Remember Thanksgiving is about gratitude and every holiday has its reason for being. Food can just be a pleasant enhancement. What is a food disaster to you will probably not be remembered ... and if it is memorably disasterous ... well, that makes for a great story over the years ... most of the time, you'll look back and laugh . .. yes you will.
1. Be clear about your expectations
2. Be respectful as a host or guest
3. Nobody cares as much as you
4. Chill out. Go with the flow
1, 2 and 3 For the first points, there is a current Chow story by a local reviewer I've come to respect over the years. He's not as fussy as it sounds from the story. He's done some great dive dining. However, reading the story about how much he resents people bringing stuff to his carefully planned dinner had me thinking he missed the point of the holiday.
When Did Thanksgiving Turn Into a Potluck?
Now I think he should have made it clear to his guests not to bring anything. However, as guests we should respect our hosts and clarify their expectations.
There's also a little of 4 in this. I'm sure the guest from hell who brought a mixer to make an unrequested dessert and cluttered the kitchen with utensils and mess didn't get the 'subtle' hint of the host "depositing each in the dish drainer with a clatter loud enough to raise Squanto from the dead."
I would bet the only thing remembered by that person was the thrill of contributing to the dinner. So if guestzilla shows up ... chill ... deal with it ... that person isn't the one getting upset
Also, as comments in that story point out, some behaviour is cultural. Some said that it is rude in the South not to bring along a dish. Some people have a family tradition of potlucks. Some might be new to the holiday and clueless. You are never going to change your elderly aunt and she will bring along almost alive, quivering jello salad.
One comment summed it up perfectly "give everyone the scoop on what's going down at your holiday event, and then you only have to deal with the really pushy people who just have to make their sweet potato mash with pecan-cranberry streusel. There will always be those if you want to have a big gathering,"
And in the end, so what if the steusel makes it to the table.
4. After doing my superiority dance about that article, I found myself stressing over roasting the turkey after a casual comment on Chowhound.
I had to bring myself to reality. Some people will like the food, others will be polite and occasionaly there will be that person who is brutally honest (usually in the elderly aunt or kid category). In the end it will just be about getting together.
I guess taking care of an elderly, ill mother for years loosened my view on the 'perfect' holiday. Things constantly went wrong and out of control.
There was the year at the fancy restaurant where she did a George Bush at the Chinese banquet. The holidays she missed because she got too ill just before.
There was the year I had a dinner for a dozen and was working out of the country and flying in ... to my brand new condo ... that is a recipe for disaster, right? I remember pushing one early guest into having to finish sweeping up and setting the table. Most of all I remember the gluey mashed Yukon gold potatoes I made ... damn you, Marta Stewart, for that recipe.
I also remember the joy in my mom's face as we sat around the table. Even more than a decade later, guests at that dinner compliment me on how wonderful it was. No one remembers the potatoes.
So ... I've calmed down about the turkey. If it doesn't work out ... everyone likes pizza and there are a few joints that are open. Maybe I'll make or buy a back up lasagna.
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