and prepare everyone’s favorite dish for Thanksgiving. Pretzel jello for Laurie, sweet potatoes with rum, pineapple, orange juice and banana for Virginia, macaroni shells stuffed with Italian sausage for Kristanne. Ken, Doug, and Rich always concentrated on the potatoes and turkey.
Now, Doug picks blackberries every year for pies at Thanksgiving, Christmas and our July family reunion. Cedric makes walnut and pecan pies to die for. Virginia makes a pear tart that no one will give up. At one time, I prepared no less than three vegetable side dishes such as corn pudding, creamed baby onions, burgundy carrots, spinach souffle, Harvard beets, marinated mushrooms, artichoke quiche. An embarrassment of riches.
As we give thanks for our bounty, suitably lighter, we know our table is still overladen compared to 98% of people in the world. It is appropriate that we are thankful, that we share, and that we have the means to help others at this special time of year and still enjoy our celebrated feast.