First time Thanksgiving meal!?! what was I thinking??
So I have loved loved loved to cook. My dream was to have a family to cook for and a big gathering for Thanksgiving. Well.......
37 years into life I finally have that chance. I have always cooked for me and my girls. I have been a single mother for 18 years of my 37 lived. And I always made the same traditional foods that both my grandmothers made and of course my mother made. And I was safe.... Icooked for my huge family with confidence. But we were very easy to please. BUT now I have in-laws and picky step kids and a mother in law whose feelings were hurt as her family stopped having Thanksgiving simply because of awkard stabs at the dinner guests. My husbands loves everything I cook. My girls love everything I cook. And I am comfortable with my menu and success behind it. But what if they dont?!?!!? This might be my last chance at making this a yearly event. I dont want to spend all day sweatting my butt off in the kitchen with 45 minutes of sleep in two days just to make sure everything is perfect. I want a made-over traditional menu with some time saving tips and suggestions on how to cook for a picky in-law family?!
My basic menu is Turkey, ham, cornbread dressing, sweet potatoe casserole, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, fresh corn, mac n cheese, broccoli n cauliflower cassrole, cranberry relish, a mound of deserts to include pies a cake cookies fruit salad and a appetizer plate of cheese olives pickles etc....
How do I know what to make and what will just waste away due to pickinesd?!?! Im from a poor family.... we didnt get to be picky or else we would be hungry... and we definitely didnt direspect the cook by simply not eating..... but this in-law-ic family is different.
When I said I would cook for my big family I meant my my brothers, wives, aunts uncles, thier kids and spouses..... never a fail.....
I'd give a thought to calling MIL and saying something like, "I'm really excited about hosting T-day this year, it means a lot to me, but I'll admit that I'm nervous! It's important to me that you have a good time. Are there specific menu ideas or side dishes that appeal to you or are part of your family tradition that you would like me to include? Oh, and DH said that no one makes XXX like you do, so would you possibly be able to bring XXX for him?" etc. You get the drift. You could have a somewhat similar conversation with stepkids - being honest and telling them up front that you're nervous about the meal and asking them for input/suggestions/help. Hopefully this will help them feel like they are part of the event and that their opinions matter to you.
It certainly sounds like you are more than capable of making a fabulous meal that any reasonable person would love to eat, so if any of your guests start b*tching about your food, it would be as part of a secret agenda and not legitimate criticism of your food IMHO.
Take a deep breath. Realize, you can't please everyone, it's impossible. Enlist some help from the guests. Ask them to make their "specialties" because "no one else can make -fill in the T-giving side dish, like you do." Don't take personal offense if some of your dishes go uneaten by the inlaws. The problem is theirs, not yours.
I would say first- stop. Take a breath. Take a step back and chill for a sec. Not everyone has to "love, love, love" everything you cook. Your cooking has always pleased your own family so why are you so confident you will displease the in-laws? This would be the time to give up some control, ask some of the in-laws to bring a cooked side dish that is their own "must have" for Thanksgiving. Be certain to be clear that you will only have room to keep things warm, no prep space available. Be sure your husband is in charge of circulating amongst his family members.
It does sound like you have a lot of starch going on and a lot of casseroles. Perhaps you might go with basic mashed sweet potatoes (if at all) and fresh green beans. Not sure how many people you are cooking for but that also sounds like an awful lot of dessert.
If the picky people are so picky that they go hungry with such a huge spread, so be it. Some people just don't care to be happy--I don't worry about them.
My first reaction to your menu was "whoa"! How many stoves do you have? I count 4 casseroles plus 2 meats. Just seems like too much to handle. I like the idea of asking folks to bring their fav item, especially if you couch it as "only YOU know how to really make this". Do you own a "hot tray". This is the item that has saved the day for me many times especially when the oven is in overload. Also, in a pinch a cooler with keep things warm for quite a while.