Tag Archives: Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving Again

This was the post I wrote back in 2008 around this time. Way back then I guess I hadn’t really tried to tie everything into a business theme as I do now. It’s just a reflection of how my family enjoys the routine and repetition of the day. 8 years further down the road, I realize that there is a good reason why having the same thing every year is a wonderful thing. Just about everything else I wrote about in the piece below has changed. People have moved and one has died. Houses have been sold and others have been bought. The kids are all grown now and are working and the rarity of everyone getting together has increased.

If there’s a business lesson in all of this, it just might be to appreciate the familiar moments and not to complain too loudly about routine. Rest assured that there will be enough chaos and change for everyone along the way. Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo

My family loves Thanksgiving.  For the most part, so do I.  The entire family getting together is not something that happens with great regularity anymore – grandparents winter in Florida, kids are in college or living their own lives, brothers and sisters and other relations have busy schedules too.  So when 20 or 25 of us can pile into one location, it’s special, and each gathering is unique.  Except for one thing.

Thanksgiving’s menu in my house is something that descended directly from the Pilgrims.  It is etched in two tablets made from the skin of the original bird (and we can have the discussion about whether that bird was in Plymouth or in St.Augustine another time).  Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and apricots, cranberry mold, cranberry bread, veggies, stuffing and gallons of gravy are pretty much it.

I cook every year and love to do it.  Except I can do it in my sleep at this point. I am under strict orders from all parties NOT TO FOOL (they use another word) WITH THE MENU.  The only choices I get to make are what kinds of stuffing and which veggies to serve.  But I don’t, really.

One year I caused a huge ruckus by announcing in advance (mistake) that I would be frying one of the birds (we usually have two).  The discovery of a cure for cancer would have caused less of a ruckus.  Of course, now a fried turkey is mandatory.  Another year I made four dressings – one a cornbread and andouille, one a sausage and herb, one an oyster, and one a vegetarian version that was very traditional.  Of course, only the last one was eaten up.  No more oysters (and don’t even start the discussion about that’s what the Indians ate) in the damn dressing and leave that andouille stuff south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Another year, I slow cooked the green beans with bacon.  “Darling, do you have any less cooked?  I’m not sure I know what I’m eating…”  Another year I served carrots with a tangerine glaze.  The next, I was berated for not serving carrots.

I’m writing this now because there are only two weeks to go and my Mom is asking if I’ve shopped yet (Mom is always ready well in advance).  I tell her I haven’t shopped because I haven’t planned the menu yet but who am I kidding?  The menu was done years ago.  I don’t have the heart to tell her I’m roasting the other bird in a Caja China and not an oven and that I’m seriously considering bringing back the cornbread thing.  But I’ll cook them whatever they want since having the family all together is more important to me than my exercising my chefly prerogatives.

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On Time And Hot

While today isn’t Foodie Friday, it is a major food day here at the world headquarters.

Thanksgiving at the Trolls

(Photo credit: martha_chapa95)

Cooking in earnest for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving feast begins.  With that in mind, I want to revisit a post I did almost five years ago that talks about how one gets a massive project – dinner for 20+ – completed on time with all dishes hot.  As I said at the time,  Thanksgiving‘s biggest challenge is time.

“Time?” you’re thinking, “that’s the biggest challenge?”  I’m sure you could put together a list of this week’s challenges which would contain items such as where to stash all the coats, how to fit 25 people around a table made for 12, and how to step over Uncle Elmer to get to the bathroom without waking him up.  However, as the conductor of the Thanksgiving orchestra around old Rancho Deluxe here, let me assure you that the primary challenge of the day is delivering all 39 items on the menu to the table at the same time, appropriately hot or cold as required.

The key to the entire day is a timed checklist.  Seriously.  I take an enormous amount of crap from everyone who sees mine each year until they realize that the meal is being served at exactly the time requested by the Mrs. which happens to coincide nicely with halftime of the football game.  This list is created by using back timing – something TV and radio producers do all the time.  Beginning at the desired end time and factoring in the availability of necessary facilities (ovens, stove burners, etc.), you work backwards and piece together the time required for each dish until you have a road map.  Anything I can knock off ahead of time (baking, prepping all the dressings, parboiling vegetables) is done up to 24 hours in advance.  It even gets down to resting time for the turkeys before carving and the time it takes for the oil to heat up in the fryer.  In fact, we started frying the turkeys in part because it frees up an oven late in the process.  This sounds like a silly bit of overkill to get the meal ready, but it prevents you from leaving the soup in the refrigerator or forgetting you were serving carrots and finding a 20lb bag the next morning.  Which is the business point as well.

Any project needs to start at the end and work backwards.  You take into account the resources you need along with the human resources to produce the final product.  You need to be honest about the time each step will take and once you’ve written each element down along with its appropriate time block you need to keep checking the list to be sure you’re on time every step of the way.  My list even has lunch and shower time scheduled so nothing is overlooked.

I’d be happy to share my list with you but it really would only help you with your dinner a bit.  The cooking facilities here are pretty damn good although we spent the money on them instead of indoor toilets (kidding).  As with every project, you have to tie your back-timed list to the list of desired outcomes, the facilities you have available to you, and your own skills, whether in the kitchen or in the office.

Make sense?

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Ephemeral

All the prep work for tomorrow’s holiday is in full swing here at Rancho Deluxe.  The turkey stock is made (no pan drippings when you fry them, bubba), shopping is done, silver is polished, and we figured out that we can use an old set of Colorforms shapes as stickers on wine glasses to identify everyone’s drinks  without spending a fortune on those cute little charms.  It’s a lot of work that the Mrs. and I do each year and we’re happy to do so.  Having the 25 or so family members and friends around the table (more like around the room) for dinner is a highlight of the year.  Which of course got me thinking about a business point. Continue reading

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The Thanksgiving Menu’s Business Tip

Thanksgiving Turkey

Happy Cooking Day!  What?  You’re waiting until tomorrow to get going?  Well, maybe you’re better organized than I am.  Today, in between phone calls, emails, and project work, is spent baking the pies, turning the stock we made yesterday into gravy, prepping vegetables, making the appetizers, and many other little things so that we can get tomorrow’s feast in front of everyone all at once and on time.  Those of you with frozen turkeys should have them thawing (maybe in your bathtub if space is an issue?).

The menu we offer this year is the same as last year’s and most prior years.  Frankly, I find it kind of boring to make.  But therein lies the business lesson. Continue reading

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Thanksgiving

With less than one ...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

My family loves Thanksgiving.  For the most part, so do I.  The entire family getting together is not something that happens with great regularity anymore – grandparents winter in Florida, kids are in college or living their own lives, brothers and sisters and other relations have busy schedules too.  So when 20 or 25 of us can pile into one location, it’s special, and each gathering is unique.  Except for one thing. Continue reading

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Filed under food, Thinking Aloud