I’ve learned a lot over the years. By my calculation, this is my 49th year of making Thanksgiving, not counting a few years when I was a guest at someone else’s table.

I remember when the torch passed and my parents no longer wanted the job. Suddenly, they were just as happy to eat my food. I knew at the time this was a significant change in our relationship, that something important had changed.


Since then — 40 years later — I’ve been making holidays. Although my son does the cooking, or most of it anyhow, he still doesn’t know how to make the holiday. How to set a table, figure out which dishes to use. Which flatware. Whether or not to put out the “good” glassware (but unlike me, he knows on which side the forks go versus the knives).

And despite them being among the easiest recipes in the world, no one but me can make the cranberry sauces.


Things I’ve learned after 49 years of family dinners:

  1. Don’t get a big centerpiece. It takes up too much room and will be in the way when people are trying to converse.
  2. Not only do place settings not have to match, making each setting different is a very cool “look” (though I didn’t do it this year).
  3. No matter how many people you have coming to dinner, there will be much more food than even the hungriest crowd can possibly consume.
  4. Don’t save the mashed potatoes. No one is going to eat them.
  5. The turkey will be fully cooked at least an hour before your calculations say it will.
  6. If you cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 180 degrees, it will taste like sawdust and no amount of gravy will make a difference.
  7. Buy a fresh turkey, not a frozen one. It’s worth it. Fresh turkey tastes so much better!
  8. Put a clear plastic cover over your good tablecloth. Your guests won’t mind and gravy does not come out completely, no matter what formula you use to treat the stains.

When I’m feeling ambitious, I get more creative with table settings. I have a lot of “fiesta ware,” bright, solid-color dishes that mix and match with other pottery. I’ve given away my 16-place-setting porcelain. Storing it took up more space than I was willing to devote to something I used maximum twice a year.

I don’t buy expensive stemware. It’s not that kind of crowd.


I don’t bother to point out no one is going to eat that much food. Don’t mention that nine pies for seven guests is a bit much. My daughter-in-law is Italian. I’m Jewish. My husband is Black. Excessive food is a cultural and genetic mandate. Please eat. Please overeat. If you don’t leave the table feeling slightly ill from over-consumption, I haven’t done my job.

The good news? I can put together a nice looking holiday table in under 20 minutes. Add on another half hour because I have to wash everything. I haven’t used it since last Christmas and dust will have its way. Still, that’s pretty good.

72-Thanksgiving-First Snow_26

Gone are the big floral displays, the fragile serving dishes. The stemware broke and was never replaced. Ditto the serving dishes. A nice table is welcoming. A super fancy, overwhelmingly elegant table is less so and can be off-putting.

Less fuss means I don’t end the holiday exhausted and cranky. I might just survive through Christmas. Imagine that!

Categories: Food, Holidays, Humor

Tags: , , , , ,

34 replies

  1. I love your festive table. So inviting. 😀


  2. I love your stove, your table setting, your skinned turkey with stuffing oozing forth but most of all your writing style. I’m still learning how to cook for Thanksgiving & you’ve made me feel much better about my bad over-estimate of food amount cooked & the kitchen mess I made. Thank you.


    • Thank you. Table setting has no rules. If you like the way it looks, it’s good. I actually have found that the less hard I work at it, the better everyone likes it. As for food — simple is fine. Most people are happier with simple food because they understand it, know what to expect. With turkey, don’t overcook it. We use grocery store stuffing, adding some chopped veggies and everyone LOVES it. All my recipes are easy to prepare and clean up after.


  3. Oh Marilyn, your table is truly, most welcoming and that’s the whole point of get togethers, the warm feeling of togetherness. I wanted to step through my computer screen, pull up another chair and take a seat at the table with all of you! Lovely! 😀


  4. Very good pointers! Love your colorful table.


  5. The big surprise this year was that Granddaughter Kaity washed all the dishes, pots and pans. Everything spic and span. Gramps just did the drying. Yes, I thanked her!


  6. I learned to cook watching my mother and younger sister. It became important when I married my first wife, “Scotia”, who was Korean and not familiar with American food. I never got to teach her the skills I had learned as she disappeared off the planet while attempting to join me here in the states.

    My 2nd wife couldn’t boil water so I got the opportunity to do all the serious cooking, including holiday meals for up to a dozen people. I was good at it and never had any complaints from my family or guests.

    I’ve been blessed to be associated with some great cooks, including my host at this year’s Thanksgiving meal. Michelin is as good as it gets.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your Thanksgiving meal seems to be a lot like our Christmas meal. Do people in America do the same again for Christmas or do you eat something different?


    • People do the same thing for Christmas — basically — but personal choices differ. It’s less turkey-centric. Turkey is popular largely because you can buy a lot of turkey and feed a LOT of people pretty cheaply. A hunk of beef or ham that big costs about as much as a used car. And lamb? Or something more exotic? The sky is the limit. Garry and I usually don’t have crowd on Christmas Day (the frenzy is all Christmas Eve). So Christmas Eve, I make buffet food — chili, pasta. Food everyone can serve themselves … and frankly, which everyone likes better. On The Day, Garry and I eat something WE want — lobster or filet — which is affordable for two people, but not a crowd. I’ve come to enjoy our quiet Christmas mornings. Every household, every family, has their own customs and traditions.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Love it. We must be weird, because the left over potatoes ALWAYS get eaten! Happy Thanksgiving!


  9. Nice thought to taking the picture after. Most do it before.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Happy thanksgiving Marilyn and Garry!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. It’s simple. The dishes are an old set of “winter” I bought when the pattern was discontinued (shortly thereafter, the store that sold them was also discontinued) and remarkably, they have survived more than 20 years with only minor chips. There are only 6 of them and inevitably, we have 7 or 8 people. Fiesta Ware fills the gap:-)

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Sounds good to me. I’m sorry our Thanksgiving is all over. Never mind, Christmas will here before you know it. Have a good one.


  12. Left over mashed potatoes are for potato pancakes. That’s the only reason why I’ve saved them. 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever had any “good” dishes but like you, I can put on a spread without them. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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