Thanksgiving is the best holiday.
I love Thanksgiving because it’s about nothing but the things that matter: family, friends, food, faith, home, and the gratitude we have for them all. It’s also about crispy turkey, mashed potatoes, my mom’s mac and cheese, Brussels sprouts gratin, cranberry sauce, gravy (oh the gravy…), mushroom and wild rice pilaf, butternut squash soup, soft rolls, pumpkin pie, and Karen’s Kentucky bourbon pecan pie (oh, that pie though!).
Sorry other holidays, but you don’t stand a chance.
The thing that makes me happiest about Thanksgiving is that it’s about being grateful for the simple things we have right now, rather than yearning for extra things we might get in the future (as Christmas has become, unfortunately). That’s why I’ve always felt guiltily conflicted about Christmas—I want it to not be focused on gifts, but then I feel guilty for not being as all-in about gift-giving as other people are, and then I feel guilty for feeling guilty in the first place. (See? Conflicted.)
And that’s yet another reason why Thanksgiving is the best: you don’t have to show up with anything but a casserole dish and your hungry self. Then we all cram into the kitchen, talking too loud, bumping into each other, tossing potato peelings and missing the trash can, spilling cheese sauce all over the counter, shoving crackers and charcuterie in our faces, being Brazilians doing the American-holiday-thing. We work together to make a feast, then we pass out together on the living room carpet and moan about how we ate too much. Now that’s good, clean livin’.
I’m hosting for the first time this year, and I am not excited at all. Except that I’ve been dreaming about this my entire life and I am RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED!!!!
I have been planning for weeks: the menu is set; the recipes have been selected; the pie-and-casserole-making schedule is established; the turkey has been ordered (from Joel Salatin’s wonderful Polyface Farms, which Michael Pollan wrote about in The Omnivore’s Dilemma); and 99% of the grocery shopping has been done (because the grocery store on the week of Thanksgiving is hell on earth and I will NOT make that newbie mistake). I am prepared, both mentally and physically. This will be the most well-planned, relaxed, enjoyable, face-meltingly delicious Thanksgiving the world has ever seen. I am SO READY.
The only thing left to do is, you know, take myself aside and have a good long talk about how this is not the Turkey Olympics and how I will ruin it for everyone if I have stupidly outsized expectations.
But I’ll save that for later.
What We’re Eating
A Small, Homemade Thanksgiving for Nine
Prosciutto-Wrapped Fresh Mozzarella (Recipe from an ancient copy of Cocktail Parties by Williams-Sonoma.)
Cheese and Charcuterie Board (Here’s how to build the cheese plate of your dreams and how to pick the best meats for your charcuterie board.)
Olive Platter (They are my favorite food, after all.)
Melissa Clark’s Dry-Brined Turkey
Parmesan Mashed Potatoes (We like to torture my sister every year by making her peel potatoes for hours. Aren’t family traditions just heartwarming? And here’s a cheat sheet from The Kitchn if you go no-recipe on mashed potatoes like most people do.)
My Mom’s Mac and Cheese (I recently discovered that not everyone has mac and cheese at their Thanksgiving. What is wrong with all of you? More mac and cheese = more good in the world. It’s #science.)
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Over-the-Top Creamed Brussels Sprouts Gratin (But without the bacon. Because we are so healthy. Hahaha.)
Rice, Portobello, and Lentil Pilaf (I need a vegan option, so I plan to riff off of this recipe but use olive oil instead of butter and go for a more fresh, acidic flavor.)
One other veggie dish (Kindly provided by my godparents!)
Apple Cranberry and Goat Cheese Salad (I felt morally obligated to include one dish that isn’t bathed in cheese and butter.)
Sean Brock’s Benne-Buttermilk Rolls from Heritage (The rational part of my brain is trying to talk myself out of making these. [It will be too much food! I won’t have time to prep them ahead! I’ve never tested the recipe!] But my goodness do I want to make them. They would be so good.)
Pumpkin Pie (I’m toying with the idea of making the recipe behind this fiasco now that we have it figured out. But if I have an ounce of sense I’ll make my author Robyn Stone’s Classic Pumpkin Pie.)
Jarrett’s Mother’s Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie (This pie is the real reason I’m marrying Jarrett.)
The Peak Fall Cocktail (This is a little cocktail Jarrett created last weekend for a dinner party, and it was a huge hit. I’ll be sharing the recipe next week, but if you want to plan ahead, get your hands on some unpasteurized cider now!)
Need ideas to make the day special? Try these:
The Thanksgiving Reader (Seth Godin): Here’s something special to incorporate into your meal—a new tradition created by Seth Godin with help from friends like Gretchen Rubin, Daniel Pink, Pamela Slim and many others. “The idea is simple: At your Thanksgiving celebration (and yes, it’s okay to use it outside the US), consider going around the table and having each person read a section aloud. Before the meal starts, all you need to do is put one page on each person’s chair and follow the simple steps. During the ten or fifteen minutes your family spends reading together, millions of people will all be reading the same words, thinking about the same issues, connecting with each other over the essence of what we celebrate. After all the travel and the cooking and the hassle, for these few minutes, perhaps we can all breathe the same air and think hard about what we’re thankful for.”
Make a Thankful Tree (Jones Design Company): This is such a sweet idea to bring thankfulness into the entire month of November! And with four cute options for print-at-home tags, it’s actually easy to execute. (But ask me if I’ve executed it. It’s still on my really-really-want-to-do list!)
How to Speed Clean Your Kitchen in Less Than 15 Minutes (Becky Rapinchuk, CleanMama.net): More great advice from one of my authors, who wrote The Organically Clean Home. Because I know we all really want to start and end Thanksgiving with a clean kitchen.
Need something special to hang above the table? Well, I made myself the pretty art print at the top of this post, and you can download it here for free! I love the C.S. Lewis quote on it:
“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.”
I take it as permission to lie around after dinner, read cookbooks, and start planning what to do with all our leftovers. (Turkey Noodle Soup anyone?)
Happy week-before-Thanksgiving, everyone!