Why my family plans Thanksgiving five months in advance

For most families, Thanksgiving is merely a holiday to transition into Christmas and eat your weight in flightless birds. Not for my family. I come from a place where a 38-pound turkey might not leave any for leftovers and where the pumpkin pie is worth getting into a fistfight over.

Since I can remember, Thanksgiving has always been our biggest holiday celebration. My mom and her youngest sister credit distance as the main reason. With most of my family living in, around and outside of Calgary it can be difficult to make it to see all members of the family at Christmas and it was decided early on that Thanksgiving was close enough to make it work.

For 364 days of the year we wait anxiously for the one day where we all have an excuse to come together for good food, great company and only the best wine.

The first and biggest question is always asked months in advance (this year it was in June): who will be hosting Thanksgiving this year? Our planning strategies are so unnecessarily detailed, coming second only to the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.

Great conversation and delicious food are the perfect ingredients for a memorable Thanksgiving spent with family.

Photo by Olivia CondonComing from a big family, consisting of three aunts, eight cousins and their seven children, means that our dinners will need to accommodate upwards of 40 guests —and usually a dog or two.

With a need for ample space, the venue is always the most important place to start. Oven, counter and fridge space are all things that the host must take into account but will inevitably need to reconsider when the day finally arrives. (Remarkably, this year, we are still undecided on where to have Thanksgiving.)

The host is typically responsible for the turkey (it’s always turkey) and the potatoes, gravy and any other basic sides. From there meals are delegated; each person is welcome to bring what they want as long as the host knows what everyone is bringing.

Dessert, my favourite part, will for eternity consist only of the most well prepared pumpkin pies. Three is usually a good number because then we know there will always be leftovers.

Thanksgiving is so big in my family because quality time with those you love are priceless and if you only get to see your loved ones once or twice a year, you make that time count.

For those looking for that home cooked Thanksgiving meal feeling without all the hassle and cleanup, try these delicious and affordable recipes:

Thanksgiving Dinner Casserole

My family and I love this recipe, as it’s the best and most delicious way to use up the big day’s leftovers.

  • 2-3 boneless skinless turkey breasts – $9.50
  • 2 potatoes – $1.90
  • 1 sweet potato – $1.81
  • 1 box stove top stuffing – $2.54
  • A handful of dried or canned whole cranberries – $2.59
  • 1 package of turkey gravy – $1.74
  • 1 box of vegetable or chicken stock – $2.99

Step 1: Pour the broth into a pot with halved turkey breasts, let simmer until nearly cooked through
Step 2: Boil water for potatoes. Cut into small chunks for mashing
Step 3: Cook stuffing according to directions on box
Step 4: Prepare the gravy according to its directions

Step 5: Mash the potatoes to your liking and spread them evenly over a well-buttered glass or metal serving dish 
Step 6: Pour 2/3 of the gravy onto the potatoes and spread evenly

Step 8: Fluff the stuffing on top and add the rest of the gravyStep 9: Add a few cranberries to the top
Step 10: Place in 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes

Pumpkin Spice Two-Ingredient Cake

  • 1 box of Spice cake – $3.29
  • 1 can of pure pumpkin – $4.99

Step 1: Grease a round cake pan
Step 2: Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Step 3: Mix the dry cake mix and pumpkin together until well blended, add to pan
Step 4: Bake for 40-45 minutes or until top becomes crisp and brown.

Effortless Thanksgiving meals around Calgary

If you want to leave everything to the professionals, these Calgary restaurants are giving diners the chance to dine-in or take out all the fixings.

Various restaurants around Calgary are offering diners a special, no-hassle Thanksgiving experience for one or 100.

TO GO:

River Café in Prince’s Island Park will prepare a full meal with all of the fixings, oven ready for you to present to guests. The café also has dine-in brunch, lunch and dinner. For reservations call (403) 261-7670

Sunterra Market prepares a four to five course to-go meal for smaller crowds of 2-4. Visit Sunterra.com or call (403) 269-3610

The Main Dish offers a big spread for $28 per person that’s ready for your table. Call to order at (403) 265-3474

EAT IN:

The Selkirk Grille at the Heritage Park Historical Village prepares a three-course Thanksgiving meal in a vintage dining room at Heritage Park. To make reservations for Sunday, Oct. 12th, call (403) 268-8500

The Westin Calgary is offering its Reserve-a-Bird for Thanksgiving parties of up to 22 people at the hotel. Call to book at (403) 508-5146

ocondon@cjounal.ca 

What are your family’s Thanksgiving traditions?