Don't tell anyone, but Thanksgiving is my least favorite holiday. My biggest gripe is the travel: I am inevitably stuck in traffic jams at the airport, train station or on the road. But I also find it stressful to try to stay healthy when faced with a meal that seems designed to bring on a heart attack.
So here are my five tips for getting through Thanksgiving without a meltdown. This is all based on my personal experience. You're welcome to try any of these at home:
· Get some sleep the night before. Nothing is worse than facing turkey day in a sleep-deprived state, especially if you're the cook. Design a menu that allows you to get at least seven hours on Wednesday night. Otherwise, you will just be grouchy all day and ready to collapse when it's time to clean up.
· Don't cater too much. My family includes vegetarians, vegans, people with gluten allergies and people who keep a kosher diet. I try to accommodate most of these but at some point, it's overwhelming. You can ask people with special dietary issues to bring their own food, especially when you're having a large group.
· Keep it simple. You don't need to make 50 dishes requiring elaborate preparation. Go for some dishes that are easy to make and stick to no more than four side dishes. That's another reason to ask people to contribute to the feast; it cuts down on your times in the kitchen.
· Take a walk. The people in my family are big walkers and I am convinced this is one reason why tensions are generally low at our family gatherings. Just getting out of the house gives everyone a chance to breathe and it certainly helps to work off the turkey and trimmings.
· Be grateful. Sometimes it's hard to remember, but that's the whole purpose of this holiday. You're supposed to think about all the good things in your life and give thanks for them. Even in these tough economic times, there's plenty to be thankful for.