HOW TO: Thanksgiving Dinner Sort of

Believe it or not, I have actually cooked an entire Thanksgiving dinner by myself.  Yes, hold your applause, please.

My sophomore year of college, I was a determined little thing.  On the first Thanksgiving after my parents split up, it was a weird time.  I was feeling unsure about the holidays with a split household, and– let’s be real here– the only perk to divorce is having two of everything fun, so I decided to ensure that there would be two Thanksgivings (AKA: TWO DAYS OF SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE). Thus, I volunteered to cook an early Thanksgiving feast for my father, brother and myself.

That’s right.  A 21-pound turkey for three people.  I said I did it, I never said I was smart about it.

Here’s how I did it (based on my not-so-great memory):

Gather your recipes.

Foodnetwork.com was my best friend.

Unfortunately, I’ve lost the exact recipes I used (LOL, so helpful, right?) but it’s not rocket science.  If you don’t have access to your true family recipes, then just look for those homemade comforts you know and love.  We’ve all got the basics.  My family has the turkey, sweet potato casserole, green beans, the very specific GFS bread rolls we know and love, Grandma makes the jello mold, The Delicious and Perfect Sausage and Sage Stuffing, and we try new cranberry recipes every year.

You know what your classic comforts look like and roughly what they taste like.  Sniff them out online. The internet is lousy with stuff like this.  Or just sit back and watch The Chew, Food Network or the Cooking channel on any given day during November.

Be realistic.

Learn from my mistakes.  If this is your first time cooking Thanksgiving, know your limits.  Store bought mashed potatoes aren’t cheating if you take them out of the plastic container before anyone gets there.  Bonus points if you mix in your own butter and sour cream.  They’re practically homemade.
But seriously.  If you’ve never done this before, don’t overwhelm yourself.  Stick to some basics for the most part, but pick one major dish to really wow the crowd if you need to satisfy your urge to get fancy.  Rather deliver a delicious traditional meal than a dry turkey and a really cool looking (but way over salted) homemade sweet potato au gratin (that’s a thing, right?).

Stalk your turkey (and other ingredients) EARLY

Thanksgiving is a big deal.  If you think you can go the day before and pick up a turkey, you’re going to have a bad time. 
How big of a turkey should you get? Let’s ask Martha.  She recommends 1-1.5 lbs per person for larger birds. AKA, my 21-pounder should’ve fed a good 15 people. Whoops?
Give yourself some time to get the bird without stressing out.  Keep it in the freezer, but don’t forget to factor in time for thawing it out.  Again, we can consult Martha here, or basically any other online source.  
Go shopping a few days in advance, or even more if you’re able.  Remember, this is a national holiday, and you’re not the only one looking for bread crumbs and canned sweet potato.

Double check yourself.

Before you wreck yo’self.
To cook a turkey, you need a turkey-sized dish.  Or one of those disposable tin pans.  The sweet potatoes also need their own dish, as do the green beans, and the mashed potatoes.
Do you have serving utensils?  Enough adult plates for the entire group that is coming over– not including your plastic and severely faded Pocahontas plate that you secretly stole from your mom when you moved out? 
There is more to this day than just food.  You also need the vessels to help get that food into your body.
There is no shame in asking around to borrow cutlery.  And that’s far less embarrassing than drinking wine out of mismatched plastic cups you stole from the bar.

Have fun.

Wine.  That is all.
Good luck!

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