What's for Thanksgiving Dinner?

Be glad you have never witnessed one of my Thanksgiving breakdowns. Although I am a full-grown woman, every year this holiday reduces me to toddler-like tantrums. I have shed real tears over the ruined gravy. (I can't seem to make it from the little package.) The meal always ends with me proclaiming I am never going to do this again. But it's like childbirth: the memory fades, November rolls around again, and I am once more purchasing one million different ingredients from a minimum of three different stores to concoct another feast too large and complicated for one demented woman.

So there I was, shopping in Costco with my poor husband, and we ran into the turkeys. Now cooking a whole turkey never works out well for me. I can't tell you how many overcooked, dried-out, dark brown birds I have served. Meat like chalk, even the lumpy gravy cannot save it. So every year, I try to find a way to exclude the star of the show. And yet again, somehow an entire bird snuck into our shopping cart and we brought him (her?) home. Looks like I have to cook it now.

Everyone has their favorite dishes and of course you can't forget any of these. We have a small family, just four of us, but this (somehow!) adds up to about twelve dishes for me to prepare. Sure, some can be made ahead of time. This delightful practice means that I spend not one, but two or three days chained to the kitchen stove, slaving away in a hot, steamy hell. Then I have to find space in the fridge to store all the pre-cooked dishes when Mr. Tom Turkey has already claimed an entire shelf for himself.

Okay, another option might be traveling to a relative's home and allowing them to do all the work. This sounds good in theory, but also ends in disaster. One year, we drove 6 hours to upstate New York so my sister could host Thanksgiving. While Maryland is often balmy in late November, upstate New York is frigid. It had to have been below zero with the wind chill that year. We arrived to discover no turkey would be served. No, she had decided to forego the traditional meal (!!!) and make homemade PIZZA. Perhaps some of you have attempted to prepare or eat homemade pizza before. If so, you know it SUCKS. Unless you own a pizza oven, were born in Italy, and raised in a pizzeria, there is no way to replicate this product in your home. Ordering takeout would have at least tasted good. When we returned to Maryland, I immediately headed to the grocery store to purchase a discounted (post-Thanksgiving) turkey with all the trimmings in order to remedy the ruined holiday.

This year, I have a plan. I'm going to get on top of this. I will simplify our meal in several ways in order to save time and stress. First off, I will ditch the sweet potatoes. No one really likes them except me. I will not touch the gravy. This honor will be passed to my husband who is able to read and follow directions. Ditto the mashed potatoes. I will pull up my big girl panties and face the turkey like a man. There must be a way to cook that damn bird properly. Perhaps I will even consult a cookbook. When all else fails, I will have another glass of wine. I hear Pinot Noir goes great with turkey...