I will never forget the first Thanksgiving dinner I hosted for my family. Newlywed in our new house, my husband and I were excited and nervous the night before. Then disaster struck. My charming “new” Edwardian home was built in 1903 and while I’m sure the refrigerator wasn’t nearly as old, the outdated appliance inexplicably quit working.
These things don’t sound an alarm when they go out but when I realized my bird wasn’t as cold to the touch as it should have been, I nearly panicked. I quickly reminded my husband that it had been my idea to replace the rinky-dink fridge when we bought the house but this was no time to argue! With casseroles cooling on the stove, waiting to be shoved in the tepid refrigerator, my twenty two pound bird was probably breeding salmonella for all I knew.
Visions of family members reeling with sickness nearly made me panic but I flew into action, dispatched my husband to the nearest gas station for ice, promptly wrapped the bird with an entire roll of cellophane and shoved it into an ice chest. I stuffed freezer bags with ice and placed them on top of my casseroles and the dinner was saved. All in all I was a little impressed with my ability to improvise!
Most Thanksgiving disasters can be avoided with simple planning and improvisation. Make a list of last year’s troublesome moments. Did you run out of room in the fridge (unlike my disaster, at least yours worked!). Clean it out down to the bare essentials the night before. Maybe you went to the pantry to cook a dish and realized you thought you had everything you needed. This time, write down every menu item and it’s ingredients for a checklist before you think you know what’s in the cupboard. It only takes a minute to do an inventory! Did you end up making all the food, doing all the decorations and clean up? For your own sanity, make it a potluck! Were kids running a muck? Doing a “stressor” inventory checklist will help you make things even better this year.
Start thinking of things you can do now! As always, the more you cook in advance, the less stressful your day will be. Things like pie crusts, dough, and casseroles will freeze well. Break up the “deep cleaning” chores into two weeks, tackling a room each day or delegating those chores to your kids or spouse a few days before. Prepare indoor and outdoor activities for kids or enlist an older teen to babysit for extra money. Who says you can’t decorate now? Now is the key word…
Whatever you do, don’t wait until the night before Thanksgiving!