This year, for the first time in at least thirty-eight years, I’m probably not going to be cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Or if I do, it will be in a strange inadequately equipped kitchen, sharing the job with someone else, and keeping mostly with their traditions. My sister-in-law is gathering the clan at a beach house in North Carolina and the meal is likely to be a communal effort.
It feels strange not to be making the final tweaks to my menu, planning and executing my shopping forays, and cleaning out the refrigerator to make room for everything.
Right about now is when I’d usually be getting turkey wings, necks, and aromatic vegetables ready for the big stockpot that tomorrow would simmer all day, filling my house with its beguiling aroma and making it smell like my grandmother is here.
Today, after finishing the last of the shopping, is when I’d be baking cornbread and biscuits for dressing, simmering a batch of cranberries with raw sugar, orange zest, and bourbon for sauce, and grinding still more raw, with apples, oranges, and sugar for relish (it needs a couple of days to mature).
I’d be making sure I had my cache of briny local cluster oysters from Russo’s. They’d be in the back coldest part of the fridge, waiting to be made into Lucy Mama’s Oysters. I might even be blanching Brussels sprouts for that lovely sauté with bacon and pecans.
Instead, I’m finishing laundry and getting ready to travel.
This has always been my favorite cooking holiday, and sharing the fruit of my culinary labors with my loved ones one of my greatest joys. If you’re staying home and have been tasked with hosting this meal and aren’t happy about it, take comfort in knowing that I envy you.
But then again, sharing the job of preparing this meal, even in a strange kitchen, surrounded as I will be by my adopted family, will surely be joy enough. Meanwhile, for those who will be staying home and cooking, and are feeling a little overwhelmed, I’m reprising my Mastering Thanksgiving series that was featured a few years back.
Just remember: Simple people have been successfully making this meal for a very long time. With a little forethought and planning, a little grace, and maybe just a wee drop of bourbon, you can do it very well indeed and, dare one say, enjoy the process.
To find my 2012 Mastering Thanksgiving series of essays, go to November 2012 in the keyword search column to the left of this piece and click on it. It'll bring up all of them.