I was listening to a radio talk show with a well-known chef. He was discussing the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and asked callers to share their ‘wow’ dishes that family and friends adore. The first caller wanted to know what the chef prepared that was his signature dish. This led him to talk about how surprisingly, Thanksgiving was one holiday that so many acquaintances called him stressed out. He said that the pressure to prepare a perfect meal started weeks in advance for some and that a lot of joy was lost in the name of perfection.
This was a lightbulb moment for me. I have a confession. I am not known for my epic culinary skills or for hosting extensive dinner parties. While I actually am a pretty decent cook, I prefer to only cook for my husband and my boys. Getting the table set and everything coordinated in timely manner as it reaches the dinner table is a stretch for me. This is only cooking for four people! Beyond that, I am way over my head. My husband knows this about me and instead of expecting me to be something or someone I’m not, when it comes to Thanksgiving, we order the whole meal. He even goes one step further and heats everything up. It’s his way of saying thanks to me while I’ve held the fort down during his work travel over the course of the year. Honestly, where we order from makes a meal twenty times better than I could even begin to imagine. All I have to do is show up at the table. It’s as easy as pumpkin pie.
Why am I sharing this with you, you may wonder? It isn’t to show-off that my husband has mad skills at the Thanksgiving reheat, but to show you that I am not a wonder woman. I crack under cooking pressure and I do not enjoy it. If I don’t enjoy something, I try very hard not to do the thing that causes me discomfort. It’s a simple formula really. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t’ prepare an elaborate Thanksgiving meal. This means that you should only joy-test whether or not you actually want to. When I think Thanksgiving prep, my stomach immediately tightens and I feel like I’ve been thrown off the deep end without a raft. However, if when you think of Thanksgiving prep your mind floods with awesome ideas and possible place setting decor, then you could very well be following your joy. I say go all out and have fun.
I encourage you to be consciously aware of how you are feeling during the process. If you think about it, isn’t the meal gone in about ten minutes anyway? Therefore if you stressed yourself out and hated the process, you may feel some serious resentment as soon as the last bite is eaten. If instead, you felt joy throughout, seeing satisfied faces around the table will be a pleasant but unnecessary reward to the fun you had to get there. To take it a step further, you don’t have to make it an all-or-nothing kind of meal either. If you happen to love to bake, then bake something you love. You can easily delegate or order any sort of mix and match scenario that makes you the happiest. If you have no one to delegate to, or if ordering a whole meal seems extravagant and expensive, order low-key take-out instead. The only tradition that is truly worth creating, is the one that brings you the most joy, ease and comfort to your heart. At the end of the day, if the only thing you make is your way to the table, save a place for me and I’ll meet you there.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent