“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” as John Lennon sang in his ode to his son Sean, Beautiful Boy. If you saw me a month ago and asked about my Thanksgiving plans, I would’ve started gushing about recipes and table setting ideas. I was planning a fabulous Thanksgiving for two, our very first in our new home.
And then life took the reins.
Instead, I wrote this post from an airplane. My husband and I were en route to a funeral of a beloved relative, one of my husband’s uncles passed away after a brief illness. Too brief. I can honestly say none of us could (or would have wanted to) imagine a Thanksgiving like this. He was a good man, so beloved by his family. This Thanksgiving was obviously very different for us all, and experiencing the sudden change of plans made me think deeply about the meaning of Thanksgiving itself.
I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving because I was born in Trinidad (you would be surprised at how many people I’ve encountered who seem to believe Thanksgiving is a global celebration instead of unique to the USA). Being brought into the tradition of Thanksgiving instead of born and raised with it makes you aware of its meanings and traditions in a whole new way. It is truly a special celebration that focuses on family, community, gratitude and giving. I love it, even though I spent half of my life not celebrating it.
I loved following the hashtags about black Thanksgiving traditions versus white Thanksgiving traditions. I have been lucky enough to experience both, but my husband and in laws are white and from the Midwest so their traditional dishes may not be everyone else’s (green bean casserole or sauerkraut and dumplings, anyone?). I love Caribbean spices and traditional African-American favorites like collared greens, mac and cheese and sweet potato casserole (with the marshmallows on top). Thanksgiving for me has been a lot of learning and trying new things, for the 17 years that I’ve lived here.
This year I had planned a menu that combined both of our favorites. The kind folks at Fiesta Dinnerware provided the table settings and bakeware — check out their official Pinterest Thanksgiving board for my specially captioned recipes and tips for Thanksgiving for Two! I had a plan for every dish. Green bean casserole in the turquoise covered casserole, a small sweet potato casserole in a cobalt oval baker. A cobalt blue large platter for the turkey. Stuffing in the ivory pedestal bowl. Gravy in the slate sauceboat. Pumpkin crumble pie by Chicago’s own Justice of the Pies, served on turquoise plates with salted caramel gelato a la mode. When the scheduling got crazy, I did my best to make it all on the Tuesday beforehand just so we could have some kind of taste of tradition and use these beautiful serving dishes, but our real deal Thanksgiving for Two megaspread will have to wait till next year. I did the best that I could under the circumstances — this is what I made, a week and a half before Thanksgiving Day itself.
Even in making this smaller, hurried spread; I learned a few things that will make next year’s celebration a little easier, a little more special. Here are my tips and takeaways for anyone planning to cook your own Thanksgiving feast for two.
– You really don’t need to make a whole turkey. There are generously sized turkey breasts available for sale, or the butcher can sell you turkey leg quarters if you’re into dark meat. The beautiful thing is, the process will take you less time and effort. A turkey breast in your slow cooker would be delicious and tender. Leg quarters baked low and slow in the oven are fabulous. And then you have more time for other things.
– You REALLY don’t need to make everything on the same day, in fact its best if you don’t. Make your mac and cheese, mashed potatoes or sweet potato casserole a day or so ahead. Roast some vegetables and some garlic the day before for a big salad or roasted garlic spread. Make your desserts early. It will free you up on turkey day.
– Thanksgiving and holiday meals are special and it’s lovely to go all out with your tablescape. With Fiesta Dinnerware there’s a veritable rainbow of dishes to choose from! Click here to check out their website. I love this brand for their history and legacy of quality, and the vast range of choices they offer. For Thanksgiving I chose a classic color scheme including ivory, turquoise, lapis, cobalt and slate – colors I can use time and time again for years to come without ever growing bored. I love a rustic table, with decorative gourds and a burlap runner. I also love a little glitz, so maybe consider adding a glimmer of gold via your chargers, cutlery or tablecloth.
– Yes there’s traditional recipes and they are wonderful, but if you’re doing Thanksgiving pared down and without many people with many expectations, you can switch things up. You can make a jerk turkey or have a baked potato bar instead of the typical mash. You could make an amazing seasonal salad as a side dish instead of a traditional casserole that may be higher in calories. It’s TOTALLY up to your tastes, abilities and creativity. You can do or make whatever you want!
– This above everything else, Thanksgiving is about the things you are thankful for. It’s about family and friends, or the family you’ve created for yourself. It’s about celebrating the important things in life. So next year, enjoy it to the max. Don’t get caught up in petty squabbles or silly arguments, it isn’t worth the effort. Take pictures. Build memories. Discuss the things you are thankful for. Raise a toast to the ones you love and those who may not be there this year. Enjoy it as the special celebration that it is. Love each other while you’re able to be together.
Thank you Fiesta Dinnerware, I can’t wait to REALLY do Thanksgiving for two in my home next year! 2016, I am READY. Click here to check out their official website, their helpful and inspiring blog Always Festive, and follow them on Pinterest for so many recipes and ideas regardless of the season.
I hope that you had a happy thanksgiving, filled with love and delicious food, bellas and fellas. Tell me about your celebration and traditions!