Walking into my house in Upstate New York on Thanksgiving day is like walking into a scene from an NBC sitcom. My dad spends hours in the kitchen making enough pies for each person to have their own and then some. He is usually oblivious to everyone around him, focused on the berries, apples and pumpkin that go into his pies so he can fish for compliments during dessert.
Thanksgiving done by my family focuses on every detail, down to the ironed napkins, a two-page shopping list and my army of siblings who are put to work two days ahead of time.
According to my mother, Lynne Dickens, a major part of creating your own Thanksgiving extravaganza starts with the preparation. My mom hunts for Thanksgiving ideas around the end of September by sifting through various cooking blogs and her favorite magazine, “Menu,” sent out by Wegmans, a world-famous grocery store in the Rochester area.
“Even the most inexperienced cook can learn with the right resources,” Dickens said.
On Thanksgiving morning my parents are up early to start every manner of Thanksgiving festivity. My dog proceeds to eat the dough scraps that fall on the floor from the three different types of rolls: wheat, white and maple-pecan stuffed pumpkin. My mom starts yelling at the kids to make sure our rooms are clean, as if our family is going to eat Thanksgiving dinner on our bedroom floors. According to my parents, two turkeys are barely sufficient for eight people, but we all know that my dad just likes to sneak the leftovers to work for the next two weeks.
If the preparation is not enough to kill me, the dinner itself might do the trick. A leaf-shaped plate holds my pile of rolls, and the water and sparkling cider goblets barely fit on the table because of my mom’s table-length centerpiece. I place my gravy-drenched turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, creamed corn and cranberry sauce-filled plate on top of a hand-painted charger and dig into my feast with an antique silver fork.
This year, my mother is choosing to go with a “simple” table, which includes a hand sewn burlap table runner, large glass vases filled with lentils, acorns, pine cones and tall white candles, orange berry garland and interspersed pumpkins and crystal acorn-shaped salt and pepper shakers. She also mentioned she plans to have brown basket-pattern chargers and hand-sewn brown napkins cinched together by bronze acorn napkin rings. Simple is a relative term.
So why all the fuss? When it comes down to it, Thanksgiving is really just a day where you eat dinner in the afternoon and watch football all night. However, to some, including my mother, it is a day about tradition.
“As a child Thanksgiving was always a family holiday based around dinner and family conversation,” my mother said. “It is a time to bring out the best dining items, spruce up the house and even dress in nicer clothes. I feel as though this holiday is a time to show respect for the many blessings that we have been given and to come together with friends and family in a loving spirit. On a practical side, it is a time to teach children good manners and how to act in a more formal dining environment.”
So there you have it. Sprucing up Thanksgiving can be as simple as changing plastic plates to glass ones, even if it means more dishes. It can also be as simple as making a homemade pie instead of picking one up at the store. One thing is certain: however you celebrate it, be with family, practice your manners and show respect for the blessings in your life by taking off your sweatpants and putting on a button-down shirt.