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How to Organize Thanksgiving Dinner


To aid in your Thanksgiving preparations, I have modified a schedule I first heard in home economics class shortly after the pilgrims invented this annual feast. Are you ready?

T-DAY MINUS 5 and 4. The weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday, is behind us now. But this is what you should have done. Clean your kitchen. Heck, clean the entire house. While you’re at it, gather your pots, pans, and platters. If you don’t have enough un-chipped dishware, consider using paper plates. They’re quite sturdy and save on clean up. This is also a good time to make the cranberry sauce and acquire fresh vegetables. No, I don’t know why.

T-DAY MINUS 3. Today, Monday, do everything in the preceding paragraph, and start thawing the turkey. If you forgot to buy a turkey when you acquired the vegetables, drive all over town to find one. If you don’t have enough room in the refrigerator, clean out the left overs and shove in the turkey until you can close the door.

T-DAY MINUS 2. On Tuesday, make the pie dough, unless you bought a pie when you picked up what might have been the last frozen turkey in a fifteen mile radius. Shred bread for stuffing. Leave out so it’s nice and stale on T-Day.

T-DAY MINUS 1. On Wednesday, take out the veggies. Sigh over the wilted carrot tops. Peel, trim, chop. Store in zip lock bags. Wonder why you’re even bothering with veggies. Also a good time to pull the innards out of the bird and make the broth you’ll use for the gravy. Warning: This can be messy.

T-DAY. Get up early or no later than 10:00. Drink several cups of coffee. Take the turkey out of the refrigerator. Wash it. In our family Number Two Daughter likes to make the turkey dance. Grab turkey from Daughter and put it in the roasting pan.

Decide if you want to start roasting with the turkey upside down – a new method so the dark meat will be equally cooked with the white. After an hour or so, remember to turn the turkey right side up. If the turkey is over ten pounds, this could be tricky. Enlist aid.


A ten pound turkey should take less than three hours to roast at 425 degrees. It will take longer at a lower temperature, so decide which method you will use.

After maneuvering an upside down turkey into the oven – did I mention you should pre-heat? – prepare the potatoes. Wash, peel, slice. Put in water and back in fridge.

Set the table. If you are using a tablecloth, it is important to put the cat out first, or she will think pulling the edges is a great new game and she is the national champion.

Take a nap. You’ll be glad you did. Try to get up by 5:00.

Did you remember to reverse the turkey? Never mind.

Once the turkey is done, the fun begins. Take the turkey out of the oven. It needs to rest. I don’t know why, since you’ve been doing all the work. But you need the oven space to heat up the stuffing. Move the scene of action to the stovetop. Steam the potatoes and veggies. Make gravy. Stir, stir, stir. Turn down the heat before the potatoes boil over. Enlist an unsuspecting family member to mash the potatoes. Be sure the volunteer adds milk and butter. Keep stirring the gravy.

Put newspaper or other absorbent product underneath the cutting board. Wake up the turkey. Carve. Are you still stirring? Pour gravy into dish with ladle – the one that usually sits on the top shelf…in the back.

Move turkey slices to platter. Dump potatoes in bowl with big spoon. Drain now thoroughly steamed veggies and place in small bowl. Put everything on table. Don’t forget the cranberries that are now in the most inaccessible nook in the refrigerator. Stop crossing your eyes. Smile and put your napkin in your lap.

When it is your turn to say what you are thankful for, say you are glad you’re done cooking for another year.

Then say, how happy you are you have food to cook and a family to cook for, because really, that’s the point.



Featured Image: Thanksgiving Greetings by Frances Brudage. U.S. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

Turkey drawing from antique postcard. c.1880. U.S. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.


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