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Ask Michael Cohen: How to Avoid a Bad Thanksgiving Day Situation

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For the past few years I have always accepted Thanksgiving invitations to others peoples parties such as friends, family and the like. This year I've decided that I would like to host a fabulous dinner. Here's the problem. I am a terrible cook. I don't even know how to make a turkey but I really need to fulfill the Martha Stewart in me. So my question is, how does a terrible chef host a Thanksgiving dinner party?
- Kate M, Washington, D.C.

You are not the only one in this situation and there is nothing worse than dry Turkey and burnt stuffing. There are a few ways to go about this, but what I suggest, and this comes from firsthand experience -- hire a chef. There is nothing more fabulous than a really delicious home-cooked meal, cooked by someone else. I'd also up the event by having an extra person on staff to serve.

In order to put your own signature stamp on the dinner, sit down with the chef and decide on an eclectic menu -- make sure to keep it local and seasonal. To be honest, serving turkey is a bit tired. Indulge with something magnificent such as a bone in rib eye, salmon, Cornish hen, duck, ostrich or buffalo meat. Or all of it honey. I mean this is a feast. Sides that are amazing include blue cheese tater tots, brussel sprouts and bacon -- wait that reminds me how much I love scallops wrapped with bacon. You get my point? Thanksgiving for the modern Martha Stewart is whatever you want it to be.

Be active in the experience and shop and cook with the chef. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You'll learn a lot. When it comes to the wine, do your research. After you confirm the menu, spend time shopping for the right wines. Guests love nothing better than knowing that a hostess knows what she is serving and pouring.

Lastly, set your table with some sort of vibe. Go ornate, modern glam, or simple like the Pilgrims. At this point honey, you've done everything but been held completely hostage by the kitchen. Eat, imbibe and be merry.

I have been dating this guy for about two weeks now. We definitely have a connection. But this time, unlike the others, I am taking my time instead of jumping into a relationship. That means I don't dedicate my Saturday nights to him without even talking about plans. I'm 34 years old and just a little less needy. To my surprise, my new love interest has asked if I would be his date to his family Thanksgiving dinner party. I'm thinking that with my new dating prowess this might be too much too soon. How long is the proper amount of time before you meet the family or am I over thinking this?
- Dana R, Philadelphia, PA

Looks like your lessons in love have paid off. You are absolutely right in sensing that this is a clear example of too much too soon. This could easily turn into a train wreck because honey you have no idea who you're sitting down with. They could be the nicest family in the world and refer to you as "dear" or he could have an overprotective alcoholic mother who will sneer at you all night and when she's good and drunk call you a whore. I have heard it all before.

Here is what you do instead. At this point I'm hoping that the sassy independent you already are has plans -- probably with one of your married couple friends, their kids and the nanny(s). When all of that becomes too much for you, break away and try either of these two things.

You can make an appearance at the dessert hour and do your best Nancy Drew, which is what I would do. Surmise the family situation. Find out who funny uncle Tom is; see if Mom is a bitch, and take a good look at Dad because that's what your new man will look like in 20 years.

Another perfectly suitable avenue to pursue is an after-festivities cocktail. When both of you are done with your commitments meet somewhere sexy for lots of drinks and then maybe you'll really get your bird stuffed.

My husband and I have been married for less than a year now. Actually we haven't even known each other for a full year, but that would be an entirely different conversation for you. Anyway, we are at a total standstill. We can't agree on whose family event we should attend for Thanksgiving. I feel we should go to mine in Aspen, where we can ski and enjoy all the family benefits (I live for our chefs) and he feels we should go see his family in New Jersey. How do we decide where to go?
- Lori S, Upper East Side

Okay. Sounds like you are a bit of a selfish brat and you got married way too early, but that will be, like you said, "an entirely different conversation." Here is the deal, Thanksgiving isn't about going to an amusement park and getting on the best rides. It's about spending time with family and friends. Now, don't get me wrong, I love mountain peaks and being catered too -- it sounds like my kind of holiday, but relationships are all about compromise.

Here is what I would do. You live in New York and your husband's family is in New jersey. Hop in the car and go over the bridge and have a good time with your husband's family. Plan something romantic for the car ride (hello, you need to do sex trips at the beginning of your marriage) and then head to the airport with your skis. You know you have to pick your battles in life. Choose wisely.

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