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Thanksgiving Angst!

I have posted frequently on this board about the peculiarities of our family - kosher, vegetarian, carnivores and the needs to accommodate all of them in one meal. Well, I think I am reaping what I have sown and it hurts terribly! After years of hosting brother, his entire family and accommodating their special requests, they have chosen to go elsewhere this holiday!

We are down to 5 people, immediate family. Perhaps even less. College DD would really like to spend holiday with her high school friends in town, youngest DD would rather go to boyfriend's house. That would leave 3 for Turkey Day!

It's almost not worth cooking Tgiving meal with all the apps, side dishes, 2 desserts and big bird for 3 people. In 25 years of marriage, we have never gone to a restaurant, this may be the first time.

Should we cook or should we go out? Better yet, how do we get ourselves invited to someone else's family celebration? Support or encouragement much needed. TIA!

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  1. Go out. We will drive 45 miles out into the country and have an incredible meal with more options than we would ever have at home. What we will miss is shopping, cleaning, cooking, dirty dishes, left overs and more cleaning.

    1. I'd cook. Perhaps scale down to a turkey breast or a roast chicken perhaps but I'd still cook. Maybe also trim the menu a bit with just one starter and one dessert or something along those lines. I'd definitely still cook, though.

      1. Another vote for going out. When close friends/family ask what your plans are, mention that you really don't have any plans and are thinking about going to a restaurant. Who knows, maybe you can score an invite.

        1. Another vote for cooking at home. Even though we're just two, I prefer the home-cooked meal to Thanksgiving at a restaurant. Yes, it's a fair bit of work, but you can scale it down to just the essentials, which for us will be the smallest turkey we can get, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, one vegetable side, and maybe pumpkin pie, maybe no dessert at all.

          I have felt our thanksgivings spent at a restaurant lacked any real sense of occasion, we did not like spending it in the company of strangers, and most importantly, we really missed the leftovers and what DH refers to as "the second meal" (Tday dinner redux on Friday night!). For us, Thanksgiving was always spent at home and it feels wrong to do otherwise.

          1. My small family always invites a lot of friends and neighbors over who don't have family in town. It makes for such a fun festive occasion. People usually want to bring something so we assign apps or desserts and do the bird and main sides ourselves. You would be suprised how many people need a place to spend turkey day!

            1. Cook in. Establish the portions and have an "adult" meal. Get some great wine pairings and just kick back. Let the missing ones wish that they had dined with you. Nothing wrong with an intimate Thanksgiving meal. Say a word of thanks for all of your blessings, and for the missing folk, and then dig in. I give you full absolution!


              1. Why not just prepare a nice meal at home that doesn't involve traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

                No turkey, no stuffing, no mashed potatoes, etc.

                Instead, try maybe a nice veal shank? Paired with some polenta, or some risotto (deglaze the pan used for the veal and use it to make the risotto)?

                And, perhaps finish the meal with a nice apple cobbler?

                2 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I was going to suggest eating out...but ipse's is even better.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    That's exactly what I was thinking. Make your favorite foods that you might not normally do, or go all out and try something new that you've wanted to make. Or, do something that could involve the whole family, like making pasta and ravioli. Last year, my family (not me) did a huge crab feast. They said it was great.

                    But, I think it comes down to how much you enjoy cooking. If you love cooking, do it. If not, don't. Simple.

                  2. I'm thankfully 3,000 miles from my traditional family so I can blow off all the tumult. In or out, I usually have duck in some form and call it my turkey. You could even go to a Shanghainese restaurant and get a mock duck (vegetarian) appetizer. Afterwards, go to a movie.

                    1. I've always been more of stay-at-home cook than a diner-out, but a few years ago, my mother and I found ourselves alone for Thanksgiving and decided to go out for the dinner. After 30+ years of preparing a large family feast, my mom was a little apprehensive, but we had a wonderful time. The food was delicious, and they even gave us "to go" packs with leftovers (not our leftovers from our plates, but extras packaged up). In subsequent years, we returned to cooking, but that Thanksgiving with just me and my mom at a nice restaurant always sticks out in my mind.

                      1. If you don't want to cook for just three people (but want to cook), then why don't you just tell your kids that they need to eat with the family and can do dessert elsewhere? I don't think that it is unreasonable for parents to tell their kids that holidays are for family, and that after "family time" they can have "friend time".

                        1. We are having Thanksgiving out this year and I am so happy I could cry. First Thanksgiving since 1987 I will get to enjoy and not be working my ass off for hour upon hour for a meal I don't even like. I can even have beef! We're going to a local comfort food place that makes everything from scratch...we'll also save a HUGE amount on cost.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                            I had to laugh, Janet - glad you're getting T'giving YOUR way this year, knowing how much you dislike the whole T'giving meal thing. And just think - no 28 lbs. of turkey leftovers. :-)

                          2. We found ourselves in a similar situation last year, where we initially had expected to have to cook for 10, but at the last minute it was cut down to three (my son got horribly sick, and we couldn't expose my post-op father or baby niece to his illness, so everyone went elsewhere).

                            It was THE BEST Thanksgiving. We cooked at home, played games, turned off our computers and our work and just spent a lovely day as a family. We cut back on the meal, only cooking the turkey and the sides we particularly favored. Lit candles, opened some wine, and watched my toddler tear into a drumstick.

                            I vote for staying home, cooking, and enjoying your family in peace. Seems too rare when we get the chance to do that these days.

                            1. Go out. It's liberating to be freed from the madness once in a while. Find some really special place and make it an event for yourself. Sure, it's not the same as having a traditional Thanksgiving, but it can still be memorable. And everyone will appreciate it next year when you do it up big once again.

                              1. DB,

                                Jfood is going through the same discussion. Older little jfood on her own and may or may not join the house, college little jfood invited to friend's bash, not sure where she might be. Last year jfood was going through the lingering passing of FIL. Fortunately good friends invited M&M jfood to their feast and MIL stayed with FIL.

                                So with one year of history and the same situation staring him here is what he is considering.

                                It appears that best case of attendees this year is M&M jfood, MIL, and 2 little jfoods. Fortunately good friends are having a large group and asked them to join. So this may be an option. Likewise the idea of a small T'giving dinner with four people just feels as some nice downtime, but not as many laughs. So they will probably take the offer of the friends.

                                So from jfood's perspective, if you have friends that may invite, go there, if not, a nice relaxing small gathering at home where you can feel the food and the the meal is his second choice. Jfood is not a big fan of restaurants for Thanksgiving.

                                1. We seem to get every 3rd or 4th year 'off' so we've developed our own rituals for our small stay at home Thanksgiving.

                                  First of all, we ditched the Turkey and have Standing Rib Roast instead. I'd much rather eat leftover beef for the next three days rather than turkey.
                                  We also limit our sides to 3 or less and, more often than not, we simply end up ditching dessert and saving it for the following day. Honestly, the only thing I miss is the turkey gravy.

                                  It's also quite lovely to have a peaceful day with minimal work and no worries re: guests and dining prep.
                                  It pretty much just ends up being football, good food, and wine that gets opened around 3:00 in the afternoon.

                                  This year is an unexpected 'off' year for us and I CAN'T WAIT!

                                  1. I'd be inclined to cook. For me, a big part of Thanksgiving is the idea of 'Home' and you can't get that at any restaurant. Just call me a sentimental sap!

                                    Whatever you decide to do, enjoy!

                                    1. I'm alone this year due to hubby's deployment, so I've invited some friends and their dogs over for dinner. We'll have turkey and whatever to go with it. Each dog will get some turkey, too.

                                      1. I like to cook and enjoy all the preparation. Luckily, DH does a good job cleaning up as long as game is on in kitchen. Since the turkey has to be kosher (just in case DD attends), rib roast is prohibitively expensive. That would certainly be my preference.

                                        What I have decided to do is call up the OSU Hillel and volunteer to host a few college/grad students who can't make it home. Will also talk to our Rabbi about any new couples or families in town. We are not 100% glatt kosher, but I am sure there are people out there who would enjoy a home cooked holiday meal. This will also guarantee the celebration doesn't turn into a dysfunctional family gathering with the 3rd person (one of the DD) telling DH and I how much better all her friends' have it. Will require being on good behavior.

                                        Scaling down the meal to smoked salmon on flatbread with horseradish/dill sauce, hot artichoke dip & crackers, radicchio salad with roasted pears, raspberry vinaigreete and pecans, bakery rolls, roast turkey, homemade cranberry sauce (with brandy), mashed potatoes, green beans with almonds and honey roasted carrots. There is a cranberry lime tart from Bon Appetit I want to try and probably an apple pie. Thoughts?

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                          The best idea yet. Kind and generous to those who might not have a place to go for the holiday.
                                          We had grad students over several times years ago. They were fun and engaging. DH got them to playing Pictionary. Lots of laughing and teasing. We really didn't miss family too much.

                                          1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                            I think it's wonderful that you will try to host people you don't even know. The menu sounds great! You won't regret cooking at home. We have been on vacation twice at Thanksgiving and it was odd. My DH loves the leftovers and a traditional meal. One year we were in the process of moving and were invited to someone's club, the club served everything family style and we got to bring the leftovers home. Being at home on Thanksgiving just seems like the right thing to do and inviting others will make it more special.

                                            1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                              Well, I spoke to someone at the OSU Hillel today and it doesn't sound promising. Perhaps we waited too late. At first I think they thought I was weird or something and asked me to send a "proposal" via email. Maybe they get strange requests they interpet as terrorist or something, perhaps they will be checking us out. We will see. Have put out the work around my office, there are 150 people on my floor alone, so should get some nibbles.

                                            2. I would cook. I can understand though how big of a chore cooking the dinner is. I used to make the whole turkey, with numerous dishes and appetizers. Instead, I scale back to a breast, with no appetizers. The side dishes consist of roasted vegetables, which is much easier to cook. Plus, since I know there will be leftovers, I skip the mashed potatoes, and just bake a sweet potato. The next day I will make mashed potatoes for a yummy leftover meal. Another option is to skip the turkey, and instead cook something on a smaller scale like duck. Or, what about a veggie meal? One other option for side dishes: replace the traditional dishes with your favorities. As an example, I recall an Italian friend whose Mom always served Thanksgiving with pasta and meatballs. An Indian friend would serve masala dosa bread stuffing. I think by using different approaches to the meal can make it seem revatilized. On a personal level, I just feel that these holidays are meant for family and homecooking. Since I prep a few days before, it really doesn't seem like cooking a big meal.