Twelve Steps to a Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

In less than two weeks, people will enter my kitchen and demand a perfectly cooked dead turkey, smashed potatoes and chopped veggies. Sounds pretty violent. And although I STILL can’t cook a turkey so it’s done on time, I’ve found a way to make T-day cooking go a little smoother (yes, alcohol helps).

Before Thanksgiving Day:

1. Figure out who’s coming to dinner. Contact parents, siblings, children, distant relatives, grouchy neighbors and obnoxious co-workers to see if they will attend. Chances are, no one will tell you their plans until the night before the holiday.

2. Create the menu. It’s not that hard. Turkey, potatoes (mashed and sweet), cranberries (yuck), stuffing (double yuck), assorted Jell-O salads, vegetable dishes–and lots and lots of pie. With whipped cream. And sugar cookies.

turkey(Don’t mess with tradition. People expect turkey. That’s it.)

3. Divide menu items amongst the guests. Your cousin will bring a jar of pickles. Your aunt might bring a box of butter. Plan on making everything else yourself.

4. Purchase a turkey (and other Thanksgiving paraphernalia). To determine the size of turkey you’ll need, take the number of people attending and times it by 14. Subtract the cost of the turkey, and divide by how many parents you have (this includes step-parents). Add the time you’ll be eating dinner, plus the amount of time it takes to consume a bottle of tequila. Simple.

5. Prepare food ahead of time. Except for the turkey, potatoes, stuffing, rolls, pumpkin pies, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, chocolate cream pie and vegetable trays, everything else can be made the day before.

Thanksgiving morning:

6. Get up. Lying in bed, facing a day full of cooking, relatives, dirty dishes and calories, you might think it’s easier to snuggle back under the blankets and call in sick. Don’t bother. People will still show up. Start consuming caffeine/alcohol as soon as possible.

7. Cook turkey. As mentioned before, my turkey is either still gobbling at dinnertime, or has become turkey charcoal. To figure out cooking time, call the Butterball hotline, 1-800-DUMBASS. Or take the weight of the bird, divide it by the halftime score of the Cowboys game, add an additional 2.5 minutes for each time someone asks if dinner is ready, and subtract time spent crying in the bathroom. Should be golden brown (see above). At some point.

8. Set the table. Unlike Martha Stewart, I don’t have a banquet hall with full service for 25 people. So instead, I gather card tables, piano benches, concrete blocks, unused doors and a couple of old mattresses, and create a festive table with enough chairs for all!

T-Day(Eating outside keeps your home tidy. Caution: Not to be attempted during a snowstorm.)

9. Greet guests. You’re probably totally plowed at this time, so don’t say anything stupid.

10. Have a prayer. Even if you only pray when you’re in a plane hitting turbulence, assign someone to give a heartfelt thanks for surviving another year. And bless the food so your guests don’t die from food poisoning.

11. Eat. And continue eating for the next three days. Apple pie is good for breakfast any time of year. Turkey sandwiches are good only if made with leftover rolls. If you can sit with your pants buttoned, you haven’t eaten enough.

DSC_2960 - Copy(Eat until your eyes roll back into your head.)

12. Call “Not it!” when it’s time to decide next year’s Thanksgiving location.