So, your parents are not going to fly you home for Thanksgiving this year. Or maybe you chose to be a young 20-something year old pulling together holiday dinner for yourself and your friends! Either way, you may be facing down hosting Thanksgiving dinner next week. We here at the Mossy Log, through hard won experience, have some tips and tricks just for you!
Please do not feel like you, as host, are in charge of reading minds. Most of us have Thanksgiving or at least holiday traditions and dishes that we hold dear. If you are stressed about making sure each of your friends has that piece of home, send out a message looking for input! Jellied versus fresh cranberry sauce, scalloped versus mashed potatoes, stuffing contents and pie flavors are all hard to pick from, so find some preferences and ask for recommendations.
Plan your menu (and your budget)
Everyone knows planning a dinner party is all about the menu you get to put together. But you are a college student, and money does not grow on trees. Make sure, as that menu emerges, you keep at least a rough idea of prices beside each entry. That way, a multi-hundred dollar grocery bill does not make for a nasty surprise. If you are asking for financial contributions, you can keep the people participating aware well in advance. A final total or itemized money request can head off a lot of sore feelings.
Some grocery stores have cheaper vegetables versus cheaper meat versus cheaper canned goods, especially during the holidays. There may be more benefits than drawbacks to visiting multiple locations to save a few extra bucks. If Freddie’s has a sale on Martinelli’s (it does,) but Trader Joe’s has the least expensive dairy section (it also does!) then make the extra trip or send a delegation of friends.
Think about alterna-turkeys
Look, dorm ovens are not really designed for roasting entire birds. A turkey is a very expensive flub should your unreliable kitchen not cooperate. Allow us to suggest some alternatives. Pre-cooked birds like rotisserie chickens or a roast Peking duck (available at different Chinese restaurants and butchers, beautifully done) are delicious crowd pleasers. If you really love your turkey, you can still have it—consider turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce, or grilled turkey burgers. You can enjoy your beloved bird at a much more friendly price point, and the leftovers may also be easier to eat.
In fact, look into as many alternatives as you can!
Pie is great, but so is cake. Baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows are not everyone’s thing. And everyone likes finger food appetizers like gyoza, taquitos, spanakopita and samosas.
If you find yourself unable to cover all the trappings of a classic Thanksgiving, give yourself permission to make some of your friends’ favorite dishes, even if they would not normally be seen on your dining table at home. Delegate–yes, even that part
You may be really invested in cooking your family mashed potatoes, or that one hyper-specific dish you always enjoy the most or green beans instead of brussels sprouts. So invest your time accordingly! Allow your friends to help with the things that matter to them, or at least matter less to you. If the cranberry sauce has never made you the most excited, do not waste two hours on it! Spend that time on something else, and let the person with their grandma’s recipe take over.
Provide clear event details and expectations
It sucks to feel like your event is not getting the response you want. Are you anticipating casual? Formal? Partying? How much help are you going to ask for? Can someone not cooking inclined bring paper plates or make a leafy decoration? Write a detailed text, or better yet an email that you tell your friends to look out for and then remember that everyone around the holidays is doing their best. They are not trying to undermine the work that you have put in, so try not to take things not going your way personally.
Do it ahead of time
Look at your menu—I guarantee a lot of your cooking does not have to be done the day of your party. Casseroles can be pre-assembled, produce can be pre-cut and pies are way better after having sat in a fridge for 24 hours. I know that most of us have classes well into Wednesday, but if you can, consider spending your Wednesday evening baking a pie and watching a holiday movie, or chopping until you cannot hold a knife anymore. It will not only make your turkey day more manageable, but you will get in the holiday mood a little early.
Enjoy your day!
This is not supposed to be stressful. Laugh off the overcooked food or dish you did not have time to make, put down the cooking utensil you are threatening to beat your friend with and go have a glass of Martinelli’s before dinner is ready. You have got this, and you are loved and appreciated. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at The Mossy Log!
Emma’s Friendsgiving Menu
Sausage, mushroom and celery stuffing Mashed potatoes and gravy
Green bean casserole
Mac and cheese
Drinks–Martinelli’s Apple Cider, eggnog and cranberry juice Dessert–Chocolate cake, apple crumble and store-bought pumpkin pie