10 Thanksgiving Tips for Turkey Day & The Joy of Fowl

11/19/2016 10:05 am ET

It’s almost turkey time. Conversations abound with, how many guests are you having for dinner? What sides are you serving, and are you brining/marinating/smoking/deep-frying/steaming/grilling/rotisserie-spinning your turkey? How is your acumen for calculating cooking time and how does one artfully dodge the question, “When will the turkey be ready?” when family and guests start getting cranky?

No pressure, but try to remember that Thanksgiving is a day to create memories. When I was in third grade, my family took a trip to Colonial Williamsburg and had Thanksgiving dinner at King’s Arms Tavern. When I was in fourth grade, my family was obsessed with trying to re-enact it. My sister and I wore Colonial girl dresses and mobcaps hand-sewn by my mother, who wore an 18th century gown. My brother and father wore white ruffled shirts and a “no electricity” policy was enacted in the house. (That meant no watching “Mr. Ed” on television after dinner.) Everything was by candlelight. It was ridiculously quaint, but memorable for all.

As Thanksgiving is also a time for sharing, following are 10 helpful tips to garnish the day:

  1. Count backwards. Does the turkey need to thaw? How many pounds equal how many hours equal when do you want to serve the meal? (See aforementioned cooking calculation question, which actually is an obtuse reference to my personal struggle with cooking the perfect turkey.)
  2. Start a family tradition. If you don’t already have one, state up front at the beginning of the meal, “… And in keeping with our family tradition, I’d like to…” This sets it up right there. No one (except, perhaps, an offspring), will ask, “What family tradition?” In our house, before diving into the feast, we hold hands, go around the table and say something for which we are thankful. (Note: if launching this tradition, give it some thought beforehand.)
  3. We tend to forget that Thanksgiving for the Pilgrims was a picnic. Not recommending we go quite that informal, but still…
  4. Forget the starched linen napkins. They will only get gravy stains.
  5. Put goblets above the knife, to the top right of the plate. (Note: Goblets are not the same as giblets.)
  6. Take a break at some point. Relax and place your bet for “Best in Show” at The National Dog Show on NBC.
  7. Back at the table, show-off your host/hostess grace: Serve from the left. Clear from the right.
  8. Give extras points (silently) to anyone who passes the salt and pepper as a set, even if someone only asked for one. The maneuver is high etiquette at it’s best.
  9. Don’t go overboard on the selection of pies. Three pies are more than enough if you are having 10 guests or less. That’s 24 slices of pie, people.
  10. Know the word “schmutz.” It is a piece of food, e.g., a dash of mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie crust that went astray on the chin. Or the cheek. Or somewhere else on the face. It is perfectly polite to say, “Excuse me, but you have a schmutz.” To be exquisitely helpful, point to its location on your own face.

What are some of your Thanksgiving tips? (And I promise not to get up from the table while you’re in the middle of sharing them.)

Photo: Bonni Brodnick

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