The very first time I cooked a Thanksgiving turkey I left that bag of slimy gizzards in the bird, and the turkey neck, and then proceeded to fill it with stuffing. After it was done baking and I was spooning out stuffing and I discovered it, I had no idea what it was and I called my mother in tears. I’ve had my fair share of Thanksgiving mistakes over the years. Corn puddings that never fully cooked and were served as a sort of sloppy corn soup. Lumpy gravy. Pumpkin pies that cracked on the top. Beautiful sausage and apple stuffing that freakin’ exploded in the glass serving dish I had baked it in, because I didn’t realize that you need to bring refrigerated items to room temperature before baking them in a glass pan, leaving splinters of glass all over my floor and leaving the side dish unfit for human consumption. And one year when I bought a frozen turkey that I didn’t thaw in time, so we ended up with no turkey that year, but a whole lot of mashed potatoes.
It gets easier, my friends! Once you’ve cooked about twenty Thanksgiving meals it’s rare that mistakes happen that render your entire meal a disaster, but the secret is, these are the holidays that I remember the most fondly. Sure, at the time when I was sobbing into my apron and sucking down cranberry vodkas at an alarming rate it didn’t seem like so much fun, but in retrospect I can always remember eventually laughing over whatever culinary disaster had wormed its way into my Thanksgiving.
I think about my mom when I was growing up, and how the hell she managed to cook a gigantic meal, bathe three kids, have the house decorated, and welcome a mess of relatives into the home with zero help, plus no Kitchenaid stand mixer for making vanilla bean infused whipped cream, no set of Wüsthof kitchen knives, no Williams Sonoma gravy boat. How the hell did our mothers and grandmothers manage? If I have cooking issues now all I have to do is check out Epicurious on my iPad , or any one of a few thousand other cooking websites, and get the answers to any questions I may have. Our moms never had that! But I always remember a lot of my childhood Thanksgivings as being perfect, Norman Rockwell-esque visions of expertly browned turkeys and cute little naval orange ramekins housing cranberry sauce.
I’m a huge believer in making kids help in the kitchen on holidays. Not only cleaning up after the big meal, but helping in the preparation of it. I’ve read that kids are more likely to eat what they help prepare, and I think it teaches them not only culinary skills, but that Mom isn’t the only person who is behind making a good Thanksgiving dinner. If your kids are too little to chop vegetables, they are probably big enough to wash them, or to arrange crudités on a vegetable platter, or to draw little Turkey outlines of their hands to help decorate the table. My Thanksgiving is going to be weird this year, I’m not supposed to cook (or lift a ginourmous turkey!) so we will be ordering some items from our local organic, overpriced foofoo market and a lot of my meal preparation will be done beforehand. Some of the items I have to make myself, because of tradition and because I love to cook, but it won’t be as big of a deal in year’s past.
I’ll just have to regale my kids with all of my woesome tales of my past Thanksgiving mistakes. If anyone says that this is the best Thanksgiving meal they have ever had, considering I’m not cooking most of it, I will sell them to the circus.