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.