Tis the season. With the first snap of cool mornings, thoughts are beginning to turn to that Super Bowl of meals, Thanksgiving. Travel plans are being hammered out as well as “Who is doing what?” lists for this decidedly American holiday. Feeling a bit stressed? Could it be because of the shear number of things to make or procure for this one meal? Honestly, who prepares 8-10 dishes for one dinner on a regular basis?! And then comes those awkward moments around the table with kids not quite sure what to do or say and adults who may be trying to right every wrong in terms of having “Family Meals” in one fell swoop. Yes, it can be quite a stressful day. The saving grace here is that you have time on your hands- at least for a while- to think through the what’s and how’s, so that when the fourth Thursday in November rolls around, you won’t want to throw your hands in the air and give up. Some practical things to do consider:
- Have a few dry runs using the “good dishes”. Not only does this give you the opportunity to see that everything is in place and ready to go, but it also gives your kids some practice using things that they don’t normally use so they are less anxious at the table on the big day. Everyone gets a bit lax about table manners, but trying to correct these on Thanksgiving, at the table, with a full audience, could spell disaster. These rehearsal dinners can make a weekend dinner more festive AND instructive when there is no pressure. So, Saturday’s pizza on Nana’s china? Why not? “Here’s how we use a knife and fork…” Also, you can show your kids not only how to set the table, but also how to wash the dishes afterwards! Many hands make light work, and it allows those ready to lend a hand an opportunity to contribute.
- Make the family the centerpiece of the day. Use the special things you may have from previous generations, and talk about these with YOUR children. It’s their heritage, too! Check that everything is in good repair and cleaned. If you pulled out the gravy boat at the last minute last year and cringed because it had lost a bit of its luster, now is the time to polish away- again, a super opportunity for your kids to help out. Are the napkins pressed or laundered since the last time they were used, and do you have the number that you need? If there ever was a time for cloth napkins, it’s Thanksgiving. I’ve written about the wonders of linen, and I’m here to tell you, “Do not be afraid!” Using family linen actually helps then stay fresh and white. And if it’s just yellowing in a drawer somewhere, what’s the point?
- Not enough of one thing or another? It’s okay! Mix in your white everyday dishes and stainless flatware with the heirlooms. Have brightly designed everyday dishes? It’s still okay! You are setting a table for your family and friends, not styling for a shelter magazine. The idea of this day is to give thanks for what we have, not worry about what we may not have.
- A bowl of fruit makes an awesome centerpiece. Plus, you can eat the fruit afterwards! How many flower arrangements can you say that about?!
- And last, but not least, if possible, have the table set the night before. Waking to this already done sets the tone for the day, and allows you to check a box on your list before the day even begins!