User's Guide

Your Last-Minute NYC Thanksgiving, and How Not to Blow It

Shortly before the impromptu wrestling matches.Painting by Norman Rockwell
So short is our memory, and so bottomless our appetite for disaster, that years of failures still haven’t stopped us from attempting full-bore Thanksgiving meals in New York. We’re giving it a go again, at the ruggedly masculine loft of our friend the Seductive Screenwriter. But before explaining what passes for our plans — and then, we regret to inform you, taking the rest of the week off — we’ll list the four main ways to avoid having things go wrong with any given NYC Thanksgiving dinner.

Enjoy your holiday. We’ll see you bright and early on Monday!

1. Get paper plates! Like a lot of New Yorkers, our home kitchen supplies consist largely of soy-sauce packets. Asking people to eat turkey off saucers and wipe their hands on dishrags just isn’t very festive.

2. Ration the booze. One Thanksgiving we bought four large bottles of Banker’s Club gin, the sort they make drinks with in college bars, and began pouring it the minute everyone arrived. We won’t get into details, but suffice it to say, impromptu wrestling matches, shrieking over past infidelities, and what competitive eaters call “urges contrary to swallowing” can ruin even the best laid plan.

3. Measure your oven. New Yorkers seldom think about their ovens, which are frequently easy-bake affairs more suited to pigeons than turkeys. Buying and stuffing a bird only to find out the thing doesn’t fit in the cooker might just be the biggest buzz kill in the annals of ruined parties. (You might also want to try turning it on beforehand to make sure it works.)

4. Weed out the riffraff. Making a perfect bird, having your infrastructure up and running, and keeping everybody sober only to find out that you’ve invited a crew of vegans, calorie-restricted dieters (as profiled here) and/or other food cranks to the party obviously negates all the effort you put in. You don’t invite Promise Keepers to a key party, and you don’t invite non-eaters to a big meal.

With all that said, and speaking with the melancholy — and wisdom — of a holiday-disaster veteran, our plan for Thursday is a simple one. We will make a big supermarket turkey in the simplest way possible, on slow heat for a long time. We’ll reserve some room in the oven for things that cook themselves without supervision, like potatoes. We’ll make sure the meal is all done hours before anyone shows up, and we’ll keep it in a barely warm oven. The guests will serve themselves, buffet style, and sit wherever they can find a chair. The important thing is to surrender plans for the kind of exquisitely choreographed dinner that we all know really belongs to other people, in other times, and (especially) in other cities. Your New York Thanksgiving will be messy, tumultuous, and — if you follow a few simple rules — very happy. We hope.

Your Last-Minute NYC Thanksgiving, and How Not to Blow It