If you decided to spend one of the ten days you get off from work annually in the kitchen as host of your first Thanksgiving dinner, we should probably sidebar about self-care, and why it’s so important. We’re kidding (kinda), as this milestone is a rite of passage into “real” adulthood, and we commend you for being brave enough to take it on. Still, it can be a tricky endeavor, so we’re here to offer some advice on avoiding mistakes most commonly made by T-Day-hosting virgins. Here, eight things you absolutely should not do with respect to your duties for the upcoming holiday.
You may not like your mother-in-law's cranberry sauce, but if she wants to bring it, by all means let her. You can never have too much food but you can have too little, and if you feel the need to differentiate between what you've made and what's been brought by outsiders for purposes of your ego, we suggest you simply invest in matching serving platters and dishes.
Yes, you want to be able to impress everyone with the modernity and innovativeness of your recipes. No, this will not happen. Stick to the classics—you can't mess up mac and cheese (and if you can, you should probably just order your entire meal from a caterer). Basics are good, too—try, for example, this Brussels sprouts and roasted squash medley, which is easy, healthy and delicious.
Have you ever noticed that your mom does half of the cooking for T-Day the afternoon or night before? There's a reason for this. It's virtually impossible to get it all done in one go, especially if you plan to eat the meal midday rather than at night. There's nothing worse than having guests circling your kitchen like vultures as you race to the finish line, so we recommend pre-prepping any dish that can simply be heated day of, cutting and chopping veggies the night before, and making any desserts or breads in advance.
Practice, practice, practice—even if it means having to eat roasted chicken every day for a week in advance of the party. Also, a helpful tip: You're supposed to let the turkey sit for 20 minutes after you take it out of the oven before carving.
We don't know about you, but half of our family members are embarrassing. Seat them together so your other guests don't have to be subjected to the crazy.
If you're actually sober, that's awesome, as it's obviously a wise health (and usually, life) decision to be so. However, compulsory gatherings among family members can be awkward, tense or both, and a little booze goes a long way toward edging the gathering in a fun direction.
Every family is different, and some like to get in and get out so they can rub their bellies in solitude after the meal; however, if this is your first Thanksgiving as hostess, you'll want to have some idea of what you and your guests will do once the bird is picked clean. Maybe try a pre-made after-dinner cocktail and party games as one option and football viewing as another, and let each guest pick their poison.
If you won't be laughed out of the room the way some of us would in our homes, we love the idea of having everyone say out loud, to the group, what they're most thankful for. Or, if you will be laughed out of the room, try the Notting Hill version instead wherein the person with the most pitiful life story gets a piece of pie.
You will likely be a bit frazzled as you prep dinner, but if you can clean up to some degree as you go along, you'll be so very glad you did so when the day is done. Also, if you have a significant other and they did little to nothing in terms of helping you prep for this party, the cleaning realm should be all theirs.
If a guest offers to help, give them one specific task—e.g., "I'd love it if you could rinse those wine glasses for me." This allows them to feel helpful and actually be helpful without enslaving them to the sink for the rest of the night.