After yesterday’s post that was directed toward men who needed a gift giving guide for their wives, I thought that today’s post should help women as they prepare for the big feast this week. Planning for this huge meal can be overwhelming for women, many of whom rarely cook a large meal. I hope this information helps.
- The old photos of Norman Rockwell-type Thanksgiving meals were staged. They were not taken at anyone’s actual dinner table. They were a myth. So quit trying to recreate them! We spend so much time trying to make everything perfect that we forget to enjoy the day.
- Give grace. For obvious reasons, people are very stressed through the holiday season, and they often forget those simple courtesies that are necessary for a pleasant time. Just in my house, my husband and sons have started working on something I asked them to do only to be sidetracked by something more exciting. They disappear for hours on end, all while I thought they were still completing the project I’d asked them to do. Gentle reminders rather than shouts will keep the day pleasant. “Son, please let your grandmother get her mashed potatoes first,” rather than sending him off to his bedroom will save the day.
- Ask for grace, too. When you’ve been shopping in crowds to pick up the three things you forgot, cleaning the house, finding the turkey roaster, and dealing with unruly (read “excited”) children, you’re not going to be at your best either. So ask for grace. Perhaps tonight at dinner or tomorrow morning at breakfast, talk openly about what behavior you will expect, what you will try to demonstrate, and how we can gracefully admonish someone who is off the target. Preparation goes a long way toward a peaceful holiday.
- Don’t cook too much food. One of the most exciting holidays for our extended family was the one when we decided that we did not want to eat Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter leftovers for the next week. If you only have two people in your family who will eat the sweet potato casserole, then don’t make servings for eight. Think about that. Those two poor people will have to eat sweet potatoes for four days to get rid of it. Furthermore, do you really need the seven-layer salad, green bean casserole, sweet peas, corn casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cornbread dressing, rolls, cranberry relish, ambrosia, AND turkey and ham? Really? If you have thirty people coming over, you might need all of these offerings, but many people will make this much food for only ten people. Do yourself a favor and read the numbers of servings yielded in each dish. Then do the math to determine what you really need. If you have a dish that people like and miss, then make it for Christmas or the New Year festivities.
- Have a plan. At my house, the shooting games will begin. We enjoy target shooting, so my sons will establish “games” and a set of rules for each (simple things like taking one shot and hitting two balloons, etc. – a game I won last summer!). If you don’t have a plan, you will provide your children and guests with a means to get bored. Bored children are trouble. Bored guests are bored. Perhaps the football game can be on in one room while another is set up for video or board games. Maybe you can use the extra family there to decorate the tree in the living room. Whatever you have, try to provide a fun and safe environment for all ages of your guests.
- Back to the food for a moment. Make a fruit dish. Why? Nearly everything on the list in point 4 can cause a digestive back-up (think for a moment, it will come to you). To keep things moving smoothly, make a fruit dish. I highly recommend Mamaw Lawson’s Ambrosia (see the recipe below). It’s completely yummy and will have the recommended outcome.
- The person who cooks the food is not responsible for cleaning the mess. This needs to be a rule for most households. When I spend all day for two days on my feet preparing a meal, the last thing I want to do when it is over is load the dishwasher and put away the leftovers. Even young children can clear their plates and place silverware and small dishes in the dishwasher. Show someone else where the Tupperware is and let them gather the leftovers. Meanwhile, you make a hot cup of chai and prop your feet up for a few minutes. You’ve earned it.
Mamaw Lawson’s Ambrosia
My grandmother had this recipe in her head and had never written it down. It took me many failed attempts to get it right. Rather than keeping it to myself, I share it with everyone so that when I’m too old to make it, someone else can prepare some for me. I’m writing it here as the recipe that fits my taste, but if you want more or less of a specific flavor, make it your own. Enjoy!
1-3 cans of mandarin oranges, drained (depending on the number of people you are feeding)
1 can of tropical fruit salad, drained
1 small can of cubed pineapple, drained (but since this is pineapple juice, drink it for breakfast!)
1-3 ripe (but not overripe) bananas, sliced
1 small jar of maraschino cherries, halved
¾ cup of shredded coconut
8-16 ounces sour cream
Combine the first six items and fold them together, then add as many marshmallows as you like. This will get juicy quickly, so fold the items carefully to avoid pureeing your ambrosia. Fold in the sour cream a little at a time to cover all the fruit. Stop when it looks yummy, and taste it to be sure it is. By the way, some people have tried to make this with whipped cream and have always found that it is just too sweet, so stick to the sour cream. This tastes great when eaten that day, but it’s much better after sitting a day (i.e. make this on Wednesday and refrigerate).