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Thanksgiving is Coming: Five Tips for Hosting Turkey Day

By Caitlin Klein in Food on Nov 16, 2011 5:00PM

If you, like us, are attempting to host Thanksgiving this year (in a rented three-flat with a quirky oven and limited seating space), we wish you good luck. Hosting Thanksgiving can be stressful and intimidating to even the most laid-back home cook. We’re trying to take it one step at a time, and now that we’re just over a week away from the big day, we wanted to share with you our tips for staying cool, calm, and collected. Sort of.

1. Don’t panic. Even before you begin the planning process, realize that it’s highly likely that not everything will go perfectly, but it’s also highly unlikely that anything truly awful will happen. Yes, maybe you will drop the turkey on the floor. Yes, maybe your father will get into a fist fight with your husband about their ridiculous political views (that’s right, both of ‘em have ridiculous political views). Your mother-in-law is going to hate everything you make. Period. And it’s entirely possible that you will forget something you so carefully planned. Take a deep breath, own the process, and accept that hosting Thanksgiving is an opportunity to experience the day as it unfolds, imperfections and all. It will make for better memories.

2. Plan ahead. Did you know that you are supposed to thaw a frozen turkey 24 hours for each 5 pounds? If you get a 15 pound turkey, that means you need to get that sucker into the fridge by Monday evening at the latest. Do yourself a favor and get all the shopping done this weekend. Our best organization tip is to write out your complete menu, then create a booklet of recipes for each dish you plan to make. Place the recipes in the order that you need to make them.

3. Make ahead. Make as many dishes as you can ahead of time. Do not, we repeat NOT, wake up at 6:00am on Thursday morning and expect to get everything done. Make soups and chip dips up to three days in advance; cranberry sauce and certain vegetable salads can be put together two days in advance; and many other things can be made the night before, to be reheated on the big day. You will have guests in the house, and those guests want to see you. So you can’t be slaving away in the kitchen until the very last minute.

4. Ask guests to contribute. There is nothing rude about asking guests to contribute a special dish or bottle of wine. If a guest is known for something (“Aunt May makes the best pecan pie,”) chances are he or she will be glad to bring their dish and receive compliments from the group. Everyone likes to be needed, even party guests.

5. Give the people something to do. It is unlikely that you will have everything prepared by the time your guests show up. Give them something to do so restlessness and impatience doesn’t set in. Turn on a football game; set up some bocce in the back yard; put out board games. Set up some light snacks. Did you know that throughout the history of our country, most presidents have made official Thanksgiving proclamations? Read them ahead of time and print out your favorites; leave them out for guests to read at their leisure.

Any other Thanksgiving hosting tips?