We are delusional in the weeks before Thanksgiving. We convince ourselves that we can cook a 20-pound turkey because Alton Brown says it’s easy. We fill our grocery cart with bags upon bags of potatoes because the dehydrated flakes will just not do. We buy a rolling pin and a pastry blender because this will be the year we finally make that pie crust from scratch. And we sincerely believe that from our kitchens will emerge a display of culinary prowess that would make Martha Stewart clutch her pearls.
That fantasy is a few turkey trots away from our realities. For 364 days of the year, dinner is something simple enough to fix after an eight-hour workday, be it pasta, scrambled eggs or a bowl of cereal. Why do we think we can pull off a big, immaculate Thanksgiving spread?
We can’t. No one can achieve the high expectation we set for ourselves.
Look around your kitchen. The turkey is still frozen, the mountain of potatoes hasn’t been peeled and the butter just won’t blend with the flour.
I can’t save you from culinary disaster. But I have some tips to save your sanity.
For the hosts
- Trust the experts. My apologies to those who have taken on hosting duties this year. If you’re in a bind too knotted to escape, invite the family for an adventure—Thanksgiving at the comfort of a restaurant table. Proof on Main, Bristol Bar & Grille, BLU Italian Grille, the Brown Hotel, and Winston’s Restaurant will offer Thanksgiving menus on Thursday—just call ahead to make reservations.
- Stick with what you know. Who says Thanksgiving dinner has to be turkey and all the trimmings? If you’re the cook on duty, go with the dishes at which you excel. Everyone has a few recipes that they have mastered over the years and made their own. Now is the time to whip it out of your recipe box (or iPad).
- Make Thanksgiving a potluck. Don’t let all the responsibilities fall on your apron. Come up with a theme and ask guests to bring dishes to create a new Thanksgiving tradition. How about everyone bring their favorite vegetable, but cooked in a new way? Or a healthier take on a holiday favorite?
For the guests
- Just make a salad. I can’t think of one Thanksgiving meal that included a salad. It’s not that my family is full of salad-haters; everyone’s just too busy with sweet potatoes and the like to put together some fresh greens. Buy a bag of pre-washed lettuce; toss it with sliced apples, dried cranberries, feta cheese, almond slivers and raspberry vinaigrette. Other guests with more limited food preferences will be a little happier.
- Think outside the casserole dish. There are lots of other items you can bring to a celebration besides food that your family and friends will appreciate. Run to your nearest discount store for some paper plates, napkins and cups.
- Never underestimate the power of a beverage. Be the cool cousin—bring an armload of adult beverages to your gathering. Employees at The Wine Rack (2632 Frankfort Ave.) take the time to navigate you toward a selection that will please your dinner companions. A trip to the Louisville Beer Store (746 E. Market St.) could give you an opportunity to impress your loved ones with a sampling of craft beers with fancy names and trippy labels. And when in doubt, bourbon never disappoints. Drop by Westport Whiskey and Wine (1115 Herr Lane, Suite 101) for a bottle.
- Mind the desserts. Thank goodness for Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen (multiple locations), Heitzman Bakery (multiple locations), Sweet Surrender Dessert Café (1804 Frankfort Avenue), and Plehn’s Bakery (3940 Shelbyville Road). They save us from really having to learn how to bake successfully. Call ahead and order something sweet to end the meal.
- Be honest about your shortcomings. Just come right out and say you’re frazzled and can’t fulfill your culinary commitment. So what if the crust never came together? Your family and friends will love you anyway. And that’s what Thanksgiving is about.
This story is part of WFPL’s Food & Drink Week. We’ll be exploring dining and libations in the Louisville area ahead of Thanksgiving. You’ll find new stories here everyday through the holiday.
Do you have a Thanksgiving dish that you want to share? Call WFPL at (502) 627-0485 or send us an e-mail here to let us know how it’s made and why you love it. We’ll post some of the submissions next week. Be sure to include your name.
(Image via Shutterstock)