Made a few notes for next time after hosting Thanksgiving for the family.
Things I Forgot For Thanksgiving Dinner
- Graham crackers for the smores. Oh, yes, we had the snazzy outdoor firepit, acquired in hopes of extending the space for the crowd out onto the back porch, a welcome dose of fresh air and crackling logs after the three pie varieties had worn off. I could envision the pastoral, after-dinner sweetness of the scene, even smell the toasting marshmallows. But not clearly enough to remember the graham crackers. Spoiler alert: Ritz served as an adequate substitute, but I’m still embarrassed.
- A bathroom serving at least 10 guests benefits from more than half of one roll of toilet paper. Surely the other nine were grateful to the enterprising niece (you know who you are) who located the back supply in the other bath and delivered where needed. Thanks for having my back, kiddo.
- Carrots, pickles, and smoked oysters for the relish tray for cocktail hour, meant to mimic what my mother always offered on our first Thanksgiving without her. I kept thinking the tray looked a little dinky with just olives and pickled okra, but couldn’t quite focus on the solutions awaiting their turn quietly in the cabinet. Where they remain. Does that stuff last until next year?
- Actually offering liquor to your guests increases the chances of them actually drinking it. That fine bottle of bourbon, a gift and popular new brand, went untouched. When I wondered why to my daughter, she said, “I didn’t know it was there.”
Things I remembered
- Mom was right. (But you knew that already, didn’t you?) Years ago, I asked her–with what I thought was appropriate reverence–how to watch the antique lace tablecloth she handed down into my care. One never knows, in a family, when reverence may be misplaced. “Put a candlestick or serving dish over the spot and forget it,” she advised, an Olympic gold piece of hostess advice if ever there was one.
- Pre-adolescent children—an age that has been known to try the patience of the most hallowed of saints–can actually be excellent kitchen meal-prep staff. They’re like dogs, their mother observed later; they do best with a job.
- Do not buy a used car from anyone who tells you that making gravy is easy. It’s a myth, perpetrated by the most gifted cooks in cahoots with purveyors of turkey gizzards. I know absolutely how tricky it can be, because I watched very carefully while my gifted sister-in-law worked really hard on it. But not closely enough to do it myself, next time. (And dang, it was good.)
- A strategic Leftover Distribution Plan is vital. Even the most calculating and careful hostess might have too much food—I’m told by a friend. Check your shelf of disposable containers, maybe check it twice. Stand by to load them with abandon, and don’t let anyone out the front door who doesn’t tote one, preferably two or three. It can undermine dignity to resort to leaving mashed potatoes anonymously on the doorsteps of unassuming neighbors and tearing up homemade rolls in the backyard for the birds.
- How our dad laughed when he got really, really tickled. Which was pretty often, at these gatherings. Nine years after he left us, I saw and heard him in my brother’s laugh and the familiar, gleeful expression on his face. It’s a laugh that rings bells and lights candles and melts away grief. Extra napkins may be required to mop the face.