Now that we’re well into the first week of November I think it’s socially acceptable to start talking about Thanksgiving plans. I love Thanksgiving. It is, by far, my absolute favorite holiday. I love cooking for people, so I think a holiday that’s all about being thankful you have food to cook and people you love to cook it for is perfect.
Thanksgiving this year wasn’t looking good, though. Nick works in a branch of the emergency services, and has to work on Thanksgiving. That’s not unusual. I think he’s had one Thanksgiving off in the nine years we’ve been together, so we’ve become pretty good at working around him having to work. In years past, he has gotten a two hour lunch break, so we’ve had Thanksgiving then. It worked. I had everything ready, and people always showed up on time. Other years we’ve had dinner a little later, when he gets off of work. This year, though, he’s on-call starting the day after Thanksgiving. The likelihood of him being called in to work early Friday morning is high. A late celebration at our house just didn’t seem like a wise plan. I was pretty upset by the idea of not being able to have some kind of Thanksgiving celebration at least close to Thanksgiving.
This has been a really, really bad year, and I’ve been kind of floundering lately. Part of me wants to cry myself to sleep and hibernate until 2017 because it has to be a better year than this one has been. Please. Part of me also wants to try to do something to somehow try to improve the rest of 2016; maybe the last little bit of it can be a little better. I just haven’t really been able to come up with a good plan, one that felt right, or that I could get really excited about. That’s when we came up with our plans for Thanksgiving.
The hospice house that GrandMommy was in is very close to us. They have a kitchen so family members can cook meals there, and they have a nice big dining room table so people can eat together.
Hospice is an incredible organization, and they’re very welcoming to people who want to do something to volunteer. We thought about it, and decided to ask the hospice house here if I could cook them Thanksgiving dinner and bring it for whoever might want it. Losing a loved one is never easy, but I can’t imagine how painful it must be to face that during the holidays. From a practical standpoint, restaurant choices are somewhat limited on a holiday.
I called the hospice house the day we came up with the idea to ask if I could do it. I wasn’t sure if they might want references or some kind of background check or something, so I wanted to allow plenty of time for that. The lady who answered the phone was incredibly nice. It took a few minutes to explain that, yes, I wanted to bring an entire Thanksgiving meal. She told me that would be fine, wonderful in fact, but suggested that I talk to the volunteer coordinator just to make sure, and to make things official.
The volunteer coordinator wasn’t going to be in for a few days, so I left my contact information and waited to hear back from her. Meanwhile, I panicked a little bit. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the hospice house seemed like the perfect plan. I was very worried that there would be some issue, and I started making lists of people I could ask for references if I needed to plead my case. Nick promised me he would find me someone to cook Thanksgiving dinner for if the hospice house said no for any reason.
I finally talked to the volunteer coordinator, Elaine, about a week later. She and I ended up playing phone tag for a couple of days, but it was worth the wait. She was incredibly nice! She confirmed, again, that I did mean the whole meal, and we came up with a good time for me to bring it. The plan is for me to call a few days ahead of time to get a rough idea of how many people might be there. Elaine reminded me that some families may have other plans, and that some people don’t eat very much when they’re upset. She also said that the staff will definitely appreciate it, and that surely some family members will too.
So now I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd, and getting to pay it forward a little bit too. Honestly, I’m hoping there aren’t very many people in hospice care on Thanksgiving. I’m more than happy to cook for a crowd, but I hope it’s a happier Thanksgiving than that for most people.
Now, it’s time for the fun part of this post! The food! I’m trying to go ahead and plan the menu; partly so I can buy things ahead of time on sale, and partly because that’s just how I am with Thanksgiving. We close at work at noon the Wednesday before, so my plan is to come home from work that day and start cooking and baking.
Obviously, the turkey is the main part of the meal. Depending on what they tell me as far as the number of people, I may also cook a turkey breast along with the turkey. Dressing is a must, as are mashed potatoes, and sweet potato casserole. I’m a good southerner, so gravy (lots and lots of gravy) goes almost without saying. And more gravy. Definitely macaroni and cheese. Cranberry sauce is another must. Definitely some green bean casserole. I can’t stand it, but the rest of the world seems to love it. I always make rice (with pan drippings in place of some of the water, and a package of vegetable soup mix, it’s delicious!) with our Thanksgiving dinner, so I’ll do that too. I also usually make some sort of greens with Thanksgiving dinner. Partly because I really like them, and partly because I can feel better about gorging on Thanksgiving food because, hey, I’m eating leafy green vegetables too. And of course dinner rolls, because you need something else to mop up the gravy with.
For desserts, pumpkin pie is a must. Depending on the number of people they tell me, maybe more than one. I’m also planning to make chocolate cupcakes. Maybe a pound cake.
Now here’s the part where I ask for your ideas and suggestions:
Is there something else I should make? I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving. I’ve embraced it wholeheartedly, but sometimes I still feel like a novice. I make the foods that Nick and I like, and that the people we’re celebrating with that particular year like. Is there some traditional/must have Thanksgiving item that I’m missing? What makes it special for you? When it comes to greens, do you prefer collard greens, turnip greens, or mustard greens? I like them all, but I know some people have strong preferences. I’m open to menu suggestions and ideas.
Now here’s the part where it gets really complicated. I cannot properly carve a turkey. Not even close! Any tips on that? I’m hoping I can get a friend to stop by and do it for me. I’m willing to bribe someone with a pie or something. Any ideas on what a good bribe might be to get someone to come over and carve the turkey for me?
I’ve even considered taking it whole, but I’m afraid that might be inconvenient for the hospice house. What are your thoughts on that? Any compelling reasons why you think I should take it whole?
So what about you? Do you love Thanksgiving? What are your plans?