It’s coming. And here are some Thanksgiving tips that might help you as you prepare for those in your pod, or those you can have over but safely distance from, or just for yourself, as you contemplate cooking for one and eating off your knees in front of a football game.
My sister asked me at what temperature I cook my bird. I told her it depends on how clean my oven is. If it is clean, then I start it off at 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Not so clean, I drop that down to 450. So, my first tip for preparation is to clean your oven. I have mine doing its thing right this very minute.
Last year I had the easiest time with Thanksgiving preparations in all the years I have been cooking for my family. I can attribute it to one thing and one thing only. I really organized my kitchen. Cleared the surfaces of all extraneous spices, candles, and geegaws. In my tiny kitchen this is a must. You would think I might have thought of it before, but no. No, I did not.
I have never understood how so many people who love to cook have such tiny and mean-hearted kitchens, and those people who can’t boil water, or won’t, have such magnificent tricked out kitchens in which not to cook. It seems cruel, somehow.
This is the time to get out all your knives and sharpen them. As Julia Child said, or was it Dan Ackroyd playing her, “You can’t do nothing without a sharp knife.” It’s true. Right now all my knives are dull as dirt, but soon I will line them up like little pointy-headed soldiers all ready for battle with carrots, beets, onions and celery. Not to mention carving that bird.
If you are able to be with loved ones surely there are favorite dishes they look forward to. It is the same in my family. But sometimes the chefs just get so tired of making the same things year in, year out. May I venture a word of advice? It is just fine to change up the menu, and to try a new recipe. Your family won’t mind—just as long as the original is on the table, too.
I decided I wanted to make an oyster dressing one year, mostly for my father, because it was what his mother made when he was a child. And I did. But he and my brother, Kevin, who also likes oysters, basically had their own private stock of dressing that year. No way was I springing that on the rest of them without the old standby mounded up in big bowls like always.
My great aunt Georgie spent every Thanksgiving with us and she and my mother both loved creamed onions. Little pearl onions covered in a cream sauce, let’s say a béchamel, yes, that sounds better. For several years after Aunt Georgie died, we dutifully served those onions, and no one touched them. They went straight from the table to the disposal.
We didn’t care. They reminded us of her, all those drives to the country to get her when we were little, her big cat, Susie, her little store and the candy bars she gave us. We needed those onions on that table, right there with us.
When menu planning, then, take care of Aunt Georgie.
As I write this I am aware of all the ways in which this year will be different. How, like everything, it is hard to plan, there is fear and uncertainty in it for many of us. We have lost so much this year, and for some that loss is immeasurable, and we feel it especially at a Thanksgiving table.
Even now, with numbers on the rise what we plan for this time next week might be undone by new orders and our own sense of changing safety needs.
But I am going to have a clean oven, sharp knives, two kinds of dressing. I’ll make that blasted cranberry salad, because, just as I vowed never again because not one of those ingrates deigns to even try it, my niece, Hannah, decided last year it was simply delicious. Oh, yes, it’s perfect on the day and even better on Friday atop a turkey sandwich. So she will have it…even if I have to leave it in some Tupperware for her to snag from the porch.