Style v. Substance: A division of labor that works

I’ve been asked more than a few times these past few days, “Are you cooking for Thanksgiving?”  Answering that questions stumps me. 

Well, “we” are cooking, but no, the primary responsibility of feeding a roomful of family is not mine.  That would fall to Mary Tyler Dad.  And trust me when I say my family is grateful for that.  Nobody would want to eat a Thanksgiving meal I prepared.  Quite honestly, I kind of like the idea of making a turkey burger bar with lots of interesting toppings for folks to choose from.  Sort of a post modern take acknowledging the stress that most families are under with time and budget, but giving a nod to the ultimate symbol of the holiday.  It could work.  It could.

The precision required to prep, cook, and serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal — something I love dearly — is simply beyond my talents.  I am a huge advocate of knowing your limitations and one of my limitations is cooking.  I can put breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the table, but I don’t find much joy in it.  I can plan and cook nutritious meals, and I do, for the most part, but it always feels like WORK.  Who wants to come home and work after you’ve been working all day?   

My husband, on the other hand, likes to cook.  He’s just too busy to do it regularly.  He gets home from the office late.  I do most of the shopping.  Poor guy has an extremely sophisticated and adventurous palate and I serve him things like sloppy joes and roasted green beans.  Sometimes I think that if he had an affair with a chef, I wouldn’t fault him for it. 

So for the day-to-day, I man the kitchen, plan what we’ll eat and get it on the table.  But for events, like a Thanksgiving meal that you want folks to enjoy and savor, yeah, Mary Tyler Dad is the only man for that job in our home.

But lest you think I am sitting on my bum and whining about my lack of culinary prowess, I am not.  I, too, am busy, preparing for our entertaining events.  Early in our marriage I coined the phrase “style v. substance” to describe our division of labor.  It totally works for us.  Well, for me.  And I think for Mary Tyler Dad, too, but I won’t speak for him. 

While he is cooking and preparing a feast to be remembered, I am focused on style.  I dress the tables.  I dress myself (and would argue that this totally falls under style — who likes a messy hostess?).  I clean the house, including three toilets.  I buy and arrange flowers for the table.  I think about music.  I wash and iron the linens that I purchased that perfectly capture the mood I am hoping for (“Autumnal chic,” is what my tables will say this year).  I light the candles that make everyone look better.  I think about what the deck looks like, as our dining room overlooks that.  I put Mary Tyler Son’s toys away.  I lay hand towels at the sinks. 

Some style is also substantive.  I tend to focus on things like dessert and appetizers.  And drinks.  Isn’t it nice to go to someone’s home and drink something new?  Maybe something pretty?  For Thursday, I’m thinking something with cranberry juice and soda.  And we have toddlers at our events, so something to keep them tantalized, too.  They have their own table for dinner and will have little mini turkeys at their place settings.  Those little mini turkeys don’t get there themselves, you know?  And for dessert will be donut hole “acorns” and rice krispy turkey lollipops. 

You see, for me entertaining is style and substance.  You want to be fed well, when you go to someone’s home, but you want to be treated well, too.  Mary Tyler Dad does the feeding and I do the treating.  Together, we make a lovely team.  We’re Martha Stewart, except I’m Martha and he is Stewart. 

Here is to your Thanksgiving.  If you are a mom who does it all — style and substance — I stand before you with an ovation of one.  My Mom did that.  You are my hero.  I don’t have it in me. 

And for that, I love Mary Tyler Dad even more, and am most grateful to him.  I love you, sir!  Gobble, gobble, folks.

10 Replies to “Style v. Substance: A division of labor that works”

  1. Amen. I am so thankful I have a man that can and will cook and a mother that watches my kids and cooks for them during the week while I am at work because lord knows if it was up to me to feed everyone they would be sick of spaghetti and macaroni and cheese…Though you are better then me, I have barely any substance either, we are lucky to have a table cloth on our table, my job is to keep 3 dogs away from the food, 3 kids from killing their cousins and a mother away from telling my husband how that green bean casserole should realy be seasoned…Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving to you!


  2. My husband does the bulk of the style and definitely the substance for our Thanksgiving. I know the 30 adults and kids coming to dinner will be well-fed and will admire a pretty home, thanks to my husband. My jobs: (1) take a shower and (2) clean up my son’s toys.

    Needless to say, I love Thanksgiving! Of course reading your post has triggered some guilt – and fear that my stunning good looks might some day no longer be enough to keep my husband at my side. I might try my hand at an appetizer….maybe


    1. I have two words for you: bacon dip. Everyone LOVES bacon — even vegetarians — and you can use crudite as a vehicle, which requires no oven time. Done and done.

      Or, slice up some honeycrisp apples and serve with caramel. Double yum and you get to feel healthy, too.


      1. Awesome suggestions, both. Thank you, Ms. Martha Stewart on the go, I’m off to do a little appetizer shopping!


  3. What are little turkeys for the kids? Is that a food or a craft? Sounds fun. You and MTD have awesome chemestry. Where did you meet? He reminds me of my own husband. You completely just described our ThanksGiving. Cheers to my hubby though, he isn’t even American and does all the cooking etc for my family.


    1. Hi, Mo and Moose. Thanks! The little turkeys are tiny wood turkeys we got from a street vendor. I finally found them after not remembering where I had put them back in February. Mary Tyler Dad and I met through an ad, of all places. I guess that means social media brought us together, though at that time, it was still print. Happy gobbling to you.


  4. Two years ago I did make-your-own pizza Easter instead of a traditional ham, and last year for Christmas I had everyone bring a different Crock Pot of soup. I am therefore intrigued by the idea of a turkey burger bar. Luckily for my family, my sister is hosting Thanksgiving this year and will do a perfectly prepared traditional dinner. Enjoy your day!


  5. Happy Thanksgiving my American friends. I hope your day is just as you planned. Boy you sure are lucky to have MTD. I can’t cook a Thanksgiving meal to save my life and the only person worse at it than me would be the hubby. We go to other people’s houses for the big dinners and bring things like salad and rolls 🙂


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