Drink Some Booze, Smoke a Joint and Relax: How to Have a Hedonistic Thanksgiving
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This article was originally posted on Nerve.com.
If you haven't realized that yet, it's probably because you're doing it wrong. Maybe you're still stuck in the old family rut — dutifully flying home for a few days each November to eat turkey with mom, dad and great-aunt Mildred. And it's probably fine; the food is good, the conversation might be somewhat lively (especially if Mildred's had her schnapps), but you're still secretly counting down the minutes till everyone goes to bed and you can have a smoke and a proper-sized glass of wine. Or, maybe you're one of those Thanksgiving deniers who just pretends the whole thing isn't happening, staying at home and eating turkey lo mein with your cat.
Either way, you're missing out, and this year it's time to break the cycle. And it's not as hard as you think. Here are five ways to host your very own kick-ass, grown-up Thanksgiving dinner.
1. The Game Plan
Divide and conquer: for your first time, it's probably best to tackle Turkey Day with a friend or two. A roommate or a significant other are natural choices, but anyone you can work with will do. Start at least a few days in advance and divvy up the labor. If you don't know how to go about this, watch some reruns of Top Chef's "Restaurant Wars" — you need a front-of-house person, an executive chef, and, if you've got a third, a sous-chef. As my roommate and Thanksgiving co-host, Joanna, put it: "You be Tom, I'll be Padma."
For our first Thanksgiving, Jo and I didn't start planning until the Monday before. For us it was just right, but if you and your friends are grown-ups with busy lives, you might want more time. As far as guests go, don't bite off more than you can chew. Between six to eight guests is manageable, but fewer is better if you're unsure. If you're having trouble deciding on a number, count how many clean forks you currently have in your silverware drawer and subtract two.
Always confirm your guest list. You know how nice restaurants call you the day before your reservation? Do that. It doesn't have to be super-formal, but since it's considered poor form to turn people away at the door, it stops your friends from having to eat on the floor. I, on the other hand, checked in with my Padma about the guest list around 11:00 a.m. on the day of. She informed me, very nonchalantly, that both Kevin and Brett were bringing dates, and so we would be nine, not seven. I informed her, rather chalantly, that we only own seven chairs and she had failed in her duties. After a bit of shouting, we tried the nice folks across the hall, who luckily lent us a couple of folding chairs. But if you hate your neighbors, figure these things out in advance.
2. The Bird
Focus most of your energy on the turkey. Even if everything else goes wrong, your guests will still be happy if there's an edible bird. Which is why you should practice. Think of cooking a turkey as losing your virginity, and Thanksgiving as prom night. You can wait until the big day to give it your first shot, but the stakes are a lot higher and the disappointment will be much keener if you crash and burn. Or set off the building's fire alarm.