Monday, December 2, 2013

Post-Thanksgiving Thoughts

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Mine was terrific.  Probably one of the best I've ever had.  I've reflected on why it was so good and I've come up with a couple reasons.  Perhaps these points might be helpful to others gearing up for Christmas celebrations in a couple weeks.

(1) Limited Guest List.  I take an inclusive view when it comes to celebrating.  The more the merrier.  I'd hate for anyone to not have someone to celebrate with.  Gather everyone under one tent.  No problem.  Well, I still take an inclusive view, but thank goodness we ended up with just our immediate family plus two guests this year.  When we've had multiple families sharing a holiday with us, just coordinating arrivals and departures to figure out meal times was a challenge.  But with just the six of us, we enjoyed our guests without feeling overwhelmed at extreme entertaining.

(2) Scaled Back Menu.  In the past, I felt obliged to have a ton of traditional dishes that cover the table such that my family and guests barely fit.  It was chaotic trying to figure out how to cook everything in a single oven while the turkey took up all the space.  I had to cook some things in advance then rewarm them at the last minute.  Or cook things once the turkey was done and hope it didn't cool too much while we waited.  I only made four dishes for this Thanksgiving.  Very manageable.  One I made completely in advance.  And parts of another dish were cooked the day before, just had to be assembled the day of the feast.

(3) Scaled Back Entrée.  One of my kids spilled the beans a couple years back that she and her father confessed to one another they didn't like turkey but didn't want to tell the rest of the family to avoid ruining our Thanksgiving.  I was very annoyed.  First, I don't believe in family secrets, even on mundane points.  Second, I hate turkey too and kept making it for them!  So, now the secret is out, we are liberated from having a traditional entrée that none of us wants.  And frankly we don't eat a lot of meat.  Part of our voluntary simplicity ethos!  So we didn't just want to replace a big bird with another big hunk of meat.  Instead, I decided to make enchiladas for the entrée, which we love and don't have very often.  Yum-o!  A real treat and so much easier, quicker to make.  I didn't wake up early, but the big meal was ready way before noon.  And to keep things semi-traditional, the other three dishes I made were pretty traditional so it felt like Thanksgiving and not just a nice dinner party.

(4) Potluck.  I am no Martha Stewart, so I learned long ago to ask for help when entertaining.  But if the guest list is unwieldy, even potluck becomes a logistical nightmare.  One Christmas, I had a house full of hungry guests who had all brought side dishes, but the relative who was bringing the entrée ran late--very late.  Some relatives had to start leaving before we had a complete meal to serve!  But with two guests only, it was very manageable.  I asked one to bring something for us to munch on while we were waiting for the meal, along with a salad.  She bought several types of olives, which we put in a fancy dish.  And she brought a salad kit that was fine.  The other person brought dessert.  He had made a trifle in advance, just had to assemble it when the time was right.  My kids got to help, which they thoroughly enjoyed.

What a fun day!  I didn't spend all day cooking.  We had time to enjoy each other's company. We played board games and talked.  And we had a real feast, but with a limited number of dishes, it wasn't overwhelming.  We could take time to enjoy each dish.  In the past, we've had so many dishes, you can't eat them all or if you do, you get just a taste because there is too much.

Happy holidays!

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