The Lexingtonienne

November19th

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Earlier this week we talked about my annual test of organization and preparedness — the Thanksgiving week schedule. But if you are not hosting the meal this year, you still play a crucial role in accomplishing the collective national goal of the holiday: EATING. Besides bringing your appetite, here are some suggestions as to how you, the guest, can help make Thanksgiving a success.

First, ask your host or hostess what you can bring. Don’t just show up with something. A successful Thanksgiving meal is all about the planning; it’s perhaps not the best day for surprises. Besides, you don’t want to work hard on a dish only to find that there are 2 other very same dishes there.

If you like to cook, I suggest you offer to bring something that doesn’t need much attention in your host’s kitchen. (In other words, he’s coordinating a carefully choreographed meal in there. Don’t get in the way.) Here are some ideas:

  • An appetizer that you can prepare at home and bring ready to serve, such as a cheese tray or sliced pumpkin bread. (My sister-in-law Casey and her mom, Dana, are covering these items. Thanks, y’all!)
  • A cold side dish, such as cranberry sauce, the token Jell-O mold, or broccoli salad.
  • Something that can be kept at room temperature, such as cornbread or homemade rolls.
  • A hot side dish that you can strategically keep out of the way. For example, I usually make creamed corn a day or two in advance, keep it in the fridge in Tupperware, and then heat it on Thanksgiving day in a crock pot. This way it doesn’t require a burner on the stove. You could arrive at your host’s house with crock pot and Tupperware full of creamed corn, plug your pot into an out-of-the-way area, and you’re set.
  • Dessert. If you are known for your baking prowess, your host may even hand the entire dessert category over to you. It’s a snap to warm some pies in the oven; the main dishes have all been devoured by then and you won’t have to angle for oven space.

If you are not a cook, I suggest you offer to bring one or more of the following:

  • A Honeybaked ham. (Keep in mind that you need to pre-order this. My brother-in-law Tim is bringing a Kurobuta ham to our Thanksgiving table. Yesssssss.)
  • Wine or beer.
  • Cokes and bottled waters.
  • Ice. (You could also offer to bring a cooler already prepared with ice and drinks.)
  • Plastic Solo cups, paper plates, napkins, etc.
  • Serving utensils (disposable or your own from your house). Your host will have some but may need more on this most gluttonous of days.
  • A centerpiece for the table.
  • Your iPod with a Thanksgiving playlist.
  • Ice cream and/or whipped cream to go with desserts.
  • Games that will entertain guests while they wait and can help guests who don’t already know each other to get acquainted. Or, if you’re like me and you own the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVD, a movie to help occupy the little guests (and maybe some of the big guests too).
  • Your camera. Offer to snap photos of all the dishes, of the Thanksgiving table, and of all the guests enjoying themselves throughout the day. Your hosts will be thrilled to see these photos later!

If your host says to bring nothing, you don’t necessarily have to show up empty-handed. Here are some items you could bring, if you are told to “just bring yourself”:

  • A bottle or two of your favorite wine. Even if her bar is stocked for today, your hostess could enjoy this at a later date.
  • Flowers or a plant ALREADY IN A VASE OR POT. I wouldn’t bring fresh cut flowers that need to be put into a vase and arranged at your hostess’s house on this most crowded of days in the kitchen. Bring something that is already in a vase or pot and ready to enjoy.
  • A small gift of appreciation, such as a candle, a picture frame, monogrammed soaps, a tin of mulling spices, or even a mistletoe ball (hey, the very next day is officially the Christmas season).
  • Call as you are leaving your house to see if your host needs you to pick anything up on your way. It is surprisingly easy to run out of staples like butter and chicken broth.

And — last but not least — be on time, and offer to clean up. But you already knew that. 😉

Gobble gobble,

Hannah

1 Comment

  • Comment by L McSwain-Starrett — November 19, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

    Really great tips, Hannah!

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