Dinner for One

I love to entertain. I like throwing a potluck, a barbecue with friends, a simple dinner for us and one or two additional families, or a big blowout for the whole neighborhood. With each scenario, the rules change—my guests and I might share the food responsibility, for example. Or sometimes guests bring nothing or a bottle of wine. But when I entertain, as nice and as accommodating as I may appear to be, I’m in charge and I make the rules. It’s a time when I can use my control-freak tendencies to everyone’s advantage. Thanksgiving, I’ve found, is a different ball of wax.

What gets me about Thanksgiving is that even though I might be “entertaining” by hosting family and friends in my home for the day, I’m following someone else’s rules. When Josh and I first hosted Thanksgiving at our house a couple of years ago, I envisioned I’d be spending the day cooking a variety of dishes and preparing the house. People would trickle in to the scent of roasted turkey and apple pie and maybe place a bottle of wine or a dessert on the table, and then go off and pour themselves a drink, nosh on an appetizer, and start to socialize. I’d have the kitchen to myself to make the finishing touches before pouring myself a well-earned beer and joining everyone in fun and conversation.

Nope. I learned quickly that that’s not how it goes. At all. What happens is your family bursts in through your front door carrying bags and bags of uncooked food that needs to spend a significant amount of time and space in the oven or be heated on the stove before it can be put on the table. Nevermind that you already had mashed potatoes (and green beans and yams and cranberry sauce and gravy and cornbread stuffing) covered. Your kitchen soon becomes usurped by these outsiders. Every conceivable surface is taken over or dusted in flour or covered in something sticky. The environment can get so thick with my own resentment, I make a note to self that ordering Chinese food next year would probably make me feel more grateful on this Thanksgiving day.

But I must have some sort of Thanksgiving amnesia. Why am I surprised? Probably because Thanksgiving as an adult host is different from being a kid or guest. My mom has dealt with being a Thanksgiving host on and off for most of her adult life, and I do remember that she would, on occasion, need to just grit her teeth and get through it. Champagne helps. Now, as an adult I get a crack at it, which is a pretty nice problem to have. We’re really lucky to have family and friends to share the day. I think I just need to learn to get over myself a little and let others take over my house for Thanksgiving. Or, take a few days with Josh and Virginia in Puerto Vallarta and spend Thanksgiving sipping margaritas at the beach.

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