This year we made Thanksgiving easy. Really easy. Thanksgiving weekend is always busy for our family. Kids come home from college, sometimes with friends in tow. There’s the Turkey Bowl in the morning (a football game my “boys” play in every year), the actual Thanksgiving meal, Black Friday Shopping, the Civil War football game, and our Annual Wreath Party/Open House. I love every bit of it. Every single bit. But it is a lot of work. And sometimes I have to remind myself how much I love it when I’m up to my eyeballs in my to-do list. So I decided to do it different this year. And make it easier.
Seven style. I had just started reading Jen Hatmaker’s “7 Days of Christmas” and it all just fit with what I was thinking about doing. Perfectly. (I considered titling this post “Jen Hatmaker Just Might Be a Genius,” but I don’t know her and wasn’t sure if it was okay to use her name in the title of my blog post, so…..) Her book is about Christmas but I thought I’d apply it to Thanksgiving as well. When I found out that my parents weren’t going to be able to make the drive to join us this year, and that meant we also weren’t going to be able to divide up the cooking, it became even more imperative.
I decided to simplify our Thanksgiving menu to just seven foods. We didn’t need a big fancy dinner with every food ever associated with the holiday. We just needed each other, some food, and our thankful hearts.
I sent out a text message to my husband and all of my kids asking them to list their five favorite Thanksgiving foods. I asked for five instead of seven, so they would really have to think about their favorites. I tallied their answers, laughed at some of the responses, ranked the favorites in order, and came up with our menu.
Seven foods. Stuffing. Gravy. Mashed potatoes. Turkey. Pumpkin pie. Rolls. Toll House Pie. That’s it. No vegetables this year?!? Okay. They didn’t really get eaten anyway. People would throw a few veggies on their plates to make it look healthy and balanced, but other than a few bites, not much got eaten. And nobody ever went back for seconds on vegetables. Or salads. Not one of my kids, or my husband, had ever even let a drop of cranberry sauce touch their plates. So who needed it? Not us. The top seven were the foods that were always gone or at least had huge “dents” in them at the end of the night. That is all we needed.
I figured if I made the pies the night before I‘d only have five foods to make on Thanksgiving. We decided to make it even easier and buy rolls in a package (yes, I know the ones from scratch are amazing, but also really time consuming, and that didn’t fit with the plan) this year so it was actually more like four foods to cook on the actual day. Brilliant!
We didn’t dig out and dust off the “wedding china” this year. We used our regular, everyday dishes. Formal place settings? Nope. I asked the twelve year old to set the table and she decided we only needed forks, napkins, and one butter knife to be passed with the butter dish. Excellent.
Our table was largely beige. All the foods roughly the same color. And it was okay. It was fabulous, actually. Because what we lacked in visual interest we made up for in conversations, and laughter, and remembering. It was messy. It was the exact opposite of fancy. But it was the people we love, eating their favorite foods (and nothing else). It was Thanksgiving unmastered. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
PS – If anyone reading this does actually know Jen Hatmaker, please tell her thank you for putting a number and a plan to my need to simplify Thanksgiving. And that I think she is basically genius.