The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays usually sneak in through the back door. This year it’s worse than ever. The best of intentions — “I’ll be ready for them next year!” — wandered off somewhere in the weeds back in the summer.
The next time I thought of seriously organizing to be ready when turkey time rolls around was right around Halloween. That gave me all of three weeks to make plans for Thanksgiving. The menu is pretty much sketched out if I can find the old bank receipt I wrote it on while sitting with Heather and Jacqui over lunch. I’m not worried some things stay pretty much the same from year to year.
My default plan for times like this is to make a list. I’m sure, when I’m long gone, stories of my making lists to prepare for this and that will be told and re-told. “Grammie used to make a list for everything. As she got things done she’d use a yellow highlighter to cross them out. At the end of the day she knew she’d made progress if everything on the list was yellow.” Somehow this always helps me get things on the table. Occasionally dinner’s even on time.
I used to have visions of a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. Everyone gathered around a ginormous table at whose center was the largest possible turkey — perfectly browned, of course. Never mind that a bird that big would be older than dirt and as tough as shoe leather. That’s what the gravy’s for.
I’ve realized for years that it’s not the most perfect of dinners we remember, but the times when something funny, or touching, or even slightly goofy made the day stand out.
What qualifies as funny? I guess that depends on your sense of humor. I remember the year that our (then) family of five had six extra people at the table. It wasn’t really planned, but life got in the way. Our friends and their two daughters were invited first. Of course, our friend’s dad was included along the way, as was the friend of one of their daughters who (at the last minute) had no place to be for Thanksgiving.
We were shoulder to shoulder at the table with all the leaves in place, with every available surface on and around the table loaded down with good food, when granddad got a strange look on his face and proceeded to have a nosebleed. It wasn’t serious, and granddad took it completely in stride. As a matter of fact, as I remember, he got a kick out of all the chaos. (Granddad was a bit of a rascal. Our friends were mortified, but they got over it.)
We all returned to the table after everything was brought under control no harm done. Another good meal and an unforgettable Thanksgiving was set in stone.
I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner this year. We always have hors d’oeuvres on a table in the kitchen, since there’s a crown helping to cook and plate dinner well in advance of the time to sit down and eat. I’m never short of help on Thanksgiving. I wonder if one thing has to do with the other! Try this simple idea for an hors d’oeuvre — well known in the south — and see what you think.
2 boxes crackers of your choice (Town House, saltines, and Club crackers are all good)
2 pounds regular slice hickory smoked bacon strips
A day ahead, prepare crackers. Cut bacon strips into thirds. Wrap each cracker in a piece of bacon. Ends should be underneath crackers when they are placed side by side on jelly roll pans (cookie sheets with 1-inch sides).
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place pans in preheated oven and bake crackers slowly. They are done when bacon is brown and crisp about an hour.
When bacon has browned, remove pans from oven. Drain crackers well on layers of paper towels until they cool. Pile onto platters on Thanksgiving morning and stand back as everyone gets there and finds them.
Makes around 100 pieces.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at email@example.com.