Thanksgiving is a wonderful beginning to the holiday season. A little forethought can transform it from a stressful, labor intensive, kitchen focused event to a fun, charming gathering of loved one that is remembered for its warmth.
The first thing I consider is my menu. I prefer to order a turkey, two traditional side dishes and a pie. From scratch I prepare one side dish, two deserts, and a couple of appetizers that have become family traditions. Preferring a relaxed atmosphere for Thanksgiving celebrations, my drink menu is simple: iced tea, beer, and wine.
When I plan my holiday decorating, I let the food command the table. Rather than have a centerpiece taking up the space reserved for the turkey, I prefer a centerpiece as a focal point on the entry table to catch my guests’ attention when they first walk through the door. I scatter smaller arrangements throughout the house. These arrangements are usually made up of small branches, berries, pinecones, artificial fall colored leaves, ivy and dried flowers.
To keep traffic to a minimum in the kitchen, I prepare a snack table in the den atop my coffee table. This helps keep guests comfortable and cozy. They sit and visit rather than getting in my way as I prepare last minute dishes and set the table. I spread a nice tablecloth on the coffee table and lay out an chips and dips, nuts, fresh snack size vegetables, snack plates, eating utensils and napkins. On a side table I place an ice filled tub stocked with bottled water, beer and assorted soft drinks.
Our family tradition as we dine is to serve champagne. Everyone takes a turn saying what they are thankful for. When each person finishes we salute with our glasses and take a sip. We continue this throughout the meal until the champagne is exhausted.
In anticipation of an overabundance of food, I purchase aluminum roasting pans that have covers, one for each guest. As each guest prepares to leave, each pan is filled to the brim with turkey, all the trimmings and plenty of dessert.
As Thanksgiving actually approaches, about one week before the day of the party, I make arrangements for what has become a family tradition. I check with invited family members and guests to see who wants to participate in this tradition. Once I have confirmed my list of names, I contact a local shelter and sign us up to help prepare Thanksgiving meals for the homeless. Arriving early in the morning, we volunteer for about two hours which gets me back home in plenty of time to finish up my own chores. My family has found this to be a very rewarding experience and we look forward to it every year.
By keeping my entertaining method simple, Thanksgiving has become a holiday I truly look forward to. I have a real opportunity to spend quality time with my loved ones rather than sit down to the meal so exhausted from days of cooking that I am unable to fully experience the enjoyment of their company.