How to avoid Thanksgiving disaster
A handy timeline for the most chaotic day of the year
It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and I’m sure you’re in the exact same state of mind as me: contemplative, content, secure in the knowledge that you’ve prepared well and thoroughly for the feast that’s about to ensue, ready for a smooth and joyous holiday season, looking forward to pleasant discussion among your adult relations and respectful behavior from the youth. It’s a precious time, and you’ve done well to prepare for it with the appropriate degree of gratitude and humility.
But on the off chance you’re not quite there yet, because there’s the slightest possibility that you’re still dusting a sill or folding a linen napkin here or there, here’s a handy guide for how to handle the next 36 hours or so. I’ve bumped this week’s newsletter up as a public service to you, the reader, and not at all because nobody reads emails on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I want to just vegetate tomorrow and Friday. So let’s begin:
12:00:01 p.m.: You watch the clock in a way you haven’t since the last day of fifth grade, waiting for that second hand to tick just past noon so you can get the hell out of work and get started on the meal. Joke’s on you; everyone else left an hour ago and traffic is already at impending-zombie-apocalypse levels.
Somehow this still applies even if you’re working from home.
Tell the family you’re swinging by the grocery store for “a few more things.” Figure that if you were cross-examined in a court of law, “pretty much everything” would, in fact, qualify as “a few more things.”
Tick off the items on your list, one by one, in a responsible, aisle-by-aisle manner, not at all running through the grocery store like a sugar-jacked kid on a frantic Easter egg hunt.
Collect all necessary spices. Growl as your brain starts singing that goddamn Simon & Garfunkel “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” song. Try to figure out how to punch your brain in the face as the lyric repeats again and again. Attempt to override your brain by barking out “Straight Outta Compton” under your breath. Settle for humming “Call Me Maybe” until the Simon & Garfunkel blessedly recedes.
Spot the last remaining loaf of bread, which you need for stuffing. Head in that direction until an old lady pulls a Dale Earnhardt and cuts you off, sending you spinning into the apple juice. You have to tip your cap to that kind of driving aggressiveness, but you still need the raw material for stuffing.
Hey, wait, hot dog buns still count as bread, right?
Catch sight of an open register. Go full Ross Chastain on the field to get there first.
Arrive home and realize you forgot to account for tonight’s dinner. Damn kids, wanting to be fed almost every day. You plan to order a pizza, which you think is a brilliant idea until you realize the entire country is doing the same thing. The app indicates your pizza will be delivered sometime in 2027.
Settle in for the annual viewing of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” Feel your blood pressure rise once again as Peppermint Patty shows up to dinner uninvited, talks shit about Charlie Brown’s spread, and closes the episode by hijacking the singing of “Over The River And Through The Woods.” As always, Peppermint Patty is the worst.
Close your eyes and sleep, blissful in the knowledge that you’ve forgotten something critical for tomorrow’s feast, but won’t remember what it is until the worst possible moment.
Wake up. Laugh at everyone who is getting up early to do a “Turkey Trot.” Idiots. Go back to sleep.
Make a breakfast of sweet rolls, eggs, bacon and hash browns, because you need to prepare for a day of heavy eating by eating heavy.
Decide to start drinking liquor early, because mimosas ought to share the before-noon spotlight.
Get five ingredients into preparing a special Thanksgiving Day mixed drink before you realize you’re out of vodka. And gin. And bourbon. Who the hell is drinking all your alcohol, anyway?
Start preparing the artisanal pumpkin pie recipe you read on that fancy-ass website and curse when it calls for small-batch semolina flour made from sustainably-grown wheat raised on a specific Marin County farm, or some such crap. Reach into the freezer and start defrosting a pre-made pie.
Switch over to red wine. Pour it into a glass. No, more. More than that. Keep pouring.
Whip mashed potatoes into a brilliant white froth. Tell youngest kid it’s whipped cream. Smile as they come rushing in to sample. Laugh as they grimace at the unexpected salty taste. Rue this moment 20 years from now when they trust nothing and no one.
Spot an unidentifiable chunk of something in your wine. Fish it out. Continue drinking as normal.
Take the turkey out of the freezer.
Realize you really should have taken the turkey out of the freezer about five days ago.
Look at your glass. Decide it’s not nearly full enough.
Consider whether you could just, you know, crank up the oven’s heat another 100 degrees to defrost the bird a little faster. Realize you are potentially dooming your family to a turkey that’s burnt black on the outside and raw, pink and still cold on the inside, a suboptimal state for Thanksgiving turkey.
Look at your glass. Wonder where all the wine went that was there just a second ago.
Consider rapid ways to defrost turkey. Get as far as carrying turkey into the laundry room before deciding that putting a frozen 25-pound bird in the dryer isn’t going to end well either.
F— it, drink straight from the bottle. Worked well enough back in college.
Place turkey in bathtub and run a bath. Tell kids “Mr. Turkey’s going to hang out in his hot tub!”
Shoo off kid who wants to join Mr. Turkey in the hot tub.
Shoo off kid who wants to sit and tell stories to Mr. Turkey in the hot tub “so he’s not lonely.” Realize that maybe giving a backstory to the bird you’re about to devour was perhaps not the brightest idea.
Start to think that maybe Snoopy had the right idea, making Thanksgiving dinner out of toast, popcorn and jelly beans.
While turkey reclines in tub, gather everyone for the annual Turkey Bowl. For the love of God, don’t forget to stretch.
Begin Turkey Bowl with the only play that matters: Everybody Go Long.
Pause Turkey Bowl because the first adult has pulled a hamstring while Going Long.
Mediate long-simmering family disputes that always seem to manifest themselves in the Turkey Bowl: two-hand touch that turns into two-fist punch, clotheslining, parents horse-collaring mouthy children.
Pass football to littlest child so they can run for a touchdown of their own. Enjoy the joyful scene, right up to the instant when the second-littlest obliterates them with a flying skull-targeting tackle that would get them thrown out of the NFL.
Wrap up Turkey Bowl by calling out “Next touchdown wins,” regardless of how far behind you are. It’s like calling shotgun, first one to do it has laid down the law.
Get everyone to agree on one thing: We don’t tell Mom about ANY of this.
Return inside, go to shower and remember there’s a turkey in your tub still defrosting. Note that turkey is wrapped in a plastic bag. Shrug, take shower around the turkey, and never reveal to anyone what just happened.
Throw turkey into oven. Pray to God, Zeus, Thor, Oprah and any other deities you can think of, just to cover your bases.
Keep on drankin’.
Guest shows up beaming, carrying a heaping platter of green bean casserole. It smells like cafeteria food and looks like a roadside wildlife accident. Smile and give thanks. SMILE AND GIVE THANKS, DAMMIT.
Juggle dishes in and out of the oven like a Vegas card dealer.
Stash the green bean casserole beneath the sink, where it belongs.
Welcome everyone to your table. Raise a glass to the simple joy of family. Express gratitude that we could gather here before this feast with friends and loved ones. Accidentally say “lovers” instead of “loved ones,” making the toast sound like promo copy for a Thanksgiving-themed porn flick.
Go around the table and have everyone express what they’re thankful for. Debate whether to throw a knife at relative who says they’re thankful that [divisive political figure] is [in office/running for office]. Get angry with child for being “thankful for farts” before realizing that you’re going to be thankful for farts in a few hours, too.
Carve the turkey, silently hoping that it’s not Valentine’s-Day red inside. It’s not. It’s perfect. It’s glorious. You did it, and nobody notices that the turkey still carries a faint odor of shampoo.
The wishbone battle turns ugly when the losing kid jabs the sharp shard of bone into the hand of the winner.
You load your plate with 50 percent stuffing, 40 percent turkey, 9 percent cranberry sauce and 1 percent green crap, just to be polite.
Kid looks at their plate, heaping with a magnificent bounty of freshly-prepared food, takes one bite of a roll, and declares, “I’m done. Can I be excused?”
Consider sticking the kid under the sink next to the green bean casserole.
Eat. Keep eating. Lie to the app on your phone when it tells you to log your food. Threaten to delete it when it starts trying to shame you.
Someone considers whether to go out to hit one of the Black Friday sales that actually starts Thursday night. Stand on your chair and rant that the corporate ghouls who make hourly-wage employees work on Thanksgiving night are leading the downfall of this country until a relative gently urges you to get down.
Climb back up on the chair and declare that the sportswriters who are covering Thanksgiving Day games are the real heroes.
Pat overstuffed belly and tell the kids that this is their Turkey Brother. Try not to think about either the biological or theological implications of such an abomination.
Clamber away from table and into living room to watch football.
Pass out for the greatest nap of the year.
Wake up to prepare the greatest sandwich of the year. Toasted white bread, scrim of mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing, smudge of cranberry sauce. Perfect.
Watch the first Christmas movie of the season. Grouse that this latest remake of “A Christmas Carol” starring [current hot star] and [throwback star from the ‘80s/’90s designed to tickle the nostalgia of oldsters] is nothing but a cynical cash grab from an industry devoid of new ideas. No one is listening to you.
Eat another sandwich.
Remember the green beans are still under the sink. Resolve not to forget to get them.
Slice off a few more hunks of turkey for another sandwich. Tuck the rest of the turkey back in the oven to keep warm.
Peel kids off carpet with the joke “Santa won’t come if you don’t go sleep in your bed.” Realize with horror that you just promised them Christmas morning is tomorrow morning.
Through sleepy eyes, kid asks when Turkey Brother is going to arrive. Answer with the most essential two words in parenting: “We’ll see.”
Go back downstairs and survey your kitchen. Naturally, since you are such a well-prepared Master of Thanksgiving, you’ve already cleaned all utensils and dishes and put them away, of course.
Hell, another sandwich won’t kill you.
The fifth one probably will. But what a way to go.
Run off the guests who still haven’t gotten the message it’s closing time — with a broom, if you have to — and return to the couch still carrying Turkey Brother.
Nestled between the twin glows of a gentle fire and the Patriots-Vikings game, you drift into a well-earned sleep, where you dream of smoke from a campfire wafting thick and billowing. It’s so real, so tangible you feel you can almost taste the smoke. But you know this is just a dream, because of course you took the turkey out of the oven, right…?
Some of the above was drawn from real life. I’ll let you guess which parts. Now, please share your own Thanksgiving disasters. This is a safe space, no judgments here.
Song of the week: ‘Gratitude,’ Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors
Try and hold on to Your hands in the garden The smile of a child Swimming in the river Walking the last sweet mile The first crack of thunder, the heavenly rain All that gets taken, and all that remains These things aren't a given They're a gift to behold Like the first sip of whiskey And dancing real slow
Yeah, I know, in 2022 we’re supposed to be all ironic, detached and suspicious of open-hearted sentimentality. What’s your angle, fella, baring your soul like that? But sometimes it’s worth it to be a little open, a little vulnerable, a little pure in your feelings and beliefs. Nashville-based singer-songwriter Drew Holcomb dwells in this space, the place where you actually appreciate the people, the places and the days that bring you joy. You listen to his songs, and the world brightens up just a bit.
Thanks for hanging, friends. I’m so thankful that so many of you — more all the time! — are reading this silliness every week. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving break, and we’ll see you back here next week —
This is issue #82 of Flashlight & A Biscuit. Check out all the past issues right here. Feel free to email me with your thoughts, tips and advice. If you’re new around here, jump right to our most-read stories, or check out some of our recent hits:
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