Thanksgiving is one of my favorite Holidays. In addition to all the yummy food that comes with it, I’m a fan of any occasion that makes me stop and think about all the things for which I am so very thankful. This year, it’s all about family.
This year, I’m particularly thrilled because my entire (gigantic) extended family (on my mother’s side) is going to be celebrating Thanksgiving together – dozens of aunts and uncles and cousins and even a few new babies that have arrived this year are all flying down to Florida, and my mother (being the saint that she is) is hosting Thanksgiving dinner for 40 people at my parents house. You heard me – 40 people.
Clearly, Thanksgiving is going to be a bit different this year! We normally break out the “good china” and all gather around the dining table for a delicious homemade meal. I think the biggest it’s ever gotten is 13 guests – and even then we needed a separate “kids table” to fit everyone. It’s going to take over 5 dining tables to seat everyone this year – and about a hundred pounds of food – so we’re going to mix it up. We’ll have some (rented) tables set up outside in the backyard (I’m thankful for warm Florida weather!) and some tables inside. The food will be served buffet-style, and we’ll skip the good china since we clearly don’t have 40 place settings of that. We won’t fret over place cards and elaborate centerpieces – though I’m sure we’ll have fun with some autumnal flowers here and there.
Even though my incredible mother is capable of cooking for 40 people (she actually used to have her own catering business), there’s no way in heck any of us want her to have to do that for us and on a Holiday. This year, Thanksgiving is all about spending time with each other and enjoying this rare occasion when we’ll all be in one place. So we’re encouraging a semi-homemade Thanksgiving – and I think this is a concept to be embraced whether you’re having 4 or 40 people to the house.
Two years ago I cooked my own Thanksgiving dinner for the first time in my adult life (see my very full plate pictured below – I was so proud). Stuck in a small NYC apartment and unable to travel home to be with family, my boyfriend and I did a fun little Turkey dinner for two. I “cheated” and got the Turkey ready-made from Whole Foods (a genius idea if you ask me – since the bird takes forever to cook!) and made my favorite 6 or 7 sides from scratch (the sides are my favorite anyways; I made WAY too much). The highlight was the stuffing – my mother’s recipe, of course – and this year that’s definitely staying on the No Cheating list.
We’ve pretty much got it all mapped out at this point – and will start prepping and cooking things this weekend. I’ve been given the happy task of picking up all the wine (with help from the boyfriend, who is very good at choosing wine – again, something to be thankful for!). This is an important job – with 40 relatives all under one roof, running out of vino is simply not an option.
The homemade cranberry chutney was made this week and put into jars, several of us will help with the stuffing the day before, and we’ll make some of our favorite sides – roasted brussels sprouts, sweet potato casserole – the day of, with help from my aunts and cousins. The rest has been ordered from a local market that does catering – mashed potatoes, turkey, carrots, extra stuffing, and pies galore. I think this approach – mixing some homemade favorites (that we can’t live without) with some go-to dishes in large portions via catering – is something we’re all going to be thankful for.
I’ve always been fascinated and amazed by the thought that on this one night, millions of Americans are sitting down to eat the exact same meal, all over the country.
I’m curious – how do you plan to spend Thanksgiving? I hope you’re able to be with family and/or loved ones, and I hope you’ll enjoy a delicious meal – whether it’s homemade, store-bought, or a combination of the two.
Stay tuned for more updates from the trenches as I embark on this Family Reunion Thanksgiving bonanza…and do please let me know if you’ve survived a similarly large holiday gathering before!
In the meantime, check out some very helpful Thanksgiving guides here – they’re sure to help get you through the Holiday without losing your mind. There are time-saving recipes, gorgeous table settings on a budget, and even tips on how to deal with difficult relatives.
Not that I have to worry about that… ;)