This year was the first Thanksgiving I have “hosted” with my family, and it was the first Thanksgiving that my husband and I have made the majority of the meal. I have always resisted this undertaking. When we lived – sans children – away from family for 5 years, we went out to eat or got takeout. No frills. No hoopla. No cooking. No table setup. No dishes to clean. It was glorious. This year, we are also away from family, having recently moved out of state. I was tempted to go out to eat again, but that seemed a bit wasteful from a financial perspective now that we are a family of 4. Plus, one of the appealing aspects of a holiday like this when you aren’t having guests or needing to be somewhere is having no time commitments. Making a dinner reservation would be a commitment. That didn’t appeal me.
So, this year, we ordered turkey breast from Boston Market. We ordered mashed potatoes and gravy. We bought a vegetarian turkey and gravy for my vegetarian daughter. But then we made a bunch of dishes. Roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash with cranberries and pecans. Mashed garlic sweet potatoes. Quinoa-broccoli casserole. Cauliflower sauce. Vegetarian stuffing. Carrots. And maybe another dish or two that I am forgetting. Timing the cooking of everything so that it was all warm at once was a challenge, but we did it all without losing our heads or our cool.
And then I realized that this is why I have been resisting ever taking on hosting a meal of this magnitude: the stress I have come to associate with it. Holiday gatherings do not conjure up warm and fuzzy memories for me, for the most part; they were stressful endeavors resulting from what I now think was a quest for perfection. The table had to look just right. The house had to be a professional level of clean. The food’s presentation had to be just so. And the perfectionist in me opted out…until this year.