Forget about Santa – I’m keeping some lists that are so long and detailed that they will make his jolly old elf’s head spin. For Thanksgiving, we are buzzing out of town to a lake house rental with our daughter, her partner, and their two little boys. As far as I can tell, in the kitchen, beyond the basics, there is a commercial popcorn machine, which seems to be the sole added kitchen accoutrement. It might be a little tricky cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year.
I scrawl ideas and things to remember on post-its, on the backs of envelopes, and inside a marbled composition notebook optimistically labeled: THANKSGIVING 2021. I send myself texts. As an aide-mémoire I remind Mr. Sanders that we can’t forget the candles, vases, electric carving knife, gravy separator, insert-something-that-can’t-be-bought-for-love-or-money on Thanksgiving Day. Lately Mr. Sanders nods quite a lot, and tries to change the subject.
The gravy boat lives on a shelf in the kitchen, on display with some other ornamental china. Twice a year it is taken down, washed, used briefly, and then is returned to its shelf. I suppose a rental house Pyrex measuring cup will serve gravy just as ably, but the aesthetics of a 7-year-old and a 19-month-old are just forming! We want them to grow up couth and somewhat cultured. Good china is a necessity.
Roasting pan. I know. We could skinny by using an aluminum foil pan from the grocery store. But they are flimsy, and not very Instagramable. We, the Spy Test Kitchens, have to keep up appearances. When we pull the turkey out of the oven, the kitchen will be suddenly crowded with extra cooks, all with opinions and ideas of their own. It’s best to have some control over the turkey pan.
Champagne glasses. We have an inexpensive set from Ikea that we like to take when we go on family holiday adventures. Sure, the Prosecco would taste fine in VRBO jelly glasses, but there is a nice feeling when we clink glasses over a meal that has taken us all day to pull together. Peace is restored. And for a few minutes, in the candlelight, we look all-American.
Every year we buy a new, plush turkey hat for the youngest among us to wear on Thanksgiving. We should have a hall closet’s worth of hats by now. Mysteriously, they seem to disappear annually. Maybe one of the newer family members, who has a distinct Swedish modern, no-clutter vibe, discretely tosses the hat. Never fear. It is on my Amazon “Save for Later” list.
Books to read to the boys
Every year we have to prepare the traditional holiday favorites: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, beans and pies. In the not too distant past we proudly served cranberry relish, in one perfect, intact piece, showcasing the distinctive can ridges deeply molded in the shiny jelly. We used the ancestral relish dish which seemed negate our plebeian ways. Now, we have added new blood to the family, and have acquired better optics. This year we will be baking some cranberry muffins for Thanksgiving breakfast. Much more civilized. Much more presentable. Maybe we’ll sneak the relish dish in at the last minute, just to enjoy our Ocean Spray tradition. Those boys are still malleable.
If you simply cannot face the idea of baking cranberry muffins from scratch on Thanksgiving morning, there is no shame in buying a box of muffin mix. Just recycle the packaging before anyone else totters into the kitchen looking for morning coffee. (This Julia Child quotation is adaptable to almost every kitchen situation: “Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?”) If you want to impress the new family members, roll up your sleeves, put a smile on your face, and remember, there will be Prosecco in just a few short hours.
(We are not going to skip Friday Night Pizza just because we have Thanksgiving leftovers!)
Here is a recipe from Ocean Spray for your own scratch, home-baked muffins. They will be tasty any morning. https://www.oceanspray.com/en/Recipes/By-Course/Breads-and-Muffins/Cranberry-Muffins
Don’t forget: “We don’t need lists of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.”