The experts on NBC recommend making Thanksgiving dinner in advance. So last night I prepared our Thanksgiving dinner.
And by prepared, I mean I turned on my laptop, logged into https://www.crackerbarrel.com, found the Thanksgiving meal section (turkey, dressing, rolls, two pies, and three sides!), shouted YES to this “heat & serve holiday meal to-go”, chose my time for pick-up, and called it a night.
Do you see this picture above? I can't even get my three kids to smile at the same time. I for sure can't put together a three-course meal.
So this year It's all about kindness to myself. A little more grace, and a lot less home-cooked.
Yes, we are having a Cracker Barrel Thanksgiving at my house.
The most taxing decision of all of this was choosing the three sides. I actually sprung for four side dishes because who can say no to hash-brown casserole? And I shall not fib. I ordered one extra pie because it was chocolate pecan. I was sold at chocolate, could you have resisted?
I don’t even have to pay until pickup.
Now my big “job” as the hostess of our family Thanksgiving is putting the disposable cook/serving-ware Cracker Barrel sends me home with into the piping-hot oven and then, two hours later, slide my hand into my Pioneer Woman oven mitt and take the delicious masterpiece out of my oven.
Bada-bing. Bada-boom! Thanksgiving is served. And my sanity is saved.
Y’all I grew up with a lifetime of incredible Thanksgiving meals that were all homemade. Strong emphasis on the homemade part of the former sentence.
One Thanksgiving it was true farm-to-table experience. This was way back before that was even a thing. One of my earliest memories is being chased by a headless turkey.
You read that correctly — a headless turkey. Yes, my grandparents “prepared” the turkey they had raised while my brother and I watched a few feet away from the massacre. The lesson learned was that a turkey can run without a head. I still have nightmares about being pinned against the edge of my Grandaddy’s home by a turkey who ran straight toward me after the guillotine took off his head. Farm-fresh doesn’t sound quite as romantic as you had imagined, now does it? But, I mean, it was organic. That counts, right?
Other meals were thankfully not as home-grown. The Thanksgiving dinners at my late-Uncle David’s house were always a treat. We had appetizers, drinks, yummy pecan & pumpkin pies, and all that turkey jazz. Christmas music played in the background as we filled and refilled our plates. It’s a fond part of my growing-up years.
But, with the passage of time, traditions must change and a new host/hostess is crowned.
I am now the Queen of the holidays as it is our walnut table that our family now gathers round.
But there is a tiny, little problem with this coronation — I am not a culinary goddess. I can’t fry up okra like my grandmother Faye, carve a turkey like my Uncle David, or mix together the perfect broccoli casserole like my Nana. In fact, I was the dishwasher and not the sous-chef at all the meals I attended growing-up. And cleaning dishes, as we all know, does little to feed a hungry belly.
And alas, in this season of my life learning how to put together a full-scale Thanksgiving feast is not something I’m willing to do! There are too many diapers to be changed, to many sibling battles to referee, and too many juices to pour. What’s a young mom to do?
She calls in the Cracker Barrel, that’s what she does.
Because she decides to be KIND to herself and the rest of her family.
I might not be able to cook a full-meal all the time, but I sure as heck can curate one!
It was my brother’s brilliant idea. He comes in from Raleigh each year and we talked that we wanted to actually get to spend time with each other. We didn’t want my mom to have to spend all her time cooking and I certainly didn’t want to do that either. And my Dad didn’t want to spend the day in line at the Honey Baked Ham Company.
So we kicked tradition out of the Mayflower and came up with our own plan.
After planing a trip to the zoo, my brother– in a complete genius moment, quipped, “Sis, why don’t we just get plates to-go from the Cracker Barrel and take them back to your house after the zoo? That way no one has to cook and we have more time together.”
And with that one statement he so earned a “Best Brother Ever” mug that he will be getting for Christmas.
Ladies & Gents, if you are the designated host/hostess for your holiday feasts please give yourself permission to start a new tradition if you so please.
Be kind to yourself.
If cooking up the meal from scratch makes your heart sing…go for it!
If cooking the meal from scratch causes you a tension headache…call the Cracker Barrel.
If one year you want to do homemade, then one year you want a Honey Baked Ham, and then one year you want a pizza from the Gondolier (our local fav)…go for it! You are not going to set the world afire by changing things up. You are not going to be called a Grinch for changing the holiday meal either.
This year we are having a Cracker Barrel Thanksgiving and I’ll even set up a checker board in our living room to make it the full-scale experience.
Hot cocoa will be simmering on the stove, I’ll prepare homemade whipped cream for us to place atop our purchased pies, and mugs will be sitting beside the coffee pot ready to be filled with the dark roast.
Who knows what type of meal I’ll prepare next year, but this year our table is going to be filled with some of my favorite people—my parents, my brother and sister-in law, my nephew, my niece, my ninety-year old grandmother, my father-in-law, and my own little family!
And afterwards, instead of having to clean up a bunch of dishes…we are going to throw those dishes away, get to sit around, play with the kids, eat lots of pie, and maybe play a game of checkers. ‘Cause if we are having a Cracker Barrel Thanksgiving it might as well be authentic!
Traditions are a good thing, but don’t let them ruin a good thing either. Don’t become so enslaved or depressed over the “way things used to be” that you miss out on the part of holidays that makes them truly special—it’s the gathering that counts.
Happy Thanksgiving to y’all! Who cooks the meal at your events?
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