You know I love Thanksgiving. You know I love all holidays. But this notion that Thanksgiving, almost by definition, is a stressful endeavor is simply not true. It is just a meal.
And yet, if you cruise around the Internet, you would think that Thanksgiving was the culinary equivalent of testifying in a trial where you are the defendant. You'd better have your facts right. You'd better have everything in order. You'd better have your story straight. Because one slip up, and you are guilty of culinary turkicide.
That is bullshit.
The reality is more like this: if you bought any turkey out there, fresh or frozen, organic or fed its own young, and tossed it in the oven with absolutely no seasoning or preparation at all, not even salt and pepper or the massaging of butter under its skin, it would still taste pretty much the same, assuming you didn't cook it into a Sahara state of overdoneness. Whether you brined it or didn't, air-dried it or didn't, basted it or didn't, it's still going to be just a humble, not that special turkey. Oh, I know there are ways to make it taste better, but most most people are going to get a couple of slices of it, pour some hopefully-decent gravy on it and be satisfied. So where's the stress?
And the sides? Really, how hard is it to make mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes or stuffing/ dressing or open a can of cranberry sauce or some Mac and cheese or some green beans or some roasted Brussels sprouts or a pumpkin pie or a pecan pie? If you just want to cover the bases, which is just fine, this is an easy holiday. Even easier, and only slightly more expensive, you can buy all of this stuff already made from a reputable place, and still have a great meal. Maybe no one will even know.
Plus, who has what else to do on Thanksgiving? It's a freaking holiday! If the food comes out late, if the asparagus casserole takes a little more time than expected, who cares? Give them some cheese and send them back in to watch some more football.
But in our declining civilization, this feeling persists that we need to make some big deal out of the Thanksgiving meal. The culinary world would have us believe that we need to embrace the latest Thanksgiving trends, when most of us like to do things the way our parents or grandparents did it on Thanksgiving, for the most part. That's why they call it comfort food, for gosh sakes.
I've never had a member of my family say, "Bob (or Dad), what innovations do you have planned for the meal this year? Could we have quinoa instead of mashed potatoes? Where is your turkey's farm located? Are the oysters in the dressing sustainable? Is there any chance that you could get us some corn locally-sourced from the fields where the Pilgrims originally planted and Squanto tossed in fish?"
Cruise the Internet, though, and you would think that the basic meal you have in mind is either all wrong or fraught with peril. Has there really ever been a Thanksgiving guest who said, "You know, this turkey is too dry. I'm outta here. I'm headed to Cracker Barrel. I prefer their atmosphere." I think not. But the Internet is swamped, not only with ideas for Asian-infused turkeys or creative uses for herbs in desserts, but also with posts that feed neuroses that don't need feeding. Guests need feeding, not neuroses. And feeding guests on Thanksgiving is not that hard.
Sure, I plan to put on a spectacular, well-timed meal, but if it isn't, I doubt I'll be disowned or socially-shunned because of it.
So why are there articles about "Thanksgiving Jitters" and what to do about them or "The Introvert's Guide To Thanksgiving"? Do we really need a Thanksgiving Day series of "game plans" year after year after year? Serve the beer or wine early and the dessert and coffee late, and it will all be fine.
Relax, have fun, eat when you feel like it, and, whatever you do, don't talk about the Syrian refugees with your Conservative relations.