down to the wire: thanksgiving menu

November 14th, 2006

I’ve been collecting recipes over the past month or so, storing the links in an e-mail draft in my gmail account. This is standard practice for me before every big holiday meal. The process goes something like this:

  1. Think about seasonal ingredients that pique my interest for the holiday menu, such as cranberries, pecans, pumpkins, squash, chestnuts, sage, fennel, celery, beets.
  2. Scout the blogosphere and epicurious.com for recipes that sound good.
  3. Save links in an e-mail according to topic, for example, 15 pie recipes that all sound really good.
  4. Prepare certain staples in advance, such as ordering the most expensive turkey I’ve ever purchased and canning my own cranberry sauce.
  5. As the holiday hype snowballs in the media, search for and save links to yet more recipes.
  6. Consider the number of guests and their particular dietary requirements. Current estimates: thirteen people, including two vegetarians, two young children, two people who hate peppers and cilantro, 1 person who dislikes turkey, 1 hater of all things chocolate.
  7. Panic.
  8. Take a deep breath and thank the gods I don’t need to prepare a fat-free, sugar-free, salt-free, low-carb holiday meal.
  9. Look over the list of recipe links, realize I haven’t a clue which I will actually prepare, which I won’t, and which I will use as a springboard for my own recipes. I have no idea what items I need to buy and how much of them I need to get, let alone an actual shopping list.
  10. Panic.

That’s about where I’m at right now. I need to narrow down the menu by the end of this week, and fill out an order with Fatted Calf as well as my CSA/organic food delivery service. This involves printing out the most appealing menus and fleshing out a shopping list based on the ingredients. After that, I’ll have to plan the preparations down to the hour or so. I will begin by following the plan religiously, and then run dangerously late and panic again.

I’m not sure whether the key is planning too many dishes, and not managing to prepare them all, or planning just enough dishes, and making them all on time. On the other hand, I could print out one of those pre-planned menus with recipes developed by chefs and a to-do list with e-mail and cell phone reminders. But aside from the utter annoyance of being spammed by your own to-do list, a pre-planned menu means actually sticking to the recipes, and that’s just no fun. In the end, toying with the menu as I go is well worth the cost of driving myself just a little bit batty.

Here is my current, tentative menu:

heritage turkey preparation

vegetarian dressing baked on its own, one or a combination of the following

poultry alternatives for the turkey hater

sides and vegetarian staples

bread

dessert!

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