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Bringing our own food to Thanksgiving dinner

OK, I've been married five years, and I think this is either the first or second time my husband and I have eaten with my parents. (Either they lived out of state, or I was working, or both.) It will be just them, us and my teenage stepson, no other guests.

My tastes, and the influence of my Southern husband, have changed since traditional Thanksgiving when I was a kid, so there are foods we want that my picky Yankee parents won't touch, like stuffed mushrooms and sweet potatoes.

Mom's making the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and most all of the veggies. We have compromised and I have agreed for her to just cook a breast, since no one eats dark meat besides the teen (and he eats white as well). My mother and husband are the only ones who eat cranberry sauce, but she likes it out of the can and he won't touch it from the can.

So would it be bad if I brought mushrooms, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin roll (something my parents might not eat but is required by my hsuband, both bc it's a tradition for him and because I make it sugar-free for his diabetes), as long as everything was pre-prepared or we could prepare it ourselves in her large kitchen without getting in the way?

I know you'll say, just ask my mom if it would bother her, but she's notorious for not telling the truth about things that irritate her. I'm just wondering how y'all would feel. Keep in mind she's not a big cook -- she's making what's traditional, but it's not like she has a special "menu" planned with wine, etc.

Any thoughts?

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  1. 1. Ask anyway. Judge her reaction by what she does when the shoes are reversed.

    2. Do not bring anything that requires her to concede logistics in the kitchen. That's rude to any cook, even (and sometimes especially) family, unless expressly agreed to. So, preference for things that don't require oven or frig space when your MIL needs *or wants* them. The sauce and the pumpkin roll should pass that test. I am dubious about the sweet potatoes, because I imagine you'd need the oven for that (unless it's without the skins and can be m-waved). Mushrooms should be able to be quickly warmed at an opportune time of your MIL's choice (which may be never....).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Karl S

      I would assume that if the OP's husband is southern, those sweet potatoes would be already cooked, mashed, and baked into a casserole and merely need a quick reheat, either in oven or microwave. It's a very forgiving, and portable dish.

      What's a pumpkin roll?

      1. re: danna

        Pumpkin roll is a dessert, a pumpkin dough rolled with cream cheese and walnut filling. My MIL made it for years before she died, and I found a way to duplicate it pretty well with Splenda, but we can certainly eat it at home.

        My parents are very finicky and not open to trying new things. I think cranberry sauce is the only thing my husband HAS to have at dinner, and absolutely won't touch the canned stuff, and my mom's the opposite. I think that's all we'll bring, because we can certainly have stuffed mushrooms any time. Hell, our T-givings have been so crazy the past few years, we'll look at this as another new adventure. ;-)

    2. Wow, quite a quandry. I can tell you that holidays at someone else's house is not my favourite activity (I'm a vegetarian and I always feel horrible asking, "does this have any meat, poultry, game meat, seafood or broth/additives of the aforementioned foods?"). I usually call the person and ask what I can bring. If they make a suggestions, great. If they say nothing, then I bring a bottle of wine. My best advice to you would be to eat before you go and plan to have a smaller, additional Thanksgiving meal (just you and your husband) afterwards with your favourite dishes.

      As a person who entertains quite frequently, I would be offended if someone brought a number of dishes to my house for a dinner I was hosting. It would make me feel as though they didn't think my food was adequate. Rightly or wrongly, I would feel hurt.

      1 Reply
      1. re: librarian

        My mom is a good cook, and I learned my mashed potatoes from her, and I know we will love whatever she's making and wouldn't want to eat beforehand. But since I've typed this I've realized that four dishes is way too much. I think I might just bring a small bowl of the cranberry sauce for DH and the mushrooms to reheat, so we're staying out of the way, and the bulk of the food still came from her.

      2. Covert Ops, before I saw your reply I was about to write that I agree with Librarian, but I think that paring down the amount of things you will bring is a good compromise.

        1. Be gracious guests: show up in good spirits, with hearty appetites, full hearts and celebrate the beautiful dinner your mother is lovingly preparing.

          All these posts about self-absorbed people insisting things be 'their' way for one meal of the year are just crushing the spirit of the holidays for me.... Really bumming me out.

          4 Replies
          1. re: chow_gal

            I agree, this meal will be tense enough without aggravating the food issues. :-P

            Tradition is one thing, but we've had such untraditional Thanksgivings the past few years (most years involved picking at rotisserie chickens on beachside or riverfront picnics) that we can do tradition at home any time.

            1. re: chow_gal

              I agree with being gracious guests. It's the most important.

              However, I also want to point out that at Thanksgiving, we are not necessarily "entertaining guests" but feeding family. And family is often a different, and more personal matter.

              I have a great number of diabetics in my family, so I try to have dishes that will not totally skew their glucose intake. Covert Ops, could you explain the need for the dishes you'd like to bring that way? Tell your mom you love her traditions, and that you'd like to add to them for the sake of your husband's dietary needs? At the same time, explain to your husband that some "musts" can be met at a different time?

              1. re: cayjohan

                It's more of a want than a need -- DH is on insulin, and he'll certainly take a heaping plate of mashed potatoes. It would just be preferably to, say, a cherry pie, but he just would end up skipping dessert. So I'll just make it for him earlier in the week.

                The more I read everyone's thoughtful replies, it's helped me crystallize my own thoughts -- thanks everybody! :-)

              2. re: chow_gal

                That's it. You nailed it. It's one freakin' meal out of 1,095 others in the year so jsut make the best of it.

                Often times I'll go to dinner knowing there will be stuff I don't like but hey you make the best of it and eat it anyway or enough to show your appreciation. I think it's called being an adult.

                That said, there's a gracious way around this. Just volunteer to bring a few things that your husband likes and leave it at that. Maybe ma and pa will like it.

              3. We're having TG dinner at my SIL's. Last year we said we had already ordered a turkey so our offer to bring this was accepted. This year she's made it clear that she want to do it all, despite not being in good health and the house remodelling going on. So we're going to go without anything and eat whatever she puts on the table. We fully expect that the food will not be good, but DH wants to be with his family so that's good enough.

                Of course we will still do our own turkey, we'll just eat it at home!

                1. Wow, all these posts agonizing over one precise day make me realize what a great idea my Early Thanksgiving is.

                  I love making a traditional Thanksgiving with all the trimmings, but my friends and I are all young singles and everyone goes home for Thanksgiving. SO and I do an early Thanksgiving so we can have a party with the friends before everyone goes home to family.

                  It works well in many ways: it's not ACTUALLY Thanksgiving, so there's no emotional attachment if I forget to make something or other (it's okay, mom will make it next week!). On the other hand, I do cover most of the traditional items so that if they go home for Thanksgiving and something's missing from the table, they think "Oh well, I just had pumpkin pie last week at Pei's" and it's not so bad. And for those whose familys don't do an American Thanksgiving, it may be the only turkey they see all year.

                  This is just a long way of saying: don't sweat the small stuff! It's just ONE meal. Have what you crave the next night if it means that much to you. Throw your own early Thanksgiving, or Late Thanksgiving. I hate the pressure that comes with holidays. I can't remember the last time a labelled holiday (Birthday, Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.) was more fun than a spontaneous "Hey, we're cooking Friday, come on down!"

                  There's just too much pressure and too much forced emotional attachment to one calendar day. If you place so much emphasis on one day, something's bound to go wrong and send you over the deep end.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Pei

                    Pei wrote:

                    ...don't sweat the small stuff! It's just ONE meal...There's just too much pressure and too much forced emotional attachment to one calendar day. If you place so much emphasis on one day, something's bound to go wrong and send you over the deep end.

                    Amazing the tidbits one can pick up on Chowhound. Pei, you are wise beyond your years. Your post is my new mantra.

                    1. re: Pei

                      Oh, I totally agree. I have a Thanksgiving meal with turkey and the trimmings right when the season starts to feel like fall, with the first cool snap. You can never be thankful enough about the good things in your life, so anytime is right for TDay.

                      1. re: Pei

                        That sounds like one of the best ideas I've ever heard.

                      2. I think bringing ONE dish = making a thoughtful contribution to the meal. But bringing multiple dishes is definitely rude and insulting. It is saying that you don't trust your host to provide an adequate meal. And the spirit of the one thing you bring should be contributing something your hosts might actually enjoy, not something you have to have. If it serves both purposes, then fine, but I wouldn't bring something like cranberry sauce if you know your mom won't like it, and you know she is providing her own version of it.

                        1. I think you made the right choice to bring only the cranberry sauce and the mushrooms.

                          Our dinner is a lot different. Since my parents are getting old (in their 80s) we are eating at my sister's house. Her only comment was, I'll host as long as I don't have to do all the cooking. So everyone (there will be 16 of us) is bringing something. It will be an interesting dinner if nobody wants to make the turkey. (that won't be a problem, since my sister did say she would make that) But we always make two types of cranberry sauce, I bring lots of wine, and my DW will probably make an apple slaw/health salad. One of my sisters is a great baker so we will let her do those things. But who knows what will be for dinner. All that is really important is that we get together and have a great time telling the various spouses and children stories about their spouses/parents when they were young. For some reason my son (who is 18) is still amazed that there is always something new to learn about his old man.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: dinwiddie

                            That sounds a lot like our T-giving. My grandmother is 99. She lets us have T-giving and Christmas at her house, and that's about all. Food is divi-ed up amoung the children, grandchildren are allowed to bring food or not bring food as they choose (I'm talking about 40 year-old grandchildren here)

                            I can't even remember a time when it wasn't similar. I remember when MaMa used to make the biscuits and a pound cake...those were the last items to go before she became too frail. One aunt used to try to bring something new every year, but over time she learned that changes to the T-giving traditions would be (ever so politely) scorned.

                            As designated baker, I do get to bring something different every year, because no one likes pumpkin pie anyway.

                          2. Your question prompted mine and would love some opinions, please.

                            We are away from home for Thanksgiving and had planned to go to a friend's house for dinner. She knows I'm allergic to turkey and cinnamon and would have had some other smaller roast meat to accommodate and I would have brought a second dessert for everyone.

                            Now it turns out that she's not doing the dinner at her house, but we've been invited to go with them to another friend's home (Friends of theirs, not ours). To complicate things even more, I'm in the midst of some serious health issues which preclude my eating anything raw (fruits, vegetables, salads, whatever). I am not about to tell a hostess who is having my husband and me at the last minute that I cannot eat her main course, so will make something of my own to bring as an alternate, as well as a dessert for everyone. Oh - and they keep kosher, so we will have to bring paper plates and plastic utensils, as well, since I'm going to make a brisket (actually, tzimmis with potato knaidle, from The Joy of Cooking) which will not be prepared with kosher meat.

                            Question: should I bring the entire dish? (Wrapping it in silver foil, according to my friend, will keep it from 'contaminating' the rest of the meal or the oven, if it has to be reheated before dinner). Or should I just bring a portion for myself?

                            The dessert is baked pears - no dairy involved - so will not be a problem.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Deenso

                              I think in this instance I would just bring a portion for yourself.

                              1. re: Deenso

                                If it were up to me, I would ideally bring an entire dish, but something that everyone can eat (i.e., kosher). But if you can't bring something everyone can eat, I would just bring a portion for yourself. I definitely wouldn't put a big non-kosher dish on the table for all to share in a home that keeps kosher.

                                1. re: Deenso

                                  Gosh, you know: to be honest, I'd skip the whole thing. But I'm an impatient agnostic introvert ;-)

                                  1. re: spigot

                                    Me too (would skip the whole thing). It kind of sounds like you are bringing a picnic to their home, although clearly you have good reasons to do so. If it's important to you to have the social/communal experience, can you join them for after-dinner drinks?

                                    1. re: julesrules

                                      Well, it's going to be a lot simpler than I thought. I just purchased a roast chicken plate from a kosher market/restaurant, which I will bring with me. It can be reheated or not (I don't mind cold chicken at all) and it can be served on their plates, since it's kosher.

                                      I spoke with my host this afternoon and asked if I might bring a dessert. She asked me not to, so that's that.

                                      Thanks, everyone, for your input. And Happy Thanksgiving!

                                  2. re: Deenso

                                    I'm sorry you're having such food issues! Just one thing though, I sincerely hope you've cleared your plan with the host directly (not just through your friend). Many kosher homes would be very unhappy with you bringing unkosher meat into the house. It may be much worse to her than you telling her you can't eat the main course, and she may prefer to make you somehting herself, like a simply prepared piece of chicken for example. Definitely give her a call!

                                    1. re: Deenso

                                      Are you hosts aware of your plans? If your hosts keep a stirctly kosher home no food that is unkosher (i.e. prepared by someone who does not keep kosher or from an unkosher kitchen or from an unkosher food.) Paper plates won't allow you to eat unkosher meat in their home and you won't be able to use the kitchen to heat the meat up (stove, microwave, oven, etc.)

                                      If they are less observant, the pears might be acceptable but I really think unkosher meat is a poor choice. Please speak to them first. It could be a very unpleasant dinner for everyone otherwise.

                                      1. re: Deenso

                                        Regardless of the kosher issue, I would hesitate to bring an unexpected, unreqested dish to a dinner. Don't you think there will be some cooked vegetables available? potatoes, rice, beans, carrots, something? Bread? Dessert without cinnamon? I think the most polite thing would be to eat what you can and not say a thing. I know it's frustrating not to eat a big meal on Thanksgiving, but at least you won't get chubby like the rest of us ;-)

                                      2. Put yourself in the hostess/host's place--how would YOU want a guest to handle special needs at YOUR table? I think a short frank discussion with the cook is all that's necessary.
                                        Guest: "You know, Bob can't eat sugar--can I bring a blank casserole for him?"
                                        Cook: "Of course! And I'll be sure to have an extra plate of blank for him, everybody likes blank!" etc.

                                        1. You should never bring food to someone's dinner unless requested. There are allowances for family of course but four dishes is really quite a lot, especially when two of the dishes require heating in a likely-to-be-overtasked oven. Just call her and ask. You might also try to narrow down your list somewhat to two dishes, only one of which needs to be heated.

                                          1. As a final word on the subject, may I direct readers to today's New York Time's article on Thanksgiving etiquette?


                                            Items #2 and #16 specifically address the issues discussed here. And for those following the posts that have been pulled from this thread, the experts who compiled the list include Peggy Post, scion of the famous Post etiquette arbiters.

                                            1. Covert Ops, when you have a moment, (it can totally wait 'til after the holiday)would you please post your pumpkin roll recipe? Both the original and splenda versions would be great. I hope all went well at your folks. Thanks, Kiwi

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: kiwi

                                                My pleasure, Kiwi. I haven't made it yet, either. :-P Here ya go: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/346095

                                              2. As I sit here on T morning thinking about the meal, my DW and I just discussed what will be served this afternoon during our away game.

                                                Our thoughts are similar to Pei's above. It's just a meal.

                                                Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for our health, our family and the good fortunes we all have. It is not about preparing 5-star dinners. There are 364 other days to worry about food. Today is for family and relaxation. Make a good res for saturday night. We have several.

                                                1. Re invitations to Thanksgiving dinner that turned out weird, try this one: we once were asked to TD by an old friend who, it turns out, has the annual tradition of roasting a turkey but cooking nothing else at all. Doesn't want anything else. Just leaves the cooked turkey in the kitchen all day and anybody wanting some just goes in and pulls off a wing or a leg or something and gnaws on it. We have not celebrated Thanksgiving with this friend on any subsequent occasion.

                                                  1. Now that the holiday is over, did anyone have a change of opinion?