My husband (aka “resident comedian”) has said for years that you can time the guests’ arrival at any family gathering by the onset of my nervous breakdown. Haha! Funny guy! He can afford to make light of such situations because it’s not his keister on the line. Beleaguered cooks across America know what I’m talking about when I say that entertaining, especially holiday entertaining, is an orchestrated dance that takes meticulous planning, spot-on timing, flawless execution and a little bit of good luck. So laugh all you want to buddy; I am a well-oiled machine when it comes to putting on a holiday spread that rivals Martha Stewart!
Actually I used to do just that; I’d pore over cookbooks and magazines for weeks ahead of time menu planning. I’d make grocery lists that were organized alphabetically by aisle. I’d be up till the wee hours rolling out pastry dough, making biscuits and pie crusts from scratch. And don’t even get me started on polishing the silver and ironing napkins and tablecloths.
This wasn’t amateur hour, baby, this was the big leagues.
Can I just say, I do not miss those days.
I was so obsessed with creating the “perfect” Thanksgiving spread that I missed the point! The point, of course, is to celebrate a day of giving thanks for our loved ones and our blessings. We are so fortunate to have all that we do and we take this one day to pause and reflect on those gifts. Our traditional feast is deeply rooted in our cultural heritage and American history, though it’s entirely possible that the only reason most Americans know who Myles Standish is can be attributed to the “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” special.
When Charlie Brown got roped into cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for Peppermint Patty he enlisted the help of his friends. Snoopy and Woodstock had his back and they pulled off an approximation of the traditional meal. When some guests complained that the plate’s contents were less than perfect, Linus (ever the philosopher) put their meal in a historical context and reminded them that their gathering was more about giving thanks for the many blessings they enjoyed than about the food on their plates.
Likewise, I have learned that Thanksgiving should be at least as much about acknowledging our many blessings as it is about creating the perfect feast or gorging ourselves on food.
As hostess and chef extraordinaire I have come to realize that my job is less about setting a magazine cover inspired spread and more about creating an environment where everyone can relax and enjoy each other’s company.
And that includes me.
Even though I am responsible for the meal I’m still entitled to socialize and enjoy the precious few moments when our entire family is gathered.
The only way I can accomplish this is by sharing the responsibility of putting on this feast. I have let go of those ideals I held about everything being “perfect” and instead allow others to help me by bringing dishes and helping out in the kitchen.
In addition to putting my guests to work I enlist the help of my husband and my children. The burden of creating a “perfect” experience is lifted when I share the responsibility with everyone. Maybe not revolutionary, but it certainly makes the holiday more enjoyable.
Losing weight is hard, just like entertaining. But it’s easier when you realize you don’t have to do it alone. And you’re so worth it!
Let’s go get it!