The Not-So-Perfect Thanksgiving
yet still perfectly great
With all the blogs, websites, emails, and ads telling us how to design the perfect table setting, cook the perfect bird, what top 132 sides we should make, or how-to tips for entertaining like a pro, I’m here to lower the bar, throw out some of those unachievable high expectations, and say that it’s OK to just hang out with people (hopefully ones you like) and eat until you’re uncomfortable.
As a kid, my Thanksgiving dinner memories are with my grandparents and the seven pies my grandma would make. Beautiful pies, all cooling on the tile countertop, the mixture of sweet scents filling the kitchen. I’m guessing there was a turkey somewhere, but I pretty much only remember the pies. Pumpkin, cherry, lemon meringue, chocolate cream, apple, pecan, and strawberry-rhubarb. Back when calories and carbs weren’t invented yet. Otherwise known as “The Good Ol’ Days”.
As an adult, I’ve only really thrown a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner a handful of times. Most years I’m somewhere else, sitting at someone else’s table, enjoying someone else’s food. As a single parent, my daughter would spend the holiday with her dad’s side, so I was left to fend for myself and spent a lot of Thanksgivings with friends. (Thank you, Liz & Jerrod, for all those years of sharing your family with me!)
For the last 6 years, my husband and I fly across the U.S. to South Carolina to spend the week with his wonderful family. Talking football (it’s a religion in the South), helping with some home repair items, celebrating an early Christmas, drinking a lot of wine, and taking a lot of naps.
I”ll miss my own family, but I know that we will all be together to celebrate in December, like it’s 1999 (gratuitous Prince reference) with a huge family blowout and the traditional Kamakaze Krismas. (um, yeah…that’s another blog, for another day)
Since so many of us travel (even if only across town) to share a meal with another household, where does that leave those of us not planning the meal, setting the table, and spending weeks searching for the perfect napkin rings?
I love to cook and I love to entertain. The idea of creating an incredible “let the heavens sing from above” kind of centerpiece comes close to pure ecstasy. Sadly, my artistic side will have to wait for another opportunity. Honestly, Thanksgiving should be my holiday. It should be the one that I plan for months in advance. It should be my signature dinner party. But it’s never worked out that way, and I’m ok with it. Sometimes a holiday is a huge event and other times it’s just another day. Celebrate it any way you want.
Thanksgiving is for all. For the Vegans, for the Friendsgiving group, for the ones without a plus one, for the accomplished chefs and Martha Stewarts, and for those who order take out.
It’s a not-so-perfect dinner with not-so-perfect people, in a not-so-perfect world.
And for those of us who manage to achieve the most stunning Instagrammable day, with the picture-perfect dressed to the nines All American beautiful family, the ones who can get through the day without a breakdown, a political fight, or a too-much-wine, crying in the cranberry sauce while eating pie straight out the dish moment, and still look fresh and gorgeous by the end of the day, and do it all with a clean kitchen – Kudos to you! You are a unicorn and we salute you!
As Elsa endlessly reminded us – “Let it Go”
The turkey may burn, the gravy may be a lumpy flavorless gloppy mess, your aunt may get too drunk, a fight may break out, the kitchen might look like the horrific after footage of a mid-west hurricane. OR……the day could turn out FANTASTIC! Just let go of perfection, stop telling yourself the fate of the planet falls on your shoulders, open the good bottle of wine, eat the pie, or hell, stream a movie and order a pizza! Because life is short, nothing is promised, and we can diet in January.
Over the years, as Thanksgiving has evolved from childhood, early adulthood, and now to middle age, I’ve realized that for most of us, most years, we are invited as someone’s guest. Someone let us into their home to share a meal, watch Football, and debate the culinary importance of pumpkin pie.
As a guest, our only responsibility involves bringing an appetizer, a side dish, or a bottle of wine. We may help in the kitchen, we may help set the table, we may offer unwanted advice on how to cook the perfect turkey, but the stress really isn’t on us. Whether the day succeeds or flops is pretty much on the household hosting the event. There’s a lot of pressure to be perfect. From social media to Hollywood celebrities, we’re constantly bombarded by an illusion of perfection. Setting the scene for a Norman Rockwell-esque dinner for the All-American family is a lofty goal, but in reality, very few of us can pull it off.
As a perfectionist, it’s taken years to sit back and let someone else run the show. Every Thanksgiving that I’ve shared with other households is different. Some families go all out with the fine wedding china, over-the-top gorgeous tablescapes, and really expensive decanted wine. In other homes, it’s a box of instant potatoes, Stovetop, and paper plates. But every time, someone is doing their best and doing it for love.
So we should really just cut ourselves a little slack, and let Thanksgiving just “be”. Let it be what it is. A day for friends, for family, for food, and for being thankful. We can hope the turkey isn’t dry. We can hope Aunt Agnes doesn’t get trashed. We can pray with all our souls that Grandpa doesn’t bring up politics. But the bottom line is that we are spending time with people that mean something to us. We have a day with family and with friends. The humans we’ve chosen to share our lives with. And we don’t count the carbs.
“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
So, this Thanksgiving, whether you’re in the middle of a 20 person table, or chilling at home alone, take this day to think about the good in your life. It’s a single day to appreciate all you have. One day seems like a good start to a full calendar of thankful moments. Enjoy the overdone turkey, relish in the family “debates”, wear elastic pants, and overindulge. It’s Thanksgiving Day, no matter how you spend it.
Ours will be with family 2,700 miles away, a free-range, humanely raised, organic turkey, a storebought pumpkin pie, football, cheap wine, and the perfect company.
I hope your Thanksgiving is as perfect as any not-so-perfect day can possibly be.
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