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Another Thanksgiving thread...to accept contributions or not?

My husband and I were having this discussion just this morning. I used to *never* accept help. I wanted things the way I wanted them. Period. I'm not a control freak about much, but I can definitely get my cook-zilla on when trying to execute a party or holiday celebration.

I finally relented a couple years ago and decided that I would accept the gracious offers to help. When it came to grocery shopping and prep, I loved the idea. It was so nice to have a much shorter to do list.

It was all good, of course, until they arrived with said dishes and I was bombarded with "Where should I put this? Is there an oven I can use? This needs to warm on the stove." Or worse, when they had to GET INTO MY KITCHEN to cut, slice, garnish, whatever. i think I almost lost it when my husband's aunt offered to bring the relish tray and walked into the house with jars of pickles and olives in a grocery bag. Not only did I have to stop and find her a tray, but then we needed to find room for all the open pickle jars.

Yes, I know I sound like a curmudgeon, and the offers to contribute are very considerate. I just don't want them in *my* sandbox. KWIM?

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  1. LOL, I hear you, I am a total control freak and I just don't like having other people "help" in my kitchen. I have a system in the kitchen, and it takes too much time to stop and answer the "where do you keep the...", "where can i find x....". Ugh. I grew up in a very small family and am used to doing things just me. Maybe if I was from a big family and was used to lots of people always around, I'd feel differently. It even bothers me a little when my spouse cooks!

    1. First of all, I have to admit that I had to look up "KWIM". I guess I'm kind of an old fashion "use words" kind of guy. Nonetheless, thank you for providing the impetus for me to learn something.

      As to the focus of your point, I'm good with people helping if they are adding value and I have learned to manage the Holiday kitchen so as to function pretty well. In part, I think it may be because, I have cooked in so many other folks' homes that I can find a bit of balance.

      Now, I have certainly grown a bit frustrated - even had to step in to finish things that were taking too long or a little over the "bringer's" head - but, that's what stepping away to fix a cocktail is for. At the end of the day, I just remember that they are trying to help, to share, and to celebrate with us.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MGZ

        MGZ, I'm with you. I have no problem at all with someone helping me out, but when I have to stop every 30 seconds and constantly answer questions (Cut them THIS big? Do you put this in too? How much do I put in? Should I stir it this fast? Do you have a recipe? EXACTLY half a cup?), when their "help" is actually more work, then, and I say this with the most heartfelt gratitude, no thank you.

        Now, if you're going to help me by doing your own thing, or by making something you already know how, please, go crazy!

        It also drives me nuts when I AM making something that my would-be helper knows how to make, they ask me if I want help, I agree and appreciate it, and then they stand there and ask me "Ok, what do you want me to do?" Uh, you see me prepping the bird/chopping the onions/seasoning the steak, so just do whatever is next/left. Why do you need me to instruct you?

      2. I know EXACTLY what you mean. We don't have a problem at Thanksgiving because those guests either don't bring anything or "like me" and know how to be a good "bringer" but many times I was inconvienced by guests saying they were bring a dish only to have them arrive with ingredients.

        1. I am the same way.

          At Christmas we have beef & my brother makes a great salad and I would ask him to bring it. He'd come in with a grocery bag of vegetables (not cleaned, sliced, or chopped) and makings for salad dressing.

          Two years ago, I told him I would make the salad. I make it that morning, put it in the frig and add dressing just before serving.

          1. The only outsourced item I allow is candied yams, and that is only because it uses and old family recipe and it would not matter who makes it. Usually my sister makes it these days, and always cooks it completely, and the. I just need to caramelise the top while the turkey rests, and always allow for the oven space required.

            Additional dessert is also permitted, and can stay in the garage or go in the fridge in the basement.

            1. I'm the baby,42 years married,sister and sister in law both older.We don't do sandbox help.No the oven is spoken for etc is the way it works for us. that said and yes it's work
              We are a large bunch that celebrate most holiday twice.2 Seder dinners,Thanksgiving from noon,dinner at 3:00,Thursday and Saturday,Christmas and Hanukkah are good for 3 or 4 big dinners to satisfy international travel,on call schedules and everyone gets a chance to visit and celebrate.
              The only thing we delegate is cheese,cold appetizers,rolls and dessert all plated etc for service so the helper won't need the counter or oven etc.

              1. When I am having non-family members and they offer to bring something, I ask them to bring a side dish that was their own family favorite, ready to serve even if it needs heating. So far, has worked out well.

                2 Replies
                1. re: escondido123

                  This. Found I needed to be quite clear, meaning that the communication ball was in my court (my kitchen, my rules). No fuss, no muss once it was clarified.

                  1. re: pine time

                    I agree it's about communication. I do ask people what they are bringing and make the assumption that they will need kitchen space and stove/oven space to heat things up. One Thanksgiving, one of the guests was a professional chef who had a small kitchen. He brined the bird in his restaurant kitchen, brought it over the day before with VERY clear instructions on heating the bird. We just did as instructed and the turkey came out perfectly. He carved of course.

                2. I have a friend who has the opposite problem, he invited a bunch of family members to Thanksgiving then got upset when nobody offered to help, so he got angry and stormed out of his own home.

                  He's a weird guy.

                  1. Okay, I totally misconstrued what this thread would be about til I read it. I *thought* you would have a bunch of people offering to bring dishes only....innocuous stuff like a crudite tray, or cheese and crackers, or a tray of cookies.

                    No, you're not a curmudgeon.

                    My kitchen is TINY (I mean...tiny....DH, dog and I bump into each other if we're there at the same time), but even if I were in a mansion, ixnay on the stuff that needs to be heated, prepped, etc UNLESS YOU GIVE THE GREEN LIGHT first.

                    Are the contributions just "Announced" to you or do they say "Hey, I was planning on using your kitchen table to filet a fish, then stuff it and cook it, okay with you? Or should I just bring wine?"

                    1. Hot, some might even say sore, subject in my household right now.

                      Certain people in my family offer (one might even say "demand") to host certain family holiday gatherings. Some even insist on hosting this meal year after year, feeling that somehow Thanksgiving (or Christmas, or Easter) is "their thing". And while I'm appreciative that they host (because I am a working mom with a young child and have a only a small dining room and I don't really have the means to host it properly), Thanksgiving/Easter/Christmas are MY holidays, too. If I want to celebrate these holidays with family, this is the gathering I have to attend. Or, I have to spend it without family. (and believe me, staying home and celebrating quietly with my husband and child and NOT bringing my child to the big, extended family feast for everyone's entertainment like he's some kind of trained poodle is apparently not an option).

                      So, if I want to have my favorite Waldorf Salad at Thanksgiving dinner, I have to bring it. If I want my special Easter Bunny Cake at Easter Brunch, yep, I've gotta bring it. If I want my favorite cranberry dressing at Christmas dinner, well, I have to bring it. If I want these things to be part of my child's early holiday memories, and I do, well, I have to convince my host to allow me to bring these things.

                      So, while it's very gracious of you to offer to host your family, remember that this is everyone else's holiday too. I think this is especially important if this is a meal you host every year, which allows no one an opportunity to have their favorites if they cannot bring them to your soiree. Be sensitive that they may have favorites and traditions they want to enjoy and share with your family, which also happens to be their family.

                      Now if you all take turns hosting this particular holiday and Thanksgiving rotates around every year, I say you can be more restrictive because they will get their chance to serve that crazy, overly sweet pile of sugar carrots when it's their turn to host.

                      I think it's totally fair of you as host to ask what they had in mind so you can do your menu planning. I think you can also put some reasonable limits on what state the dish needs to be in when it enters your home. I think you can say, "Oh, I hate to ask, but can you bring that in a crock-pot already warm? All of my oven space is accounted for..." Or, "My kitchen gets really crowded at the last minute, please make sure that salad arrives already garnished." or whatever.

                      And since you have people who have been offenders in the past, do your best to anticipate whatever havoc they will wreak and ward them off the best you can. If your husband's aunt (if this is a very elderly person, I'd probably just let her be. Have a serving platter tray ready for her and maybe a cooler with ice in it for her damn jars...) is going to do that pickle thing, see if you can't gently suggest she come with her dish already prepared. Maybe you can appeal to her vanity that it's such a hit with the crowd that you want to be able to put it on the table the second she puts it out so everyone can enjoy it... Also, if she's a very difficult person, I'd appoint my husband to be in charge of managing his own aunt so I didn't have to deal with her.

                      But, above all, remember, while this may be your home, this holiday doesn't belong solely to you. It's everyone's holiday.

                      ~TDQ

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Well put. Everyone needs to remember that once you invite people over for a holiday or event, it's not just about you anymore. It's mostly about your guests. That's what being a good host means.

                        That said, I've been in your shoes (I mean the OP's shoes), and the key here is communication. When you are arranging this meal, and you and your guests are deciding who brings what, make it clear what will and won't be available for them as far as kitchen access. So if you won't have an oven available to heat dishes, make sure that everyone with a long drive is bringing something that can be eaten cold or at room temp. And if they are set on a holiday favorite that you don't make, then ask the question: what will you need to get this ready for the table? If they do need to reheat, look at rearranging some of your cooking. Doing the turkey on the grill, for example, to free up an oven. All this can be arranged if you and your guests communicate ahead of time, and figure it out. On the day, tempers are more likely to flare.

                        I'll share an anecdote that is an example of bad communication. We were at my mother's house for Christmas, but I was doing all the cooking. My nephew's wife had offered to bring a dessert. A creme brulee which needed to have the sugar topping torched at the last minute. She was staying with a sister in another house, a few miles away. When she brought her dessert to dinner, she forgot her tiny butane kitchen blow torch. No problem, I said, it will be fine as is. Now, the house we were in had a real blow torch out in the garage, but I didn't want to deal with this person's dessert, so I didn't mention it, and frankly didn't think about it. So after dinner, without saying anything to anybody, this person gets in her car and drives back to the sister's house, to retrieve her blow torch. Leaving the entire table waiting, wondering where she went, and not able to start opening presents until she gets back. Dessert, was not a problem, as there were other desserts and we were full anyway. Everyone was furious, because she took over half an hour to do this, all to put a sugar crust on a dessert no one gave a d@mn about anyway, and we all wanted to move on to our gift exchange. After this, dealing with this person has meant being very clear: bring something ready to serve, or don't bring anything at all.

                        1. re: MelMM

                          Oh such a sad story about the creme brulee!

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: MelMM

                            Yep. There are two fundamentals - management and communication and the latter is necessary to facilitate the former.

                            1. re: MGZ

                              All well and good....IF the people you're dealing with are receptive to your communications.

                              On Thanksgiving, and any other meal I prepare, I'm in 'the zone'. I'm a major multi-tasker in/out of the kitchen and I have my way of doing things.
                              I'm very fortunate to have family/friends who come into my home and love the food I prepare. They're all comfortable with the idea that I make the food and they eat and enjoy it.
                              I hire the help if I need it and don't expect my guests to assist me in any way. I want them to enjoy the day. As others have mentioned.....referring to holidays....yes this is everyone's day to celebrate. But those guests who absolutely insist on bringing their food into my home and expect me to accomodate their every need in preparing it? No. I don't have the time, patience or desire to do this. I'm doing my own thing. It's rude on their part to feel that entitled.

                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Great reply!
                            Makes me think about my whole outlook in my hosting but doing it their way. I don't mind doing both their stuff and mine.

                            1. re: melpy

                              Yeah, I"ve read some of your posts over in the "do you dread Thanksgiving" thread. I'm sorry people are so difficult. Why do people have to be so difficult?

                              ~TDQ

                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                              This is why we do 2 of each holiday celebrations. The big, show off the kid event with food we generally don't want and can't control (non-Chowish, to say the least), and then our own quiet celebration with our traditional dishes that we enjoy, in our home. Then we don't have to worry about not having any room OR missing our favorite dishes.

                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                Well, I'm a pretty new parent. I have the feeling we will evolve into something like that... If you don't mind my asking, what dates do you do these on? Ie., do you do the big family thing on Thanksgiving Day and then your small one that same weekend?

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  Since I got to be dating age (which was a LONG time ago), my family has always had their Thanksgiving on Friday. Much of the time, I had a boyfriend's house to go to for their family celebration that Thursday, and we were always happy to have ours on Friday as it gave my Mom time to prepare some things a day ahead like pie, some sides, etc. I kept that tradition when I started my own family, it's just so much easier to go to the big celebration and eat whatever they are serving and then look forward to our own the day after. On the days when one of us would have to work on Friday, we'd have it on Saturday. Or Sunday. No big deal. As to Xmas, we go to his family on Xmas eve and do our family Xmas day. Easter is "whenever." Saturday before the Sunday usually.

                              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                You make good points! And family memories are an integral part of all Holidays. I host Thanksgiving, and I do the turkey, stuffing, gravy, potaotes and vegatables. My family supplies the appetizers and desserts. And these things have become a tradition. On SIL brings her wonderful clam chowder, one brother makes stuffed mushrooms, another brings a mexican dip. Two of my SIL's are fabulous bakers, and bring cookies, trifle, pies, and lots of other goodies. I realized last year how important the family traditions are. I forgot to buy the after dinner mints ( which are in bowls on either side of the fruit bowl my Mom always makes), and one of my neices noticed they were missing!! WIll make sure I have them this year.

                                1. re: macca

                                  Wow am I being taken for a fool. If I'm lucky, husband's family wlll bring a bottle of wine. And they need a handtruck to get out the door afterwards.

                                  1. re: coll

                                    Love our system- I have the kitchen to myself, yet everyone contributes. Now that some of the kids are older, they often bring something. We do have 5 celiacs in the family, so preparation is a bit more difficult- but I cook two turkeys, bought special utensils to use to make their stuffing, gravy, etc. Our entire family also vacations together every year on the Outer Banks, so we are used to cooking for all of us, and have learned that the meals are fun to make when we all do what we enjoy, My SIL has become fabulous at making deserts for our celiacs- and neither of her kids have the disease!

                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  TDQ - you never fail to be rational and KIND. I think this view of things is great.

                                3. Meh, if I like them enough to have them over for thanksgiving I like them enough to have them inconvenience me for a couple of hours in my kitchen on a family holiday. Just drink more and go with the flow ><

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: twyst

                                    I'm with you. My T'day has always been with friends. I get the feeling those who have it with family (you can choose your friends....) appear to have the harder time.

                                    1. re: twyst

                                      Agreed. I think many people forget that they are hosting those they care about and get uptight when their "performance" gets interrupted. This isn't a special dinner party, for crying out loud...it is Thanksgiving. The one holiday about feasting...when even your guests get excited about adding to the cornucopia. Let them. Issue instructions if need be, but LET THEM.

                                    2. I have a tiny kitchen and this is one of those situations where using a huge and intimidatingly sharp knife can send the message that a polite host will not speak aloud - "perhaps you should find place to finish your prep." When busybody type guests arrive, I bust out my extra large CCK Chinese cleaver and find something to chop in a fast and violent manner. That, or I bust out the blowtorch (bernzomatic or equivalent, please - those wimpy brulee torches won't scare anyone). After that, most people find another work area and tread gingerly while I'm working.

                                      That said, I have several friends that I quite enjoy cooking with, in my kitchen or theirs - most are professionals or have been at one point. But there is a dynamic both cooks need to understand and respect, and I dislike cooking with people who don't get that dynamic.

                                      1. I mean this in the nicest possible way, but the first time this situation happened to you as host, I'd chalk it up as a "rookie mistake." Some people (like some of the guests you described) are not organized cooks, and the concept of mise-en-place is alien to them and/or they have never hosted a large gathering themselves and have not thought through the whole "oven/counter/fridge space and timing" issues with a Thanksgiving dinner preparation. OP didn't really ask for input on how to deal with this in the future, but I'll throw some ideas out there for others who might have similar issues or are getting ready to host the holidays for the first time.

                                        If you would like to have people bring things to your dinner -- which I think can be a nice way to make people feel included -- you do need to offer some guidance and guidelines (but not micromanaging) to the Bringers. I'm sure OP and other hosts already ask guests which items they will bring so you didn't make similar dishes yourself. In that vein, during the course of that discussion is a great time to say, "I love the idea of you bringing your famous sweet potato casserole, but I've worked out my gameplan for the day and I know my oven will be full up to dinner time. Maybe you could bring that amazing sweet potato pie instead? That would help me so much with desserts." Or, "A relish tray will be so much help and everyone will love something light to munch on until I get dinner out. The kitchen will be a little crazy that day with all my cooking and prep, so I'm letting everyone know there really won't be extra counter or fridge space that day. If you could bring something ready to go, that would really make things easy on everyone, especially the other guests."

                                        The other thing you may have to do is have some Plan B ideas in your back pocket for the people who will insist on doing things their own way, regardless of your direction. "Oh, this is just a small dish and only needs to be warmed up a few minutes. Can we squish it in the oven?" If you have options at that point, like a counter-top oven (e.g. a Nesco or similar you dug out of the attic the day before) you can plug in somewhere -- not necessarily even in the kitchen -- great. If someone needs to keep things cold, do you have a place ready and cleared in the garage or porch and maybe even an extra cooler clean and waiting for this emergency? Can the guest who brought a head of lettuce and whole vegetables instead of the salad they promised be sent to the living or dining room (or extra bedroom) with a cutting board and knife and asked to work in there? A couple Plan B ideas are always good to have in your back pocket. Yes, it's a bit more planning, but it's sort of like any time you manage people -- just because you task someone else to do something to help you does not mean you won't have to spend time giving them direction and also be ready to have an alternative idea if something doesn't turn out exactly as expected.

                                        Of course, the other option is to put your foot down about food "help" altogether, although this can be especially difficult at the holidays. I'd put the onus on guests here to remember they have accepted a gracious dinner invitation and not an invitation to bring the (insert family recipe here) Thanksgiving dish they think everyone cannot live without if the host is not already making it. As host, if someone sincerely offers to help me and I don't want kitchen assistance, I'll certainly offer alternatives -- OP suggested a couple, like shopping help. Or clearing the table or handwashing the wine glasses...I appreciate something like that more, personally.

                                        As other posters mentioned, it's tricky at Thanksgiving because the ownership of the holiday is not just the hosts, but everyone's. Sometimes guests really hanker for memory-triggering dishes, especially at Thanksgiving, and if you as the host can't or won't make their specialty dish, they will insist on bringing it no matter how sweetly you ask for an alternative. The bottom line is ultimately the holiday is supposed to be about THANKSGIVING, so we all need to take a deep breath and remember that, even when you're in the weeds back in the kitchen because of crazy Aunt Flo and her bags of sealed pickle jars for the relish tray. Does that mean we put up with crazy Aunt Flo bringing 84 pickle jars after you explicitly asked her not to this year? You may have to swallow that one and remember to be thankful Aunt Flo is still around...or maybe just thankful you will be able to laugh at the "jar situation" in a couple days here on Chowhound. :)

                                        1. And I just want to add, a couple cocktails can make any situation better. Ahhh...............

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Kat

                                            "And I just want to add, a couple cocktails can make any situation better. Ahhhhh....."

                                            Makes me think about a host whose house I was invited to a few weeks ago. She had 3 martinis while cooking and she completely messed up her dinner. She burned the rolls, the meat was over cooked and just about everything she served was ruined. She was completely plastered and was embarrassed and beyond the next day. Gotta be careful with the cocktails :).

                                            1. re: latindancer

                                              Yeah, I'm not a small fellow and possess a pretty hollow leg, but have learned that two martinis is normally a smart limit during meal prep. I mean, there's always wine with dinner and apple brandy after.

                                          2. I know this shows up every year, but I always get a kick out of this letter from a hostess to her Thanksgiving guests.

                                            http://blog.x07z.com/post/276275345/t...

                                            17 Replies
                                            1. re: coll

                                              It is such a classic....I love that letter.

                                              1. re: coll

                                                I'm glad the extended Byron family loves Marney because she wouldn't last long in my family. Is that letter for real?

                                                ~TDQ

                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  I first saw that letter over at Awkward Family Photos and I remember somewhere in the comments a link to the original post on a blog. It seemed real with names changed to protect the guilty.

                                                  1. re: cleobeach

                                                    Yep, found it: http://www.californiakara.com/p/thank...

                                                    She says it's from a friend's co-worker's family and that she "got permission" (from whom, I wonder, "Marney"?) to post it, but changed the names so she wouldn't get sued.

                                                    ~TDQ

                                                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                    Maybe Byron family antics resulted in the letter.
                                                    I certainly know my husbands two sisters and one aunt put people in worse straights with blatant selfishness and irresponsible behavior.To include serving things to people with food allergies and lie about it with zero remorse,until it included an ambulance and the ER.This wasn't them at their very worst.

                                                    1. re: lcool

                                                      You know, I'm sure we all have stories of crazy misbehavior of family members. I have a few humdingers of my own that I will not share for fear someone will see them online and it will create some kind of terrible rift. But, I will say I am fortunate enough that, however badly misbehaved and rude and misguided my family members have behaved at holidays over the years, I think it people were always well-intended. They might have been controlling and bossy or irresponsible or rude or clueless or whatever, but I do think people thought they were doing what was best given what they value in a holiday. And that's really it. Holidays don't mean the same to everyone: we all value something a little bit different.

                                                      I don't know Marney's story, but it doesn't sound like a wonderul situation if that's the kind of letter she felt she needed to write and someone else in the family felt it appropriate to have it posted on the internet to shame her. Not a great family, really.

                                                      I try to treat my guests like people I care about. Also, if I ever caught wind that someone who is hosting me thinks I'm just a pretty face at their perfect dinner table that they've spread out for their own glory or self-aggrandizement or that they resent my presence, well, they can get lost. I'll stay home and cook for myself. With one exception, I've never been to a holiday gathering from any branch of the family where the food was better than I can do myself. The one exception is my grandmother's holiday dinners (which she doesn't do anymore.) That's it. The rest of them? I show up for the company. Don't kid yourselves, the cooking, no matter how top notch and exceptional you think it is, I can do better.

                                                      ~TDQ

                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        <But, I will say I am fortunate enough....>

                                                        Yes, you are. Not everyone has the same experience.

                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                          I agree I am lucky. But unless someone's holding a proverbial gun to your head, don't host if you resent it or can't be a good host or you despise and ridicule the people you've invited . Let someone else do it. And if you do host, remember it was your choice.

                                                          I hosted a holiday once and people, though well-intentioned, people behaved so badly that I vowed never to host that holiday again. Like an idiot, I hosted it again a couple of years later and they were equally badly-behaved (but in different ways) so I have again vowed to never host it again. We'll see how long that sticks. :).

                                                          ~TDQ

                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                            I think, more often than not (and I could be wrong), that family dynamics come into play on Thanksgiving....I've heard the stories.
                                                            In my case our choice was to have dinner at our home because I loved building the memories for my children and it's been wonderful. Everyone loved the idea and it was something I put my heart and soul into and loved it. For the most part the day was always enjoyable. However, there's always the one who doesn't like the football or someone wasn't happy with the behavior of the other or someone drank too much and acted ridiculous or some other pettiness that just goes with family. It just does. It's predictable and I would never have thought to not host it. I ignored the 'stuff' and always knew anything that people brought with them was just part of the day and it enriched the memories.

                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                              Actually, I think that is a lovely perspective. Can I be in your family? :).

                                                              ~TDQ

                                                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          This is a trio of ladies who really are mean spirited,entitled,selfish and deceitful.They don't just settle for dictatorial,drunk and rude in another home.
                                                          My husbands younger brother is here for a guy time visit with the spouse.He was the last to stop making limitless excuses for the trio,married to the first to bar the door to them.Now I am typing his dictated response "it's too bad,but I wonder if R,M&T had heard something that honest,followed with re-enforcement instead of enabling at age 20 or younger they wouldn't be alone today".
                                                          all agree it's but not the same as some of the PIA stuff all of deal with,hopefully in small doses.

                                                          1. re: lcool

                                                            Sounds like serious business. Do you have an option to stop hosting them? I know if you've been hosting forever it's hard to "break" a tradition, especially because you don't want to disappoint the people who don't behave badly, but what if you took a year or two off (and it might already be too late this year to take a year off) saying you just can't do it for whatever personal reason (make one up that works for you) and, when you resume a year or two after that, make it a smaller gathering and just don't invite that group of troublemakers.

                                                            Is something like that an option at all? I really the year or two "off" isn't an easy thing, but if it saves you grief over the long haul...

                                                            ~TDQ

                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              We,all four of the brothers wives 99% put the brakes on them years ago.Three of the four have geography on their side to make it easier.
                                                              I have a post,above,one day ago that answers most of your query.To put on a dinner for 12 to 40 is just plain easy for me.This year I do Thursday and sib does Sunday.How many we put up and or feed from Montana,Alaska,Europe or ? doesn't matter,the three of us just figure it out somehow.D&W = 4,get cousin J=5 and a grangran for a total of 10,every body plays and co-operates and so on.We have just enough non drinking designated drivers to always make it work.Paul ,cousin B's widower,with no relatives except his own kids and grand kids is a bossy mischief maker,even his own kids and grand kids,who we all adore mostly ignore it.
                                                              UNLESS he sucks in my brother and husband,that's not so easy to ignore,but still OK.

                                                              1. re: lcool

                                                                Oh, sorry, I forgot about your post above! Well, it sounds like you've figured out how to make it work, thank goodness, though it sure sounds like a lot of work.

                                                                ~TDQ

                                                    2. re: coll

                                                      Never have seen that before, OMG, too funny. And I thought I was a Type A personality!

                                                      1. re: coll

                                                        A classic indeed! I love that the one family has the choice of bringing a case of beer or a bottle of wine.

                                                      2. I have a standard answer for anyone who asks "what can I bring?'

                                                        Please pick up a bag of ice on your way. This has helped me avoid all the horrors you mention.
                                                        My kitchen is off limits to guests., And if you do NOT reside full time in my home you are a guest, including mother and mother in law!

                                                        I am in a second marriage, and when I marriied and moved into my wife's home years ago, one of my first major changes was to add on to the house and construct a formal dining room to replace the open plan kitchen/great room that was conducive to guests flowing in and out of my kitchen. Money well spent.
                                                        My kitchen is set up for holiday prep and cooking/serving/cleanup, down to twin dishwashers. BUT I want to do things my way. The dining room has a wet bar, warming drawers, wine fridge and a holding bin for ice, so there are no reasons for guests to come in the kitchen during the meal,

                                                        My SIL protested my , 'don't bring anything' decree, saying that everyone loves her pecan pie at Thanksgiving, My answer, you can serve it next year when you host! This shut her up permanently many years ago, as she'll never undertake to host a holiday.

                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                                          See, I think this is a totally fine answer if you all take turns hosting "the important" holidays. However, if one family member has permanently hijacked Thanksgiving or any other particular holiday, I would protest.

                                                          If your SIL will never undertake the effort to host a holiday, well, that's on her.

                                                          ~TDQ

                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                            Not to be contrarian because my Thanksgivings are organized potlucks where we have a googledoc to avoid replication, but why not have a smaller holiday meal with a few close family/friends so you can serve exactly what you want? I tend to just go with house rules. If you are hosting, you get to decide the terms. Whether that be potluck or not.

                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              permanently hijacked Thanksgiving???
                                                              how about stuck by default????

                                                              In 42 years of marriage bro and his wife have never hosted a holiday for his side of the family, only hers. Sis and her husband host every 8 years. Wife's sister refuses to host, too much work, and when she did host, she'd assign who was to bring what and all she did was set the table with her dishes and stainless.

                                                              Don't show at my home for a holiday meal that my wife and I busted our ass*s presenting, bring in a pie or other small item and go bragging all over facebook that you shared the holiday cooking with your sister.

                                                              You can choose you friends, but not your family, and I'd rather have holidays with chosen friends.

                                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                                It's funny, after all these years, with children on their own and much of our family passed on...
                                                                Even the biggest trouble makers at our Thanksgiving table, who aren't with us any longer, are the ones we remember and smile and talk about with some pretty amazing fond memories. They may have been the biggest and boldest of personalities but they brought something worth remembering.
                                                                Ya gotta love 'em in order to be that sick of them and it all comes together when they're gone and no longer at the Thanksgiving table.

                                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                                  That sounds like a pretty lousy situation, too, bagelman. I'm sorry you've had to put up with that. Obviously, I wouldn't condone that kind of behavior and I hope you think better of me than assume I engage in that kind of behavior.

                                                                  I have actually hosted several holiday gatherings (I'm a relative newlywed so it's only been 3 or 4 times I've hosted I think) but people were so badly behaved at these gatherings (and as I said before, I don't want to get into details but the bad behavior included having the entire family both arrive and leave inexcusably early to attend another family event they forgot to tell me had been moved forward, and then having the meal at said event be delayed for almost 3 hours; showing up at a restaurant where we were hosting with extra people; demanding a last minute menu change to fit a "theme" and so on), that I've vowed to stop hosting them. So, if you (and I don't mean YOU bagelman, of course) ends up hosting a holiday by default because you've made yourself such an insufferable, unwelcome guest after repeated attempts to host you, I kind of call that a hijacking.

                                                                  We do have another gathering where one family insists on hosting the holiday year in and year out and will have it no other way than her way. I won't get into it, but she's a very powerful member of the family and no one will cross her. [HA! Doesn't this make me sound like a Kennedy or something? Far from it!] So, we all go and suffer her hospitality silently and bring a dish if she'll let us.

                                                                  I think that will only change when certain family elders pass on and believe me, I'm not wishing for that to happen any time soon. That is also hijacking the holiday.

                                                                  And you'll just have to trust me, I'm not bragging about any of this on facebook or any other social media, unless you count this post on Chowhound.

                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                              2. re: bagelman01

                                                                Me too. I ask for ice, a specific wine or cocktail ingredient, or a holiday pie. This tends to diminish "hostess interruptess" problems at critical times. I have honed my skill at giving tasks to the guests that just seem to NEED to help, these tasks involve activity outside the kitchen. I put those need-to-help folk on drink patrol, appetizer refreshing, water pitcher refresh, music changing, bringing in another fire log, taking the dog out to potty, setting up for dessert plates, etc.

                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                  Yep. I totally have a list of non kitchen things that i have guests help with, Opening and pouring wine, filling water glasses, taking platters to the buffet, choosing music on the iPod.

                                                              3. I'm open to finished dishes as a contribution, but in general I don't want any help with prep. For the past several years, we've hosted a small group of friends for T-day and we laid down the rules pretty quickly after the first time. One friend isn't much of a cook but does like to prepare her family's recipe for sweet potatoes and pecan pie, so she brings those (finished, and I schedule a 30 min slot in the oven for her to get the potatoes hot). However, her offers to "help" as I am finishing in the kitchen are met with a firm "no thanks, how about a glass of wine and some appetizers in the other room," because she has NO CLUE what she's doing!

                                                                The other friend is a much better cook but not nearly as good a cook as she thinks she is, and unfortunately has the habit of saying "oh, I'll just bring the ingredients and prep at your place if that's ok, it's easier to transport that way." We tried that one time - NEVER again. She also insists on bringing things that she knows only she and I will eat (our husbands and other friend are not quite as adventurous as we are), and prepares enough of every dish to feed at least 15 people even though we are only 5 or 6. I love her to death, but she drives me INSANE on Thanksgiving! However, she's out of town this year and I must say, I'm sad that she won't be able to hang with us, excessive quantities of food or no!

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: biondanonima

                                                                  Brings to mind a former extended family member who fancied herself to be quite a baker--one T'day she showed up with NINE assorted pies and cakes for a group of twenty, which included not only several young children but several seniors as well. What could she have possibly been thinking???

                                                                  1. re: KSlink

                                                                    Well, at least it was desserts - no one minds taking home leftovers of those! One year, this friend decided to make roasted beets (she being the ONLY beet eater among us - even I don't care for them) and I swear she must have made 10 lbs. Even though we told her that NONE OF US eat beets. Sometimes you just have to shake your head, smile and have another glass of wine.

                                                                    1. re: biondanonima

                                                                      Excellent idea.....in hindsight I'm wondering if she felt threatened because that was the year I was attending pastry school? No matter, she's out of the picture now...

                                                                2. I knew a couple who always wanted to have Thanksgiving on their own, but because they were childless they felt obligated to somehow cover both parents dinners in the course of one long day--they got divorced before they ever had the holiday alone together. So......I'm kind of confused why people go to or host T'day dinners that they know will be a nightmare. Why not just bow out or "have a migraine?" I think of this as one of the better holidays and only have it with people I want to spend time with....and sometimes that's just my husband and me.

                                                                  1. One of the things about holidays that I loved while a kid and still love as an adult: family and friends. A gathering of people, making and breaking bread together.

                                                                    I have a horrendous kitchen. Crappy layout. Very little counter space. Single oven, no microwave. Gets crowded. My mom's house is worse, where the eat in kitchen is smaller than many mcmansion master baths, the sink is about two feet from the head of the table, there is about 4 linear feet of total counter space, tiny oven...and on and on and on.

                                                                    And I love the madness of folks in the kitchen, helping, trying to help, or standing around. Sometimes dishes get screwed up. We bump into each other a lot, sometimes we mess up each other's dishes. Sometimes we have Mom's incredible sweet potato dish as an after dinner, pre-dessert dish because we couldn't (or forgot to) get it in the oven at the right time. We bump into each other. It can seem chaotic. But it works. And it's wonderful, wonderful family time, whether my special, creative dish of the year turns out well or not, whether the gravy comes out right or not, even though when we sit at the table set with china looking at the incredible mess in the kitchen from the last minute dance...It's just all part of holidays for me. And in a family of folks who often do not get along, who have incredibly divergent political, religious, and social views, I treasure sharing that holiday meal chaos.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: debbiel

                                                                      I know exactly what you mean. It really is magical, no matter the aggravations.

                                                                    2. Was thinking about this and it generally wouldn't bother me especially if the person asked and tried to coordinate with the menu. However, one time at Easter a guest showed up with a big casserole dish of chicken Parmesan. Not only didn't it go with the meal of leg of lamb and its sides, there wasn't enough really to go around. My gracious parents served it but we had the sneaking suspicion that we were getting leftovers pawned off on us.

                                                                      1. I don't hear much of a control freak, I hear people who are not clear on expectations, are generally clueless, or resentful about bringing things on some level. It is rude to bring ingredients, rather than a made dish, to someone's home. I have forgotten to bring a bowl for chips when I bring a hot dip, but that's about the extent I'd go in using something from the host's kitchen. I think people just dont' think about what else might be in the oven when they ask to warm a dish. Unless it will be an hour or more before you eat, or the guests are traveling a long way, it's inappropriate.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. I learned this the hard way, also. I hosted a dinner party for friends a few years back now. My home at the time was a tiny little cottage on my parents property (I was a single mum studying) and wasn't big enough to host a proper dinner party. My parents went away for a long weekend so I asked if I could borrow their kitchen and dining room - no problems. The kitchen is a lovely size and I was happy in my preparation for the evening.

                                                                          My friends arrive and being the people they are wanted to help. I gave instructions as to what I wanted done...and it was at that moment I realised I am a control freak in the kitchen.

                                                                          It was really difficult to see what should have been very simple preparation go so wrong. I knew at that very second that I wanted everyone out of the kitchen so I could do things the way I wanted them to be. Not only that but the things I had left to do were dependant upon last minute timing (I usually plan menus that can largely be prepped beforehand so I spend as much time as possible with my guests), so while I was attending to "where do I find this?", "how do I cut this?" and "what ratio does this need to be?" food was being left unattended at crucial moments. I honestly did not think I would have to stand at someones shoulder to supervise their making of a very simple cocktail, but it turned out I did. I got frustrated and kicked everyone out of the kitchen and made them sit at the table with their cocktails. Immediately I felt better, everything was attended to in a more timely manner and I wasn't stressing my guests with my need to be in control.

                                                                          Now when people ask what they can do or what they can bring it is all about the wine. In Australia it is customary to bring a bottle of wine to a dinner party so I'm never asking for something that they wouldn't already usually bring. I always have wine glasses ready to go, so if someone asks to help I task them with opening and pouring some wine, topping my glass or simply providing me with company in the kitchen while I finish things off. That way they're kept busy, I'm happy and in control and everyone has wine. Win/win.