Let’s be honest, there is no perfect Thanksgiving. There is no set-in-stone combination that equates to a flawless gathering of friends and family. And let’s face it, the usual culprit, or at least a likely component to go wrong, is the food. Yes, there are the conversational spats and the kids fussing over the remote, but from the making, to the devouring, to the unbuttoning of newly tightened pants, food can bring people together. So let’s try not to ruin that part of your Thanksgiving, by sticking to these 8 guidelines.
- Be Kind & Mind: Once you have devised a list of guests to your Thanksgiving meal, make sure you consider their needs. Some of your guests may have dietary restrictions, which means you may not be able to cook everything your heart desires or that you may need to cook more. There are several ways to accommodate for these needs. First, ask your guests what they cannot eat, or what their favorite dish is. You can also send them a list of what you plan to cook and see if the items listed are suitable to them. If not, there are plenty of recipes online that utilize the substitution of ingredients. Another option, is a potluck meal, which allows the guest to bring a dish of their liking to the feast, ensuring that there is at least something they will not mind eating.
- Proper Planning & Preparation: Prior planning prevents poor performance. Figure out what you want to make; make a plan to gather the items necessary to make each dish; then plan how and when you will prepare those dishes. One of your objectives should be to use your time wisely, so as to not wear yourself or anyone else out before the big meal. Prep things like your turkey, the crust and filling to your pie, and anything else that may need to be soaked or cleaned or mixed or diced, a day or two early, so long as it will not ruin the item’s freshness.
- Fresh is Best: After binge watching Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” I believe it safe to say that having fresh food instead of frozen food can make or break a dish. It can be the difference between an “O.K.” dish and an amazing one. Instead of buying frozen broccoli, try broccoli from the fresh produce section. Combine your prepped ingredients on the day of the meal and bake that perfect pie in just a few minutes. Have freshly cooked rice instead of hard, day-old rice. Try mashing your own potatoes instead of pouring them from the bag and adding water. You will be glad you did.
- If It’s Fast, Do It Last: Now sometimes, those mashed potatoes from the box are a guaranteed favorite and sometimes you’re pressed for time. That’s O.K. Not every dish has to take forever to make. Taste is achievable without letting something sit in the oven or on the stove for an hour. If there is something that can be made last minute, quick and in a hurry, without sacrificing taste, then by all means, do it! Have no shame in your game for reducing your chances of screwing up a meal. A few of my favorite boxed or canned items are mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and stuffing.
- Seasonings Save Lives: Some things just don’t come boxed with flavor and freshness is not the only factor in good food; seasonings play a big part as well. Go-on-head and bust out that Lawry’s seasoning salt and that Morton’s salt and pepper. Don’t forget the brown sugar and cinnamon for the yams, even bits of ham for the collard greens. What’s a feast without a taste? Aim to salivate tremendously with every spoonful.
- Gobble Up Guidance: What better way to ensure success, than to accept the wise guidance of other sources, like this article. Dig through grandma’s old recipes. Take auntie on that trip with you to the grocery store. Watch the Food Network every other night. Google the perfect combination of ingredients until your fingers fall off. Everyone needs a hand now-and-then.
- Every Dish A Diamond: The ultimate goal of the meal, is to make every dish a diamond. Even the smallest thing leaves a mark. Put your foot in the macaroni. Add blood sweat and tears to the cornbread. Sprinkle a little love over the cabbage. Place that Hawaiian roll perfectly on the plate. It is rewarding to taste every bit of effort and resourcefulness come into fruition.
- Checks & Balances: A Thanksgiving meal does not have to be a completely unhealthy meal. Utilize the food pyramid to have a balance of each food group on the table. People are known to go heavy on the grains and proteins at Thanksgiving feasts. Fresh fruit may make a great topping for that chocolate cake. Don’t forget the banana pudding. But about portions, throw those out the window. It’s Thanksgiving!
Happy Turkey Day and Happy Cooking!
This piece comes to us from one of our talented content contributors, Cynthia Sharpe. Her bio is below and if you would like to work with us you can email us here!
Cynthia M. Sharpe, is a May 2015 graduate of NC State University. Cynthia graduated with a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing and currently aspires to pursue an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. “As I let my own light shine, I unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” -Cynthia M. Sharpe, inspired by Marianne Williamson