And we're off and running. Thanksgiving, the kick-off for the holiday season, is here. Some of us will spend the most time we've ever spent all year round in our kitchens basting, chopping, stirring and hoping that it all turns out well. We thought we'd whip up some dos and don'ts for both hosts and guests.
- Be honest. If a guest asks what they should bring, tell them. There's nothing worse than seeing your supply of wine and champagne dwindle, sparkling cider just isn't the same.
- Be ready to receive guests; they shouldn't see you sweating over the bird. Don't make them feel compelled to help out with the dinner -- they came to eat, not prepare.
- Try not to give a blow-by-blow of the dinner's preparation (e.g., "I made the stuffing at midnight! I got up at the crack of dawn to boil the sweet potatoes"). There is an excellent book, "Timing Is Everything," by Jack Piccolo.
- Speaking of timing, if you've asked guests to come at 5 p.m., don't make them wait until 7 p.m. to eat.
- Plan a balanced, well-rounded menu. You want your guests to have enough food, but 10 different things to eat could turn into a mishmosh of mismatched flavors and actually begin to look like mush on a plate.
- Let guests eat in peace. No need to keep asking them if they need anything.
- Be gracious when your cooking is complimented. No one will know you left out the thyme unless you tell them.
- If you discover that someone is a vegan, don't make a big deal out of it. They'll know to skip the macaroni and cheese.
- When it's time to clear the table, try not to enlist the help of every guest at the table. And don't disappear into the kitchen to wash the dishes. This looks like you're trying to get a leg up on things. That's rude. (If you have a small kitchen, loading the dishwasher is okay but don't run it.)
- Toast your guests, thanking them for being part of the day.
- Try not to yawn in front of your company. This may look like you're bored or sleepy.
- Don't be late. There is no excuse.
- Even if your hosts said they don't need anything, take a bottle of something or a small gift.
- If you've offered to bring a dessert, bring dessert, not a platter of deviled eggs as a surprise.
- We like flowers but if you're being hosted by someone who's doing all the work, consider an arrangement so that they won't have to stop and tend to the flowers.
- Offer to help, but don't barge into the kitchen and start doing things.
- Don't just grab a seat at the table; your host may have a seating plan.
- Before the meal, wash your hands without making a general announcement.
- Turn off your cellphone.
- Don't talk about how much you love dressing with oysters when there is no oyster dressing on the table.
- If you have dietary restrictions, let your host know in advance.
- Don't talk about your diet and how you're being a bad girl as you butter your second roll.
- Dress appropriately; not every day is a jeans day.
- If you have a lonely friend with no place to go, don't invite them along hoping that your host will understand. Your friend will only feel lonelier when there's no seat for him/her at the table.
- Give thanks and toast your hosts.