So it’s Thanksgiving and you’ve been talked into holding the traditional large Thanksgiving dinner in your small home – how can you pull this off without losing your mind and possibly all of your furniture? Read on for tips and ideas on how to have a great time and not lose your sanity!
The first thing to do is be realistic in assessing your space – both in your kitchen for cooking and in your dining room for eating. Most houses and/or apartments don’t have very much in the way of kitchen space and if you’re intending to do a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings you’re going to have to be honest in deciding what you can and can’t do. Seating twenty people in a one-bedroom apartment just isn’t feasible, no matter how many folding chairs you may have. And with only one oven you may want to reconsider cooking two or three turkeys and all the trimmings, especially if you have no microwave.
So let’s figure out how to make this work – consider delegating the courses out to various family members. It’s a lot easier for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner to happen if you have most of your dinner brought in by relatives who may have no problem in cooking the vegetables, or making the salad or even handling the dessert. In fact, you may find it brings the family closer if you can arrange for Aunt May to bring her famous stuffing and Uncle Joe to cook his award-winning apple cobbler rather than you try to make it all yourself. This will alleviate a lot of the stress on you and your kitchen while allowing you to focus on the main item – the turkey!
Another alternative to having relatives bring parts of your traditional Thanksgiving dinner into your home is to literally contract it out. Many businesses thrive on providing pre-baked hams and turkeys specifically for the holidays; handing over the entire meal to you already cooked and ready to just be reheated and placed on the table. This takes a lot of the stress off and all you have to do is reheat and feed the hungry relatives. It may seem like cheating, but Thanksgiving is also about being with family and friends and spending hours frantically trying to juggle the turkey and the ham with different cooking times may not really bring out the best of the holiday!
Next – where to put everyone? Depending on where you live the option of having the entire traditional Thanksgiving dinner outside may be a viable prospect. Think about renting a tent or some other sort of pavilion to allow your family to enjoy dinner in the back yard without worrying about the weather. You can also go full out and have the dinner on the deck with the main course being barbequed on the grill; depending on your cooking ability. Also, depending again on your area, the garage may be a fine area to set up the children’s table or extend your eating area so that everyone has enough space to eat and enjoy the fine food!
Another option for those without large dining rooms is to provide a buffet setup where you don’t necessarily have everyone sit down at a table – this allows your family and friends to sit everywhere and anywhere, even on the floor if necessary! It may seem a bit odd for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but you can find plenty of room and it’ll allow your guests to do a lot more socializing than being stuck around a table and only talking to the person to their immediate left or right!
If you want to have a classic sit-down dinner, consider feeding people in waves. You can feed the children first, since they usually eat at different times anyway other than adults, and then move them into the back yard or the living room with a movie or DVD to keep their attention while you rotate the adults into the dining room. This way you can also keep the conversation at an adult level while keeping everyone happy.
One of the biggest problems with hosting a traditional Thanksgiving dinner has to be the dishes – you have a variety of options here, most of which I’ve used and seen used in the past to make your holiday still a pleasant experience.
First, consider plastic or paper plates. These have come a long way from the flimsy paper plate we remember in our childhood; many of them look great and perform almost as well as a regular plate. This will save on your cleanup time and allow you to spend more time with your guests and less with your hands in dirty dishwater. The same holds true for drinks – plastic tumblers and wine glasses can also be useful when dealing with children along with helping protect your fine glassware. While plastic knives and forks may be a bit much, consider using them with the children’s meals in order to not only avoid accidents but also cutting down on the cleanup. In the end you just need to dump them all into the garbage and tie up the bag – a great way to end the holiday!
If not, set up a washing and drying line as soon as the meal is ended – grab some of the guests if possible and begin the work before you all sit down to dessert and enter that blissful stomach-full lethargy. You’ll not only work off a few calories but you’ll also make room for another piece of pumpkin pie if you’re lucky!
Hosting a traditional Thanksgiving dinner may seem impossible in a small house, but by using these tips and hints you can not only host everyone and survive, but create a fun and enjoyable experience that’ll be talked about for years!