It’s official: this year’s Thanksgiving bash is going to be hosted by none other than you. There’s nothing to it, right? Just throw some turkey in the oven, heat up some stuffing on the stove, and voila, Thanksgiving dinner. Wouldn’t that be nice? But whether you are a Thanksgiving host newbie or a certified vet there are some things that should be taken into consideration during your pre-feast planning.
Plan your shopping list.
This may sound like a given, but careful planning prior to hitting the grocery store is essential. When choosing your menu try to choose at least one unconventional or spiced up item on the plate. It will leave people talking about that delicious dish and making recipe requests.
When making your shopping list, carefully check all of your recipes, and don’t forget to add the appetizers. If you are calculating a recipe for 10 people, buy enough ingredients to make it for 15. Planning for additional food will ensure that when Uncle Fred is eating his third helping of mashed potatoes you don’t run out of anything. It’s great to have leftovers; after all, who wants to turn around and cook the day after Thanksgiving? Plus excess will always be welcomed by the college students and elderly in your family as a party favor.
This does not mean you need to cover the house in smiling turkeys wearing pilgrim hats. Just add a little fall festivity to the event. For the Martha Stewarts of the next generation there are tons of online links to elaborate holiday decorations such as Theholidayspot.com. For those of you with limited time or crafting capabilities this can be as simple as a leaf patterned tablecloth, some squash in a bowl, and Thanksgiving pot holders. It may not seem like much, but adding a little visual ambiance to the event will make it feel more like a festivity than a general get together.
Keep the appetizers light
It is common knowledge that most hosts slave away preparing for the big dinner, watch football and mingle. Of course this demands refreshments for the waiting guests. Whether you have prepared elegant dishes of finger foods, or are serving pre-packaged appetizers, Linda Stradley of What’s Cooking America suggests keeping it light. There is nothing more disappointing than fixing a feast for 50, only to have people pick at child-sized portions on their plates. Some light appetizer suggestions are veggie plates, fruit dishes, or crackers with a light dip.
Cook ahead of time
Waiting until the last minute to cook will almost always end in disaster. At the very least it adds unnecessary stress to an already hectic schedule. Soups, pies, cranberry sauce, and nearly anything served cold that is not fresh can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. For the foods that cannot be cooked ahead of time, plan your time; otherwise you will end up with cold turkey or undercooked potatoes.
Don’t be a glory hog
If you are someone who feels the need to barricade the kitchen every time a guest so much as glances at a paring knife, it is time to relax. There will always be those people who are simply not able to sit back and watch others work. Indulge them. The next time someone insists on helping out in the kitchen, hand them a knife and have them start slicing. You may just find that you truly enjoy the help and the company, and yes, everyone will still give full credit to the head chef.
Take it a step further. If Cousin Karen insists that she makes the best pumpkin pie this side of the Atlantic and absolutely must bring one, let her, even if you know it tastes more like pumpkin cardboard than pumpkin pie. This is the giving part of Thanksgiving. In this case it is best not to make your own version of the dish as well. Step back and decide that you will make an amazing blueberry cobbler instead.
Pick a serving style
Essentially there are two different serving styles; buffet and sit-down. There was once a time when a traditional sit-down dinner was the only way to serve Thanksgiving dinner. Now different families serve in different styles. Many people may simply want to serve dinner the way it had been served the year before. For buffet style, often people do not have adequate seating or table space for the food, or guests may prefer to eat while watching television. If that works for you, then great.
Even those who have become accustomed to the buffet style serving may want to encourage dinnertime bonding and chatter through a sit-down meal. People can talk while they are passing bread, and it gives the feel of a true family-style dinner. Before choosing a serving style decide what you want out of the dinner experience, and serve accordingly.
More than just dinner
Finally, while Thanksgiving is a great time to get together and gorge on foods only eaten once a year, it is also a great chance to have fun and enjoy one another’s company. Make an evening out of it. Just because dinner is over that doesn’t mean the night has to be. Find alternative things for people in your group to do after dinner. If you have a group of avid Karaoke fans, bring out the Karaoke machine. If you have a few die hard card players, get a game going. Whatever you do chances are others will join in and even the spectators will have a few laughs and a good time. And who knows, maybe people will begging you to do it all again next year.