This year was the second year we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. Since my husband is Dutch and I’m Czech, Thanksgiving is part of neither mine nor his cultural heritage. But there’s a lot in our lives to be thankful for, not in the last place our families, which is why we decided to take this opportunity and bring together our respective parents and our dear friends for a little feast.
My parents were visiting for a week so we planned and cooked the dinner together, which is much more enjoyable and less stressful than cooking for twelve on your own. I’ve been ‘helping’ in the kitchen since I could reach the countertop and we are used to dividing kitchen tasks so that everybody does what they’re best at and enjoy the most. My father, of course, was charged with roasting the turkey and making the stuffing. I would take care of the vegetarian dishes and desserts. And my mom (who is a great cook but most prone to stress) said, she didn’t want to carry sole responsibility for any dish but would gladly do any ‘unqualified tasks’ (her words).
Even so, cooking this many dishes in a small kitchen requires a bit of advance planning and here’s how we went about it. First, we decided on the dishes and listed the ingredients for each that would need to be bought or harvested from the garden. Then we made a schedule for what needed to be done on which day, with a more detailed schedule for how the oven would be used on Friday in order to get all the dishes cooked in time. (Our dinner was on Friday since it’s not a holiday here and some of us had to work).
On Monday, I ordered the turkey and on Thursday morning, we picked it up. Even though I emphasized we wanted it for a dinner on Friday, it turned out to be frozen solid and my father had wo defrost it in a water bath. Luckily it was pretty cold outside and so we could store stuff in the shed and at the backdoor because no way would the turkey fit in our small fridge. In the evening I roasted one of my squashes to use for pies the next day, made the cranberry sauce and baked these adorable cookies:
We also figured out the seating arrangement, which is never an easy task but in our case further complicated but the language barrier. My father brined the turkey, made stock and prepared the stuffing.
Friday morning I started by baking my two pumpkin pies. Last year I made a chocolate-pecan pie, cranberry pie and a pumpkin pie but this year it was pumpkin all the way! My mom helped me to prepare the stuffed mini-pumpkins (recipe is going into my book!).
All the while I was dealing with some work related issues through email and developed a hideous headache. Luckily after lunch Remco came home from work and we took a quick trip to the garden to harvest some herbs and kale for salad – being outside in the garden, even for a short while is always therapeutic for me and I was able to let the stuff go (mostly). Meanwhile at home, my father started roasting the turkey and my mom peeled the potatoes for the garlicky mash. When the turkey came out of the oven, we stuck in the vegetarian stuffing with mushrooms and chard. I made the kale and apple salad with pomegranate and roasted pumpkin seeds, printed the menu and wrote place cards.
Remco and the kids helped to set up the table (Esther who only got home from college around five even ironed the table cloth). And of course the table decoration was homegrown too!
When our guests started arriving, we were mostly done and could sit down for a toast. Here are a few more pics.
Any large gathering at our place requires a bit of improvisation to make sure there’s enough seating space, chairs, cutlery… It’s by no means perfect but that’s not the point – being together is. Also: good food, obviously 😊
All in all this dinner was a success and fun to put together and I sincerely hope we can bring everyone together next year again!