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Make Space For A Big Thanksgiving

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Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Got a crowd coming? Feeling some stress about cooking the enormous feast and then turning around and serving it? Then please do read on – this blog is for you!

I have been hosting Thanksgiving for over a decade and have learned many lessons along the way. Over time I have elevated the organization of this feast to an art form, all in service of an enjoyable gathering for our guests as well as the cook! I’ve got tips for everything from your coat closet, to your table to ensuring everything runs smoothly in the kitchen. Our table this year will include 20 friends and family members; here’s how I’m going to prep my enviroment for success!

The COAT Closet

If you have houseguests as well as dinner guests you should check out my tips for Guest Prep. As far as dinner guests go, you want to be ready for them as soon as they walk in the door. The first thing to prepare is your coat closet. In my experience coat closets tend to attract clutter so take some time to get in there and remove anything that doesn’t belong; you want to have plenty of available capacity for all of the incoming coats. I keep a labeled bin on the closet shelf for hats which is helpful if you live in a colder clime. The coat closet is the one closet where sturdy wooden hangers are necessary. They look nice but also can handle the weight of heavier winter coats, plastic or velvet hangers won’t hold up. You may want to temporarily move some of your family’s outerwear to bedroom closets if your space is small or are hosting a large crowd.

The Table

The total number of guests will drive decisions about your table. In my case even with 2 leaves inserted my table accommodates only 14, so when I exceeded that number I had to get creative. Card table extensions were my solution, 2 were enough to fit 6 more people. I used these risers to lift them to the height of my table. OK now I have enough space but how am I going to find a tablecloth that long? These tablecloths are amazing, a fabulous neutral color that works with anything, wrinkle-resistant so I can just throw them on and inexpensive, which was great because I needed 3 of them!

What about place settings? Most people don’t have more than 12. I encourage using 2 sets if your number of guests exceeds your available dishes/flatware/glasses. I like to use my wedding china for holiday meals and solved my scarcity problem by borrowing my mom’s set as well. Borrowing is an excellent strategy, especially since most people rarely use their fancy dishes.  And your guests are prime targets to borrow from since they clearly won’t be using their china on this occasion! With the right tablescape mismatched plates, glasses or flatware look almost better and more welcoming than a uniform set!

The Kitchen

There is a lot you can do ahead to pave the road for a stress-free Thanksgiving Day cooking experience. Here are my top 3.

Stock Your Pantry. Many of the ingredients you’ll need are dish-specific and you’ll get those the week of the feast. But you can get a head start on shopping by stocking your pantry with the staple ingredients that are used in multiple dishes now. Examples include flour, sugar, eggs, butter and spices. These things won’t spoil if you get them ahead of time and if you get them now your week-of shopping trip will be a lot less overwhelming!

Delegate to Your Guests. You don’t have to make everything on the menu, in fact many people like to make a contribution to the feast. Poll your peeps ahead of time and when they’ve let you know what they’d like to bring subtract those dishes from your own menu list, you don’t have to worry about them!

Enlist Help. An extra pair of hands or two make light of a heavy cooking load. Houseguests should for sure be enlisted, I find that teenagers are also (surprisingly) willing to help. Make a list of the prep activities (chopping, grating, peeling, etc.) and assign them to your helpers. Make sure you have extra cutting boards and the right tools ready for each job. When you outsource the prep work it’s easier to execute ‘mis en place’ and have all of your prepped ingredients organized by dish and ready for you to saute, stir, assemble and baste.

The right preparation can make a 14+ Thanksgiving crowd feel as manageable as an intimate party of 6, the key is prepping your environment. Things that seem trivial can cause friction on Thanksgiving Day and when so many are descending on your home any friction you can avoid is a huge win. Let the feasting commence!

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