Many families find the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, very stressful. But we’ve come up with our own way of de stressing the whole thing. After years of analysis of the holiday we’ve come up with the plan — work to people’s strengths. It sounds cynical, but it works.
First, have the dinner at my house. (Yes, I hear you snickering but until the kids get married, I’m pretty safe. We’ll deal with that disaster down the road or encourage them to match up with orphans.) And give each member of the family, aka chefs, their own space and time in the kitchen.
Second, everyone has to make their own specialty. In the husband’s case that means oatmeal in the morning and carving the turkey. Not too hard and he’s a whiz at the carving and critiquing the “doneness” of said turkey. And after the year of living dangerously — the deep frying of turkey *shudder* — it’s probably the safest thing for all of us. The son makes the turkey. Each year he researches the proper brine, proper cooking hardware, roasting times, and each year the bird is delicious. I think this year he discovered a cheesecloth blanket for basting to golden perfection. I’m excited to see and taste the final result. Daughter makes the side dishes. This year she discovered the science of make-ahead, spending most of Wednesday putting together casserole dishes of sweet potato souffle, mashed potatoes with cream and cheese, cornbread dressing, cranberry compote, grandma glick’s cranberry relish and the blueberry/banana batter for quick make muffins. My specialty is supervising and timing. And yes, it’s a tough job. We want everything on the table at the right time and correct temperature. I also get to mediate space and hardware issues. Who gets what pot when and the ever critical oven space issue.
Third, it’s a family holiday, so guests are encouraged but in the end, every one has done their best and we’re thankful for what has been made. No critical judging of the results. We gave up the clean plate syndrome for this day at least, so don’t hurt anyone else’s feelings by being too critical of the way a dish turned out, just leave it on your plate. Shudder, we all remember the Brussels sprout experiment. And now is the time to reminisce over past family dinners and recipes. It keeps the past alive to remember how grandparents made a dish: grandma Reyes’ garlic turkey, great-grandmother glick’s cranberry relish and pepper relish, aunt mary’s oyster stuffing, the smell of turkeys roasting in grandma’s kitchen when she made 10 turkeys each year for the church. And stories of past Thanksgiving experiments can make everyone smile.
Fourth, share the clean up. Trust me, it goes faster and with TiVo, you’ll still be able to catch up on the football game! Or, do what we do, go see a movie. It might be the one time in the year when our schedules are forced to collide so take advantage of it.
So from my family to yours, wishing you a happy Thanksgiving and in the spirit of sharing, grandma glick’s cranberry relish (from an old Pennsylvania Dutch custom of a sweet and sour with every meal):
Important to remember: Equal parts cranberries to oranges to apples
2 cups of fresh cranberries (washed, drained and dry)
2 juice oranges, zest before peeling, the white stuff is bitter
2 apples (use a sweet apple if you don’t want to add too much sugar, otherwise granny smith is fine. Do NOT peel.)
sugar to taste
Using a food processor (Grandma used a food grinder but we’ve moved into the 21st century), process each fruit so that they are roughly ground. Mix together with the walnut pieces and add sugar to taste. We use honey crisp apples and about 1/3 cup of sugar. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. The relish keeps for at least a week and is delicious on turkey or ham sandwiches or in a salad. It’s low calorie and good for you!