On Thanksgiving Day I was traveling and didn’t arrive at my parents’ home in Houston until evening, so therefore (in my newfound enthusiasm for all things food) I offered to make a traditional Thanksgiving feast on Friday. On my own. As if that idea weren’t stupendous enough for someone who’s never made Thanksgiving dinner, I found out my mother had also invited friends over for dinner. Suffice it to say that I was in the kitchen toiling for the entire day.
Very predictably, the menu was almost entirely filled with recipes taken from the Food Network:
Orange cranberry sauce
Sweet potato balls with marshmallows and coconut
Warning to anyone who tries to make Thanksgiving dinner a day late: Stores will be out of many things, and items missing in stock are reflective of what America cooks on this holiday. One would have been hard-pressed to find sage, rosemary and ground nutmeg: Apparently, these are the most popular items. My family visited at least five stores before successfully finding ONE packet of sage. Unlike the Bay Area, fresh herbs in Houston aren’t even sold by the bunch, with the exception of cilantro and parsley. I managed to find brussels sprouts (some still on the stalk, amazingly) but noted that they came from Castroville, California: These brussels sprouts had traveled as far as I had for Thanksgiving.
Throughout the day, I chopped, grated and simmered, enjoying the soon-to-be fruits of my labor. That is, until our guests arrived.
With the turkey still in the oven and the gravy and the sweet potato balls not yet made, I became an adult Tazmanian Devil of sorts, my demeanor characterized by serious expressions of self-doubt and questions of worth rather than the fun spazziness that makes the cartoon counterpart so likable. My father even pulled me aside to give me a brief talking-to. “Your negative attitude is affecting the kitchen,” he told me. “It’s not necessary to keep talking about how dry your turkey is going to be.” Between his lectures and the sheer number of people running around in the kitchen, I was near panic mode. Thankfully our guests were mellow and gracious, and two of them helped me to get the dinner onto the table (one made the gravy, and the other put together the sweet potato balls). I’m not sure they really came to our house expecting to hone their Thanksgiving skills. Talk about springing into action!
Nevertheless, everyone seemed to enjoy the meal well enough. Dinner was followed by ice cream, coffee and lots of laughter. I walked away amazed that I didn’t undercook, burn or blow up anything. It was, in truth, well worth all the blood, sweat and anxiety that went into it. Spending it with family and friends who appreciated my cooking made it indeed my very favorite Thanksgiving so far.
The only caveat? “We’re expecting you to do all the Thanksgiving meals in the years to come,” my mom said.
I’ve included links to my favorite recipes, as those are the ones I will definitely make again — next year, of course, when I tackle another Thanksgiving.