Secrets of a Super Chill Thanksgiving

Culled from 3 or 4 stuffing recipes, including my old one.
Culled from 3 or 4 stuffing recipes, including my old one. What could go wrong?

Here’s what I used to do, back when I was stupid. Troll the web for the best and yet easiest recipes for things like stuffing, sweet potatoes, and this year green bean casserole though we’ve never had that at Thanksgiving before. Apparently it’s a big deal, green bean casserole. But this year it’s my idea for a good vegan dish. Anyway, I find all these recipes, multiple versions of each and also things like salads, desserts, apps, etc. Then I grocery-shop at like five stores, buying ingredients for vaguely-all-but-not-exactly-any of them, because I don’t know which I will actually make and I’m pretty sure I have some of this stuff at home but maybe not so I buy more of the stuff I always think I’m out of and not enough of the stuff I never realize I don’t have. (Oregano. Bread crumbs.)

Then Thanksgiving comes and I haven’t figured out the oven and cooking times, and the house is spotless but I am dithering, literally pacing back and forth with hands flapping, between many different possible recipes that I have almost all the ingredients for, and I realize none of that shit matters and why didn’t I just figure it out ahead of time and plan the oven time and ingredients and not end up with too much of what I don’t need, and everyone arrives and it’s loud and I’m panicking and cousin Liz says This is so great, and I say quietly though there’s no need to whisper everyone else is talking so loudly, No it is a disaster, I’ve never been this unprepared, and she says, Really? Everything looks so nice, and I say No you don’t understand half the stuff is not even cooked yet, and she says There’s no rush, everyone’s having fun, and I get angry that she doesn’t understand how disastrous this holiday is.

Then eventually we all eat, after Jimmy or Rick or Marty says grace, ironic about it only until the moment where they actually start, and we eat, and everything is great. And then we have dessert, and there is way too much of it, and it’s all delicious, I realize that all the dinner food didn’t matter that much, because it’s all kinda cold by the time people are eating it anyway, and it all tastes pretty much the same, I mean it’s all good but it’s not like going to change the world, you know? You don’t have to go to Whole Foods just for nutritional yeast for the vegan casserole, fuck it, it’s good with some cashews added. And then I vow to be way more relaxed next year and not worry about it.

SO. This year I am sitting here forcing myself to decide on one recipe for each thing. Which means I’m creating some new recipes that combine different things I think I’d probably combine if I were in the kitchen. Then I’ll look in the cupboards and fridge to actually see what I actually still need. For each thing I will do that. Then I will go to Harvestime for them. And later today, when we pick up the turducken and the turkey breast and have those actual cooking times, I will sit down and figure out exactly what will be made when, and cooked when, and cooked where — oven, crockpot, etc. There will be a chart. The chart will have times and instructions, and will account for the awesome stuff everyone else is bringing that has to be warmed up at the last minute.

And I might think this chart is ridiculous, way too planned-out for a meal that shouldn’t really be that big a deal, it’s not that different from other meals, but I won’t be swayed by that this year.  I will just look at my chart and do what it says to do next, and it will be the chillest Thanksgiving ever.

Outrageous fortune

"Nurse, get me the remote and a dog biscuit, STAT."
“No time to focus, this is a dog Martian collar halter biscuit serious EMERGENCY!”

Yesterday Toots came over to watch “Lovejoy” but we ended up watching Slings & Arrows. The temperature in the room changed, as she said, when we learned she’d never seen it. Lovejoy is a fun thing to bond over—our mutual adoration of Ian MacShane, our affection for the Lovejoy world where everyone pretty much just cares about antiques, enough to kill for them, but mostly just enough to look menacing and almost kill until Lovejoy ambles along and saves the day—or, at any rate, when the day gets saved by some ramshackle coincidence. Then they all go to the pub for a pint.

I wanted to make a test batch of chili because contrary to Dana’s email I don’t actually like to make chili. I just thought it would be easy and I know I’ve made it before, and it was good. But I don’t know what recipe I used, and browning the turkey always stresses me out. So I picked a recipe and decided to stick with it exactly and I did mostly, but I always pick the easy version in my online search—Easy Turkey Chili! Easy Thanksgiving Stuffing!—and then scoff as I cook because it doesn’t have enough interesting ingredients. So I add some.

I made the chili and set it to slow cook and then drafted our proposal for a new freelance project and corresponded with the shuttle service who might get me from Redmond airport to the middle of rural Oregon for the residency next April. They are willing to stop at a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s for only fifteen extra bucks. I feel like I’m walking on bubbles, up on top of bubbles, because so many good things have happened lately and this is not where my heart is used to processing emotion. I’m trying to find a way to be calm and wise about it, so that when the many things are rejections and losses and just plain nothings, to which I am more accustomed, I can be just as calm and wise.

Taking a lunch break to read Pam Houston’s Contents May Have Shifted put me on more familiar ground because it made me wonder, God am I just treading her ground with the small stories I’m sharing, only hers are about surviving an Alaskan mudslide whereas mine are about being afraid of ground turkey?

But I set that aside, because I can’t go down that road or I’ll never get to tell you how desperately important it was that Toots and possibly you, if you haven’t, see Slings and Arrows. Standing in the kitchen after she’d arrived, catching up from the week, having a slow drink before the chili, I can’t remember whether it was Dave or me who mentioned something Slings-and-Arrows-related and Toots said, “What’s that?”

And suddenly it was like an emergency operating theater. “What? You’ve never seen it? I think maybe I’ve heard of it. You. You have to. You can’t go another day. Lovejoy is out. But it’s not on Netflix anymore. We’ll find it. Where’s my phone? How do I? Oh, I’ll try the TV.” And then it was on Acorn, and we fixed our bowls, “Come on come on, we’ve got to fit as many episodes in as possible—there are only 18—does everyone have napkins? Okay, go.”

And this makes sense if you are the sort of person who can appreciate both the charm of one show which is really lovely even when it’s awful and the plot points only sort of connect, and the humor and utter seriousness of another that’s constructed of a thousand truthful details that build so cleverly to reveal what is wonderful and awful about loving something so much that it makes a fool and a hero of you, all at the same time.