With the holidays right around the corner I’m starting to sweat. Halloween I can handle – hang a few spider webs, buy a few pumpkins and run over to one of our local consignment stores to buy a costume for my 2 year old. When Thanksgiving rolls around my friends and I usually gather on a designated day to celebrate our own Thanksgiving before heading out to family gatherings on the actual day. I love this tradition because it is a chance for a group of old friends to get together and it is fairly low key. One person hosts and usually cooks a turkey and a few other traditional staples. The rest of it is potluck, and I always pick something simple to bring like a salad or mashed potatoes. I’ve never hosted one of these gatherings, and I’ve never even seen an uncooked turkey let alone cooked one. For the actual Thanksgiving day I either hope for an invitation to a relative’s house or else just ignore it, figuring we’ve already had our Thanksgiving with my friends.
Before you start guffawing and asking if I was raised in a cave, let me just cut to the chase and say essentially, yes. Yes I was. Not a cave exactly but certainly not a home of domesticated bliss with family holiday gatherings of good cheer and edible delights. My parents started to boycott the holidays in the 80s and the last time I was home for Christmas we had warmed up noodles that we ate with our jackets on since the house was so cold (don’t ask). Mostly we just go out to restaurants.
This year I am hosting the friends Thanksgiving gathering for the first time. So how do I go from the cold house/warm noodles upbringing to hosting a fabulous holiday gathering with delicious food and happy guests (and dare I even hope -- a happy hostess…)? I’m going to start by taking Ben Salmon’s “Planning Your Thanksgiving Day Meal” class at the Adult School on November 1st. This class promises everything from creating a 3-week timeline to tips on how to deal with a mother-in-law who insists on helping.
Which brings me to my next challenge -- the big kahuna of holiday hosting challenges – my husband’s entire family is spending Christmas with us this year. Every other year they all get together at a different family’s house and seemingly, effortlessly the different family factions put together a wonderful holiday meal. We’ve never hosted because until this year when we moved to Maplewood, we always lived in a small apartment. This year on Christmas morning, 12 people are going to be staring at me and wondering what the plan is. God, help me. Or should I say Ben Salmon, help me. I called Ben today to ask if there was any hope for someone like me, and he assured me I would get through this unscathed. The first thing he said, which got my attention, is that he is a huge fan of doing the turkey on the grill and I might think about delegating this task to my husband since he is the griller in the family; I can then have the oven free to cook the sides and desserts. As you can imagine, I love the idea of delegating. I may not be much of a cook, but I’m a good delegator. The other thing, according to Ben, is that it is essential to be organized and have a plan. He told me if I take control of the event, it won’t take control of me, and I’ll get through this without feeling beaten up at the end. I’m starting to feel like Rocky preparing for his final fight.
I know I sound like Ebenezer Scrooge but really I’m just intimidated. I want to be able to be a good hostess and be able to handle cooking, entertaining and making everyone feel welcome. I’m hoping that after clearing the hurdle of my first holiday gathering I’ll realize it really is manageable… if not, we’ll be taking everyone to a restaurant the next time our name comes up in my in-law’s holiday hosting rotation.
There’s still time to register for “Planning Your Thanksgiving Day Meal” with Ben Salmon of Kitchen a la Mode so please join me on Thursday, November 1 from 7-9pm at the Adult School in my attempt to be this year’s holiday hostess with the mostest. Pre-registration is required. Call (973) 378-7620 or visit www.somadultschool.org.
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