This evening marked the design phase of the Thanksgiving ’08 Project. My sister-in-law and her boyfriend came over to make me a birthday dinner (delicious braised sea bass), and conversation turned to the upcoming holiday of feasting. My sister-in-law will be joining us, though her boyfriend will sadly be away for the weekend. It’s possible we might pick up another person or two, but it’s just as likely that it will be the three of us, plus two toddlers.
In the past, we’ve gone way overboard. Our first Thanksgiving together, probably six years ago, it was also just the three of us. We ended up making an entire 12-pound turkey, and I’d have to guess five sides and three desserts. It was enough for our entire neighborhood. I’m not sure we had enough storage space for all the leftovers. Since then, I’d say we’ve added more people without really cutting back all that much on the food.
But now, back down to only three (plus kids), we put out the idea that we needed to cut back a little. Except that once someone would suggest a dish that could be cut, someone else objected strongly. M said the green bean casserole was unnecessary, I refuse to give it up (I make a rockin’ one from Cook’s Illustrated). I said I could live without mashed potatoes, M balked.
We ended up talking in circles about what could go and what had to stay, until M put on his project management hat, and informed us that we needed to survey customer expectations and put together a scope document. It all ended up getting very, very silly. But I think we’ve agreed in principle on this year’s menu. The only slight question mark is dessert, but we are in agreement that there should be only one dessert (typically, we make three, and maybe half of one gets eaten), and that the one dessert should not be pumpkin pie. I know, we’re so un-American.
This year’s menu:
- Turkey (duh), and I think we will still make a whole, though hopefully smaller, turkey. Primarily for the purposes of leftovers, and the holy grail of late November: turkey sandwiches.
- Green bean casserole (I win!), though only a half-portion.
- Mashed potatoes (also a smaller quantity), with gravy. The potatoes are M’s responsibility, since he’s the one who insisted they remain on the menu. I suspect I’ll be the one doing the gravy.
- Cranberry sauce (homemade, not canned). M advocated a sort of chopped cranberry relish that his mom used to make, but I had to be honest: I really didn’t like it at all. So my cranberry sauce wins.
- Stuffing (I think, or did this one get nixed?), half portion.
- Salad, because we need something vaguely healthy.
- Dessert. Likely something with pumpkin, but not pumpkin pie. Possibly a half-portion of pumpkin bread pudding, possibly some extra pumpkin cranberry bread (which we decided could qualify as dessert if we sort of grilled/sauteed it with some extra butter and then put ice cream on top, otherwise it’s just brunch food. Really awesome brunch food, too. But not dessert.)
I admit. It doesn’t exactly seem minimalist. I don’t think, in the end, that we cut down the number of dishes except in the case of dessert. But we do intend to reduce their quantities.
What about you? What are your must-haves on Thanksgiving, and what traditional dishes can you happily do without?