Digesting Thanksgiving Days Before the Meal

For the next 72 hours, the Internet is going to be a hive of activity. This is the time of year where internet traffic is concerned with two things, the build up to the commercial payload that has come to be known as “Black Friday” and the more traditional build up to the more wholesome, but no less contentious, occasion we have grown to call “Thanksgiving.” I am here to talk about the latter.

While I tend to be a bit of a holiday naysayer, I am actually a fan of Thanksgiving, as it celebrates one of my unyielding interests, food. Sure, Thanksgiving is also about family, friends, and a general sense of fraternity, but take one look at what is dominating the internet (as well as TV, radio, etc) over the next few days, and you will certainly see more articles about livening up your yams than you will about rebuilding relationships with estranged siblings. It is just the way it is.

So as the Internet folds in on itself in anticipation of the entire country doing the most intensive cooking of the year. Nearly every media outlet and portal has tips of what to do for Thanksgiving. Yahoo is highlighting “10 Common Thanksgiving Problems,” while the New York Times Sam Sifton is manning a, sort of makeshift, 911 desk at the New York Times where readers could email their vexing culinary questions (e.g. how do I defrost a turkey in the microwave?) and presumably get answers. NPR, that bastion of level-headedness, is advocating a foraging expedition to complement, or make, the meal. And there are numerous blogs, bulletin boards, and tweets vying for your attention and promising to make this thanksgiving dinner more interesting, expressive, delicious, effortless, contemporary, authentic, organic, appreciated, easy-to-clean, and trouble-free than any of the years past.

But without a doubt, no one can get through this particular holiday without a sense of humor (or something to reduce the stress of the occasion). No doubt the leading shows over at Comedy Central will be taking the metaphorical piss out of the holiday tradition. And The Onion (almost always good for a laugh) has addressed the holiday with their tip-filled piece entitled, “Making Family Gatherings Stress-Free,” which includes such sagely advice as:

Splurge and get the more expensive turkey; then, make sure to mention at least once an hour how you splurged and got the more expensive turkey

To keep your mother happy, seat her directly across from her one good child who actually did something with his life

This sardonic take on the holiday get together moved me to think about what my Thanksgiving holiday tips would be (as I have cooked, at least, half a dozen holiday meals in my lifetime). I found myself coming up as dry as an unbrined turkey breast, but in a pinch, was able to come up with a few from empirical experience:

Don’t try new recipes on Thanksgiving unless you have tested them prior to the big day.

Don’t alienate the vegetarians or assume that they will not mind a bit of chicken broth in their stuffing.

Don’t turn on the TV.

So whether you spend this holiday at home, as a guest in the home of others, or at the airport waiting for your delayed connecting flight, why not share a few nuggets of wisdom with your fellow readers, as a sort of run up or appetizer to the big day? How do you navigate all the stress of the meal, the guests, and the pressure to have a good time? Do you have hard and fast rules about the holiday? What would you never make again? Who would you never invite again? Have you learned hard lessons that deserve to be shared?


Audrey Harry
.7 years ago

I love the Onion. The blatantly obvious meets news format.

ana p.
ana p7 years ago

Do you really know what thanksgiving day is about?
How did it started?
I think it will be important to think about this!

Lynn C.
Lynn C7 years ago

Thanks Eric. Your questions often engender such great responses from the readers. I'm in envy of ruth a. For me, her solution would be best!

Rose N.
Past Member 7 years ago

Thank you for posting.

Allegra W.
Past Member 7 years ago

Noted. Thank you.

Laura S.
Laura S7 years ago

After decades of trying, we've finally found what works for us.

1. The home with the biggest table hosts the dinner, and cooks the turkey. (No vegetarians here.)
2. The pies are baked well in advance.
3. The side dishes are brought by guests, and don't try anything too adventerous.
4. Don't drink too much.
5. Don't discuss politics. (Mistress of the house made this rule.)
6. No raisins in the stuffing! (Master of the house made this one.)
7. If you didn't help cook, you must help clean up.

Most of our holiday dinners run by these same rules. As it turns out, the family member with the biggest table is usually the one who can best afford to host the dinner, so it's actually pretty equitable.

The television is in a separate room, which I realize not everyone can do. But I recommend it.

To my fellow Americans, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving Day. May you find many reasons to be grateful.

Lin Moy
Lin M7 years ago

I don't do the hosting so it is up to others how the day goes.

Kathy K.
Kathy K7 years ago


ruth a.
ruth a7 years ago

How have I avoided the chaos of Thanksgiving? I moved to a country that doesn't celebrate it!

Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS7 years ago

Partially because I'm single and have no one else to share the hosting duties with, I've learned that it is best to prepare as much in advance as you can for any kind of dinner parties, but especially for Thanksgiving. Being prepared not only reduces stress, but also leaves you some time free to interact with the guests.

Make up the deserts ahead. Prepare caseroles the day before in refrigerator-to-oven dishes, so that all you have left to do on the big day is pop them into the oven. Cut up the cabbage for coleslaw the day before, too. Just don't add the dressing until just before serving, and it won't wilt. And for things that you can't put together and cook until just before the meal, have the ingredients already measured out and ready to put in, like grating that cup of cheese the night before and putting it in a ziplock bag until needed. Same for breadcrumbs for dressing, etc.