Publisher's note: Please join me in welcoming our newest contributor to BCN, Kathy Manos Penn, a native of the "Big Apple", by way of the "Peach City" - Atlanta. Kathy, a former English teacher, authors The Ink Penn blog and is now happily retired from a corporate career in communications.
That subtitle for a Wall Street Journal article on how not to stress about preparing the quintessential Thanksgiving meal caught my eye. Yes, I have stressed over that meal in the past, but not to the extreme outlined in the WSJ.
For me, the stressful part was making the gravy. I only make gravy to accompany a roast turkey, and doing that every year or so is not enough "practice to make perfect." Add to that my mother and my two sisters hovering over my shoulder offering input, often conflicting, and you get the picture. The times I've made decent gravy were the times I cooked dinner only for my husband, his elderly aunt and myself. Being able to follow a gravy recipe from the newspaper, without interruption, did the trick.
I was never one to try new recipes at Thanksgiving, as my family and friends always wanted the tried and true, which was fine by me. What does that mean? Turkey, gravy, the Pepperidge Farm dressing recipe with minor adaptations, baked sweet potatoes vs. a casserole, green beans or roasted veggies like Brussel sprouts, carrots, onions plus cranberry sauce and rolls. Who needs more than that? Truth be told, none of us really want to eat anything beyond turkey, dressing and gravy, but feel obligated to at least put something green in our mouths.
I haven't cooked a Thanksgiving dinner the past few years, as my husband and I have been invited to eat with friends or family for several years running. The two years we spent with friends at their mountain house, I was only in charge of the dressing and baked sweet potatoes. One year when we spent the day with friends locally, I was asked to make my specialty-Greek salad.
Last year, I couldn't believe my good fortune when the same friends asked me to bring Greek pastries from Zukerino. That Greek bakery has become my go-to spot any time I need dessert, which is pretty much only when I entertain or take dessert to someone else's house.
It's been so many years since I've had to prepare an entire Thanksgiving meal that I was taken by surprise last year when I ran into Trader Joe's on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to pick up Greek olive oil and found the store packed. Finally, it dawned on me that everyone was stocking up for Thanksgiving. That experience prompted me to give thanks that I was once again off the hook for the big meal.
This year, we're heading to St. Simons Island to spend the holiday with my sister and brother-in-law in their newly purchased vacation condo. With the just four of us plus a few pets, I know we won't be stressing over the Thanksgiving meal. My sister discovered last year that lots of island restaurants are open that day, so we may well go out. That would leave most of Thanksgiving Day free for bicycling the island, watching the parade on TV, walking on the beach, and all the activities we enjoy. We keep vacillating about cooking, as we all enjoy the leftovers as much as the original meal.
Decisions, decisions. We'll figure it out eventually and enjoy a relaxing week regardless of where or what we end up eating on Turkey Day. I wish you all a stress-free Thanksgiving too.
Kathy Manos Penn is a Sandy Springs resident now happily retired from a corporate career in communications. Find her book, "The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday," on her website at www.theinkpenn.com. Contact her at email@example.com.