By CATHI AYCOCK
When my family rolls in town for Thanksgiving, I refuse to miss a minute of face to face time.
I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen preparing food, but I do want a homemade meal that will still feel homey and warm.
Last year, I prepared Thanksgiving dinner for my entire family in under three hours: turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, green beans, squash casserole, rolls and pie. Homemade and yummy, I was relaxed and rested when it came time to say grace. (Instead of years past when I nearly nodded off from exhaustion.)
Am I superwoman? Yeah, not so much. But I have finally gotten over my overachiever tendencies by squashing that evil Martha Stewart-meets-Pinterest voice. The one that whispers you must grow your own herbs, bake your own bread and every dish must be from scratch or you are not showing your family love.
And that other voice? The false vanity voice that loves to moan and kvetch to others about all of the work that I do had to be silenced too.
I kept this liberating experience on the down low for a few years, but I am truth telling so that you can experience the same joy this Thanksgiving and Christmas. I order my turkey, dressing, squash casserole, rolls and pies from Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant.
No one cares if the yummy green beans were prepared by me. What they care about is spending time with the happy-me. (And not the martyr-me who is secretly pissed that I do most of the work and starts slamming pots and pans around.)
I am not lying when I say, with a straight face, that my Thanksgiving dinner is homemade. Because while those magic fairies at Puckett’s prepare most of the dishes, I add a touch of my own culinary love so that it is still, technically, made in my kitchen. (My story, people, and I’m sticking to it.)
My husband picks up the food the afternoon before Thanksgiving, all items come chilled and are packaged with reheating instructions, and I add my own flourishes.
First, I replate everything into my own serving pieces. And I am not above tasting and reseasoning to my own taste. A pinch more sage and a splash of chicken broth makes the dressing taste more like home to me.
For the squash, a yummy mix of yellow squash, onion and seasoning, Puckett’s sends a separate container of bread crumbs. I bake a pan of cornbread and use a herb and cornbread crumble, with a healthy dose of cheese, as a topping instead.
I make real whipped cream, with a generous dose of pumpkin rum, and pipe the pumpkin pie with the sinfully good topping.
I roast in-season root vegetables and serve them alongside the (amazing) smoked turkey.
I make a few from scratch items. Things I really love to make like homemade cranberry sauce with ginger and orange and decadent macaroni and cheese. But everything, including arranging flowers for the centerpiece and setting the table, is done in less than three hours.
And the dinner tastes totally homemade. Because Puckett’s is sort of that home-cooked-Mama-made-this eatery so everything they offer for holiday catering tastes legit.
I put my martyr and overachiever in the closet for Thanksgiving. And liberate a relaxed woman who serves a delicious Thanksgiving dinner without spending hours in the kitchen.
Those hours, spent with my family can never be replaced. I’m determined not to waste that time on anything less than living in a moment filled love.