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Thanksgiving feast need not be stressful

October 26, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

Does this sound familiar?

You spend hour after hour in the kitchen before Thanksgiving, preparing dish after dish into the wee hours of the morning. And then, after eating, nearly everyone heads to the living room, where they nap as football games play on the television.

Preparing a Thanksgiving meal can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be.

The important thing to remember is that Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather, said Lynn Little, extension educator, family and consumer sciences, with the Maryland Cooperation Extension.

Too often, Little said, one person takes it upon herself or himself to prepare everything.

An alternative is to ask that people attending the dinner bring a dish with them to share, Little said.

Another idea is to determine whether anything could be made ahead of time, frozen and then reheated not long before the meal begins. Mashed potatoes, she said, can be made a day or two before and then heated in a crock pot on a low setting on Thanksgiving Day.

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Buying prepackaged foods also is an idea - albeit one that might go against tradition. Keeping in mind the broader purpose of bringing people together, however, can override any hesitation about buying items like prepackaged salads, Little said.

Frozen foods also are available.

"Maybe we need to start some new traditions that free up some time," Little said.

Cleaning up also does not have to be a burden placed upon one person's shoulders. One idea is to agree on a plan beforehand in which as many people as needed participate in the clean-up, rather than waiting to see who offers to help.

Using disposable products also could save some time and effort, Little said.

Other ideas that could be considered include eating out at a restaurant or volunteering in the community on Thanksgiving, she said.

Volunteering to help others

The concept of helping others on Thanksgiving is not novel, as volunteers usually are willing to help set up and serve the Hagerstown Rescue Mission's annual Thanksgiving meal.

However, volunteers are needed to help clean up afterward, as well as to greet and talk to those who eat the meal, said Becky Shank, director of development for the Rescue Mission.

The Mission has been serving a meal on Thanksgiving for almost as long as it has been in existence - 51 years, she said.

Open to anyone, 200 to 250 people tend to turn out every year for the traditional Thanksgiving foods, including turkey, Shank said.

"We never lack for volunteers on Thanksgiving Day, which is a good problem to have," she said.

Volunteers set up tables, prepare and serve the food as well as drinks and desserts. Not everyone, though, stays afterward to help clean, she said.

Outgoing people also can help by mingling and talking to others who come for the meal and who appreciate the encouragement and conversation, Shank said.

Some who volunteer want their children to help - and the children often are eager to assist those who might not be as fortunate, Shank said.

This year's event begins at 11:30 a.m., with the meal to be served by 11:45 a.m. or noon. Those who offer to help clean up should finish by 2 p.m. or so, Shank said - leaving plenty of time to watch football.

The meal will be offered at the Rescue Mission's Trinity Center, at the corner of Church and Walnut streets.

Dinner, elsewhere.

One of the restaurants that will be open on Thanksgiving is Shoney's.

From 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., turkey, ham, pumpkin pie and other traditional Thanksgiving fare will be available at the restaurant's buffet, said Pat Slayman, general manager of the Shoney's restaurant near Valley Mall in Halfway.

Slayman, who has been the restaurant's general manager for 13 years and who works every Thanksgiving, said travelers, elderly people and families comprise a lot of the customers.

"I think it's probably because the family can get together," she said of why people choose to eat out on Thanksgiving. "They have more family time together to sit down and (talk) and enjoy each other's company."

Plus, she said, nobody has to worry about preparing a meal or cleaning up after it.

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