Polishing silver, setting the table, getting up early to stuff the turkey, noticing that first tendril of roasting aroma make its way through the house as you wait for guests to arrive "» Preparing the Thanksgiving Day feast is surely as full of once-a-year memories as the meal itself.
Polishing silver, setting the table, getting up early to stuff the turkey, noticing that first tendril of roasting aroma make its way through the house as you wait for guests to arrive "¦ Preparing the Thanksgiving Day feast is surely as full of once-a-year memories as the meal itself.
To make this portion of the holiday as rich as Aunt Edna's mouthwatering giblet gravy, follow a few tips from those in the know.
Most importantly, promise yourself not to get so wrapped up in preparations and presentation that you forget to "enjoy your family and count your blessings," says Jesse Longhurst, owner of Red Letter Events LLC in Ashland.
Choose menu items that match your skill level, test new recipes before the holiday and delegate responsibilities if that will help you relax. And always give yourself enough time to learn about the complicated aspects of this important meal, like thawing and stuffing a turkey and exactly how long and at what temperature it needs to be roasted.
Don't give up if you're not a cook.
"If you just want to eat the turkey, not spend hours basting it, let someone else do the cooking," suggests Longhurst.
Explore catering companies, restaurants, delis and even grocery stores — many offer a full meal deal for almost any budget.
But don't forget to decorate! "Fall leaves are free, easy to find and make any table look festive," Longhurst says.
Now turn your attention to tables and chairs. If a formal dining set isn't available, card tables and other surfaces can be cobbled together with a mishmash of chairs — what could be more charming than a varied collection?
Furniture can also be rented, as can stemware for a memorable wine or apple cider toast.
"If you want to step it up even more, add linens," says Beverly Lively, co-owner with husband David of The Party Place in Medford.
Renting tables, chairs, stemware, tablecloths and napkins for 20 people runs about $75, Lively advises. And because rented linens can be returned unwashed and glassware simply rinsed, there's less overall cleanup for the hostess. Check with rental places on Thanksgiving weekend pick-up and drop-off; many will include the day before and the day after (or even the whole holiday weekend) for the price of a 24-hour rental. There will usually be an extra charge for candle wax, tears, burns and mildew found on returned goods.
Disposable paper supplies are another economical, although less eco-friendly choice.
"You can add color with a plastic tablecloth then mix and match plates, cups, flatware with any color line," says Lively.
Another way for everyone to recognize the bounty of the holiday is to place a "blessing bowl" in a central place, accompanied by small pieces of paper and pens or pencils. Ask each guest to write something they're thankful for and drop it in the bowl.
"After dinner, pass it around and read them aloud," says Longhurst. "It is a simple tradition that can be very meaningful, reminding us how lucky we are to have not just enough, but enough to share."
And that's a valuable holiday message to send home with your guests — along with some leftovers, of course!