Strategies for Cooking a Pain-Free Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving southern style is a real treat. There is always the turkey at the center of the table and if you are a true Texan, it will be fried in the back yard. Otherwise it is rubbed down with seasonings and placed in the oven to develop its flavor. You want it moist inside, both dark and white meat. Most people make an ordinary turkey, but I believe in going all out. The side dishes make the meal and the more the better. When the big day comes, I try to do as much as I can in advance. Prepping—chopping and slicing—means you are standing on your feet for hours on end. Pretty soon they get sore, your calves ache, and you are ready to rest. I hope you set aside enough time to finish the job and whip up the final touches such as home-baked rolls and a thick and savory gravy.

There is an art to doing Thanksgiving right and if you are going to take the southern route, you have many options. Yams can be baked with bits of pineapple and the marshmallow topping known nationwide is optional. Brown sugar creates a sweet surprise. It can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator along with any vegetables. The turkey must be made fresh in the morning of the big day. It can sit on your counter allowing the juices to mingle while you go about setting the table and making a centerpiece.

Potatoes are a staple of Thanksgiving and southerners always add cream and butter before whipping. Some people like to leave some of the skin on for a little coarser version. Add a little grated cheese and you have a winner. Then the vegetable of choice is washed and roasted. A medley of root vegetables is very “fall.” Turnips and parsnips go well with carrots and celery with a touch of lemon peel for zip. Simple tastes like green beans and almond slivers or fresh corn with chunks of red roasted peppers.

At this point, the feet are crying out. If you didn’t wear comfortable shoes, it may be too late. If you think in advance, you might have slipped on your nurses’ compression socks in the morning. You know that medical professionals such as doctors, orderlies, and nurses can work long shifts if they wear them regularly. They don’t go home and have to soak in a hot tub.

This means a better social life at night instead of dropping dead in bed. If your feet are properly attired, you are ready to continue on. It is time to baste the turkey every half hour to spread the juices. Meanwhile, pumpkin pie is afoot. There are many recipes but I like the traditional using the seasonal stuff in a can. The crust must be homemade and made with shortening and a little butter. This gives the right flakiness and texture. By now your feet may be up as you contemplate the seating arrangements. It is almost time to serve.