Thanksgiving is only two weeks away! It’s the holiday that brings people of every kind to the table in the spirit of sharing food and showing gratitude. As you might infer, this is one of my favorite holidays. One where everyone is welcome to the table, and despite (or in spite of) complex family histories or past dramas, everyone takes a seat to eat a family style meal, together.
It can be hard to please everyone at Thanksgiving. Especially when you have old traditions (grandma’s cranberry jelly and marshmallow fluff sweet potatoes) mixing with new dietary habits or lifestyle choices (gluten free, paleo, sugar free, dairy free).
So what are some foolproof ways to please every eater as a host and show thanks as a guest?
FOR THE HOSTS
1. Survey your guests. Without going overboard, check in to see if any of your guests have restrictions or strong food preferences: it will help shape your menu.
2. Plan ahead to find recipes you’d like to try that feed most or all your guests. Try my yam casserole with spiced pecans or mashed parsnips for inspiring takes on traditional recipes that are 100% gluten, dairy, soy, nightshade and white sugar free. Also stay tuned for my upcoming cookbook that will be released in December!
3. If you feel overwhelmed taking it all on yourself, divide and conquer. No one is superhuman, and excess stress never adds to holiday celebrations (it’s not a tasty seasoning). If you are accustomed to making your traditional recipes but are hosting guests with dietary preferences, ask two or three friends or family members to each make a dish that is gluten free/dairy free/vegan/etc. so that all of your guests will have something wonderful to eat at your table. It helps create a sense of ease and community where everyone feels nurtured and welcome.
FOR THE GUESTS
1. Check with the host and offer to bring a dish. Make sure it’s a dish that you can eat, too, especially if you have food allergies and don’t want to be the odd man out while others feast. It makes for an awkward community experience where people wish they could offer you something more, so plan ahead and bring enough with you.
2. If you don’t have a true food allergy and are offered foods you don’t normally eat, consider accepting them in small quantities as a sign of thanks. Prepare your body (by relaxing) to receive the food, saying: “I’m going to receive this food and it will nourish me.” You will likely be able to enjoy it without stress if you do this, even if you have subtle digestive repercussions afterward. You don’t need to go full bonanza and eat until you are sick, but there is something to be said about social politeness and acting in the spirit of gratitude for what is offered. Ultimately it’s your choice, but know that eating grandma’s pie probably wont kill you.
3. Show gratitude by lending a helping, dishwashing hand. There is never an unwelcome hand when it comes to cleaning up. Even if your host is fully in charge of all the dish-doing, I am sure he or she wouldn’t turn down an offer to help clear the table, or place dirty dishes in a tub of sudsy water to make dishwashing easier later on. Step up and offer to help. Your efforts will be appreciated and you’ll probably feel good that you did something to help the host!
If you are looking for ways to please and thank your loved ones, co-workers and friends between Thanksgiving and Christmas, join me for a holiday feast on December 11th. I’ll be setting the table for an intimate group, offering a five course, celebratory Italian inspired menu featuring the freshest local produce.