If you are not hosting everyone at your house, consider yourself lucky. You don't have to clean up the whole house, manage all the expectations, or think about whether or not everything can fit in your stove at the same time. I feel lucky this year because I am going to my brother and sister-in-laws' house for Thanksgiving. Although luck is a weather-dependent word--they live right outside of Buffalo, NY, and one Thanksgiving they had seven feet of snow! Can you imagine that? I can't.
I have done my fair share of hosting Thanksgiving dinners, so I'll share my tips with you--in order of priority.
1. Make a list and check it twice. Oh wait, that's the wrong holiday. But seriously, write up your menu and begin to think about how it will all work. Is there something for everyone, even the vegans? Are there enough nutritious goodness dishes and not just fatty happiness? Can you delegate certain items? I'm bringing pumpkin pie to my in-laws, not because there won't be enough pies (there will be too many), but because everyone really likes my pie, since I make the whole thing from scratch. Real scratch, none of that half-assed scratch.
2. Figure out where and when you are going to get your key ingredients. Can you find a local organic turkey? Do you need to go to a few different stores to get all your ingredients? If you schedule this stuff in advance (for instance, buying the nonperishables a week ahead of time), you won't find yourself running around like a turkey with its head cut off the day before Thanksgiving, only to find that there are no, absolutely no, breadcrumbs left in any store.
3. Think about your oven and stove and cooking options. This is the one that will get you every time. Do you have enough room in your stove to cook the turkey and the stuffing and the sweet potato casserole at the same time? What can you cook in advance? What can be cooked on the grill? What can be made on top of the stove to save oven space? These are all things worth thinking about in advance. Trust me.
4. Clean up the house. This is the least-fun part, but it must be done. No use doing it too soon or it will just get messed up again. Some husbands argue that a house doesn't need to be clean, but honestly, do you want to eat somewhere that has a dirty bathroom? No. A recent study I just read about found that people in a clean environment are actually more charitable and friendly than those in a dirty environment...and this is Thanksgiving, for land's sake.
5. So be thankful! Don't forget to enjoy the day and feel gratitude for whatever you do have. With so much unemployment and economic hardship in the world right now, things can feel pretty depressing. But whatever you do have, be thankful. With love, we are all rich.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.