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Tips For an Easier and Tastier Thanksgiving

I’m going to come right out and say it: planning and cooking a traditional Thanksgiving feast is not easy. It’s a challenge, to say the least. Few people have the sort of kitchens that can store and cook all the food required in one go, let alone sufficient helping hands. There are things in that traditional menu that very, very few of us cook at any point in the rest of the year. After all, when else do most people roast a turkey or make a pie? Yes, I do make pie pretty regularly, but that turkey? Not so much. That’s a big honking bird to cook for two people, which is how many eat here in one go maximum most of the year. Heck, my mother had a husband, three hungry kids, and usually at least one friend of someone in the family at that dinner table most nights, and turkey was still a once a year thing.

So let’s talk about a few ways you can make your life easier if you choose to take on making a more or less standard, traditional Thanksgiving meal for you and yours. After all, you want the energy to enjoy what you have wrought when you sit down to eat. Landing face first in the mashed potatoes from exhaustion and frustration does not make for a fun holiday for anyone.

So what can you do to make sure you’re in good shape to celebrate? What can you do to make unfamiliar dishes taste like you’re a pro at cooking them?

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Take Care of Your Emotional Health on Thanksgiving

It’s a fact. Not all families are created equal. Some of us are lucky enough to have families that welcome and embrace us during the holidays… and others of us spend this time of year being emotionally beaten up by our nearest and dearest.

Over the years, I’ve read harrowing tales on this site from awesome Big Girls who are expected to cook the Thanksgiving feast and then berated for every bite they dare to eat. I’ve read of others who spend the holidays in a constant round of being given diet tips by all their relatives, their spouses, and their closest friends. I’ve read about the folks who wheedle invitations to dinner and then complain about the cooking, the choice of menu, and the decor. I’ve read about families grimly sitting down to a traditional meal that took days and huge amounts of money to create, but that nobody actually enjoys eating. And I’ve read about families who take this holiday dedicated to gratitude and turn it into a chance to object vociferously to the size, body art, hair color, clothing choices, sexuality, relationships, child-rearing plans and/or skills, careers, and literary taste of everyone else at the table.

If this in any way describes your Thanksgiving guest list (or the Thanksgiving you’ve been invited to partake in), it’s time to rethink your holiday plans.

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How To Compose a Thanksgiving Menu

This is a pretty traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, cranberries, pie, gravy, seasonal vegetable medley… it’s a meal that many people look forward to every year.

It’s also one that many people dread every year. In this case, I’m not talking about the company, because that will be another article. As per usual, I’ll spend the weekends leading up to Thanksgiving (here in USAnia, anyway) talking about different aspects of Thanksgiving, very much including the emotional ones. But today, I’m just talking menu planning.

You see, no matter how traditional or un you plan to be, the meal needs planning in advance. So let’s break it down and figure out how to figure out what to serve your nearest and dearest for the holiday.

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How It Should Be Done

(Illustration of sukkah viaHWPS, where you can learn a tidge more about Sukkot, if you so desire)

Well.

Mr. Twistie and I have been the social butterflies of late. Parties, concerts, more parties.

Yes, we went to another party yesterday.

You see, the lead guitarist in Mr. Twistie’s band held a party yesterday in honor of Sukkot and his own birthday. Yep, same day. Kind of cool.

There was vegetarian barbeque (Lead Guitarist and his lady are longtime vegetarians) and a bit of a potluck filled out with some family favorites and store bought party treats. They’d set up a sukkah in their backyard where most of us sat… and the musicians headed into the garage for a jam session. Did you know Hotel California sounds kind of awesome on a clarinet? I didn’t until yesterday.

But the coolest thing of all about this party? I hung out for hours with people of every size, age, race, creed, and dietary persuasion and do you know what I heard? Not. One. Word. of body shame or food policing.

People did say they really liked a particular dish here and there. There was a lot of praise for the couple’s fourteen year old son who baked his dad’s birthday cake from scratch… and rightly so. It was a delicious cake. There were a couple people who turned down a slice of said delicious cake saying they’d had high blood sugar readings that day. There were people, myself among them, who passed on the meat substitute burgers and hotdogs. But there was no pushing to find out why, nor was there anyone who made a fuss about having to go meat free for one, single meal. I did hear the hostess point out a dish that one guest might wish to avoid because of an allergy.

And that was that. People took what they wanted and left what they didn’t without comment from anyone. Most people looked well satisfied with their meals, and there was certainly plenty to go around.

This is how it should be done. The people throwing the party offer up enough to go around, according to their abilities and their beliefs. Where appropriate and welcome, others share what they have to share. Those who attend eat what they prefer and leave the rest behind without complaint. Those who find something particularly delicious say so. People don’t spend the entire party complaining about their own or anyone else’s bodies. Health issues (allergies, chronic ailments that affect diet) are recognized, but neither trumpeted to the skies nor belittled. Everyone is allowed to make their own choices for their own bodies, and nobody makes a big deal out of it.

Instead of making a big bad thing out of food, there were people making conversation about other topics, people making music… even one lovely lady making a fabulous crocheted purse. She and I had a delightful conversation about our various crafty pursuits as she worked.

I just thought in light of my recent posts about constant harping in otherwise festive situations, you should all get a chance to hear about the case where the ideal happened.

Al Fresco Party Tips

Summer is here and that means that if you own a pool, a barbecue, a nice patio, or any outdoor space larger than a fire escape landing, chances are you’re going to hold some outdoor event in the next couple months. Of course you want yours the be the soiree everyone remembers fondly… not the one people send condolence cards to afterwards.

How to get it right? Well, as per usual, I have a couple handy tips to make you the most fabulous of them all.

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