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Guest Post: Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Contribute to Thanksgiving

katie  Please welcome this month’s Guest Poster Katie from Sass & Balderdash.

 Things to know: She’s from Chicago, she’s funny, she likes cheesecake, and her house is made of broccoli.

 OK, I lied about one of those things.

 She may or may not be from Chicago.

 I don’t know.

——

It isn’t the road to hell that’s paved with good intentions, it’s the road that leads to Thanksgiving dinner. But I guess they’re not that different: both involve Jell-O and canned cranberry sauce.

Thanksgiving is a day for being thankful, tugging on wishbones, and having the tryptophan argument for the tenth time. Above and beyond all of that, it’s a day to regret the moment you decided to bring a dish to the grand feast.

The foolish kindness and reliability you’ve shown throughout the year has likely earned you a spot at someone’s Thanksgiving dinner table. Hypnotized by giblet gluttony and the nagging pangs of the holiday spirit, you’ll convince yourself to channel your inner-Pilgrim and bring a dish to contribute to the cornucopia.

That’s where it all falls apart–much like the dry stuffing your aunt experiments with every year.

The combative nature of potluck Thanksgvings has been swept under the Mayflower for centuries. We all pretend we’re too grateful to criticize the food floating around the table like bloated floats in Macy’s parade, but in truth, Thanksgiving is little more than Project Poultry. The table, with its let’s-squeeze-in-two-more-people leaf inserted, is a runway perfect for objectifying every morsel and crumb under your nose. No matter what you contribute to the bounty, it won’t be good enough for someone.

The eve before that treacherous Thursday you’ll be in the kitchen whipping up your tried-and-true chocolate chip cookies. They’ve been a hit at several dinner parties, and your coworkers would gladly trade personal days for a batch. You arrive to Turkey Day dinner with dozens of cookies expecting to bestowed the honor of carving the bird, but you’ll be greeted only with McCarthyism:

“HOW MUCH BUTTER’S IN THESE?! ARE YOU TRYING TO CLOG OUR ARTERIES WITH SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE AND COMMUNISM?! YOU KNOW GRANDMA GERTRUDE CAN’T EAT BROWN SUGAR!!!!!”

You may as well get a white wig and and a pair of the crazy eyes, because you’re the family’s Paula Deen now. Your Uncle Jack is gathering his diabetes testing supplies to forcibly determine your insulin levels. And you were just trying to be gracious…

Perhaps instead of baking sweets you decided to go the healthy route to appease your flaxseed-loving first cousin. You find a cranberry quinoa bread recipe from Vegan’s Digest and bring the bland loaf to offer your Thanksgiving host. You whip out your phone anticipating Michelle Obama’s call to personally thank you for combating obesity when,

“Is that gluten free?”

YOU FOOL! you’ll think to yourself. How could I have forgotten about gluten!? The once-innocuous bread has now become a doughy weapon of mass destruction for anyone with celiac disease or the deranged notion that products containing gluten are what’s responsible for their failed marriage, home foreclosure, or ugly children.

So much for going the healthy route—your mortifying grain gaffe will haunt you for countless Novembers to come.

If you thought the only concern is what you (literally) bring to the table, you’re mistaken. The way you present your Thanksgiving offering can singlehandedly change the future of your storage container collection. Know this: if you bring your green bean casserole in a dishwasher/microwave safe ceramic dish or you carry your stuffing in a glass container with a vacuum-seal lid, expect to never see those containers again. When you bring foodstuffs to Thanksgiving in a vessel other than some cheap plastic Wal-Mart Tupperware that doesn’t seal properly and has permanent stains, the host will either steal it or hold it hostage. The meal will end and suddenly,

“I’ll just wash this and give this back to you the next time I see you…”

They’ll move to Greenland by Christmas. It’s worse when they bait you several months later when they need a disgusting favor…

“Did you want to swing by and pick up your dish? And while you’re here, would you mind helping me with this boil I have…”

You should never give any thought to presentation at Thanksgiving. Do not consult Pinterest. Bring your special mashed potatoes in an old boot.

Once you’ve gotten your food in the door and exposed whether or not the receptacle holding it will inspire kleptomania, you’ll endure the placement ritual. Where your food contribution gets placed says a lot about the host’s opinion about what you made (and you):

  • On the table: Congratulations! You’ve made it off the bench and into the plate-passing rotation. Your dish will be among the turkey, the yams, and the corn. This is the highest honor your cooking will ever receive. Your host clearly doesn’t have any passive aggressive resentment towards you (yet).
  • On the counter: Better luck next year. A few people might pick at what you brought when they head over to get the extra plate of stuffing that didn’t fit on the table, but don’t count on it. You must be at the in-laws or you RSVP’d to an invitation sent only out of obligation, because this host may hate your guts. (Note: If this is Grandpa Moneyburne’s house and your food’s on the counter, don’t expect to be in the will.)

Always accept your food’s placement with dignity. No matter what happens, do not try to make space on the table for what you brought–this is how most enduring family feuds begin.

With all of this in mind, my advice to you this Thanksgiving is to forget the sound of deafening smoke alarms and the sting of stolen Tupperware. Bring something everyone is sure to love: booze.

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About Katie (16 Articles)
Katie Hoffman is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @bykatiehoffman.

23 Comments on Guest Post: Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Contribute to Thanksgiving

  1. My inner-pilgrim goes out to eat on Thanksgiving. The first year we did it, we thought…this is so wrong…but to come back to a clean kitchen is wonderful. And if we want leftovers…Earl of Sandwich’s Holiday Sub hits the spot.

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    • HA! We’ve never hosted Thanksgiving at home, so we don’t have the mess. I guess the pained family interaction is the price you pay for getting some leftovers to go and a clean house.

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  2. I love the gluttony of T-giving. I always bring a dish that I will eat, so that when everyone else provides gluten/vegan/Martian/no-calorie latex food, I can strap my container to my face like a feed bag and enjoy the butter coating my arteries. This dish involves oysters as well…

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    • HA! People always expect me to try whatever weird concoction they’ve made, but I like sticking to the basics. If the word “tofu” is in it, it’s not getting anywhere near my mouth.

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  3. A great post that really spoke to me. I make sure every Thanksgiving meal includes butter and vodka. In equal amounts.

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  4. Your presence would make even the driest turkey/conversation memorable, Katie!
    Love that closing line, too!

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  5. You mean you get invited to other people’s houses for Thanksgiving? I usually spend it at Golden Corral, so my wife and kids don’t get embarassed by my bitter behavior.

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  6. I’m just happy when I get to sit at the grown-up table!! 😉

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  7. This is why I just show up and eat…

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  8. I’m sure glad I spend Thanksgiving at the same place every year, and this is the second time I’ve been making something to bring. Fruit salad this year, mashed potatoes last year. It’s my favorite holiday. 🙂

    This was hilarious. 🙂

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    • I made the same bread to take to two different Thanksgivings last year. At one (my family’s) it was accepted with much fanfare. At my boyfriend’s aunt’s, it got a lukewarm welcome.

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  9. Excellent! Generally, my family pays for the turkey, etc. and I cook it (when I’m at a family gathering). That way I know what’s in it. 🙂

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  10. whiteladyinthehood // November 23, 2013 at 11:22 am //

    LOL! This was great, Katie. I think I may have a few glass casserole dishes with vacuum-seal lids, ahem, I have accidentally collected over the years…

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  11. I simply don’t worry about trying to accommodate everyone’s dietary needs. I worry about the person hosting the party, other than that, if you don’t eat gluten keep your wheatless hands off my pumpkin cake. BTW I’m making mashed potatoes for our group party this year. New recipe I haven’t tried yet but Giada never lets me down! Cross your fingers for me!

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