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How to Survive Thanksgiving

OK, I’m gonna tell you exactly how you’re gonna survive cooking a large meal, and feeding it to more members of your family than you’re used to dealing with at the same time. I’m not going to tell you how to cook the meal, you can google Alton Brown for that. The stress factor on Thanksgiving can be high, and mostly it doesn’t come from preparing the meal, so much as that one uncle that wants to do nothing about talk about politics and Jesus. It's that you really have to worry about. Fear not! We're gonna get through this, it's gonna be alright.

First off, focus on cooking the meal. Why? Because that will give you a legitimate reason to not talk to family members. Welcome them, greet them kindly, then say “Sorry, I've got to get back to the kitchen”. Granted, some family will want to linger in the kitchen and try to talk to you/sneak a bite of something. If someone wanders in, put a spoon in their hand, and make them do something. At some point your Uncle Bill will show up. Who is Uncle Bill? Uncle Bill is my politics and Jesus relative I have to worry about, the most negative human being you've ever met. Uncle Bill could win the lottery, and the first words out of his mouth would be “By God, think about the taxes!”

Here's how you handle Uncle Bill. As soon as Bill is in the door, hand him a glass of wine, and slip him a vicodin. Boom, he's out of the way. Cut the pill in half if you're worried it will mess with his other medications. You don't want this year to be known as “The Thanksgiving You Accidentally Killed Uncle Bill”. You've set a time for dinner, and you have to stick to it. Not only will it help you keep your sanity, but it'll keep family from showing up too early or too late. As it gets closer to the time for the meal to be served, you may need a second wind of energy. This is why I finish all my dishes an hour till serving time, blasting “Search and Destroy” by The Stooges in the kitchen.

Next up on the relatives who give you heart palpitations when you see their car pull up list, is the one that thinks of you as the out and out weirdo of the family. The one who always tries to make small talk with you, but stays a foot or two more away from you than everyone else. The one who avoids going to the bathroom at your house, because they're wigged out by the fact that you put a poster for Creature From The Black Lagoon above the toilet in the half bath.

They're also the ones who tend eat more amounts of food than anyone else. At some point, they feel a need to connect with you after eating you out of house and home. They will actively seek you out and a make a point to go over the same list of questions the've asked you ever since you graduated High School. “Are you dating anyone? Why aren't you married yet? You know your mother would love grandchildren, right?”

It's best to end the conversation quickly. You smile and say you have to go do something else right now “Ooh, gotta get those pies up from the downstairs fridge” or “Oh, I hear my phone, that must be Charles De Gaulle calling!” Just hope they eventually give up and leave to go home, or fall asleep somewhere in the den. If you're lucky, they won't ask for a “to go plate”.

Many people after eating the meal will wind up sleeping in front of a TV somewhere in your house. I play a little game that helps keep the sounds of rambling TV channels from flooding the house. I hide the remotes to all the TVs, so that if someone wants to watch TV after eating at my place, they have to actively get up and find the right remote for that TV. If everything goes the way I want it to everyone shows up around one, and they're all gone by six.

This makes for a super easy and manageable Thanksgiving, and one that ends with a happy dance all around the house to the sounds of Elvis Costello and The Attractions. Thanksgiving can be a enjoyable time, everyone does have family that they enjoy seeing. Maybe that's just me, I mean, I do come from family that tends to act a little silly and talk like Julia Child in the kitchen. I'm thankful for them, and I hope your annual gathering is as stress free as possible.


  1. Bonus tip: Surreptitiously unplug the cable box while the family is at the table. After dinner you will be promptly abandoned, left alone with all the desserts. :)


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