autumnal concerns

Thanksgiving Is Almost Here. Should You Care?

Photo: Camerique

Today marks exactly four weeks until Thanksgiving. Have you thought yet about how to celebrate in this exceedingly strange year? The fine folks at Bon Appétit have, and they suggest you cook the easiest Thanksgiving ever. The crew over at New York Times Cooking have also contemplated the holiday, and they’re already “getting prepped.” Should you be “getting prepped,” as well?

It’s possible you skipped Thanksgiving last year. At the very least, your holiday likely looked very different than it ever had before. But what about 2021? Things are better, sort of, but we are all still exhausted and everything is off in an indescribable but unmistakable way. So are we doing Thanksgiving? Yes, we are doing Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it.

Pro: It’s tradition.
This is the big one: Thanksgiving is simply a thing that Americans do on the last Thursday of November. Turkey, football, all that. So we’re saying that historical precedent is a reason to care about Thanksgiving this year. Admittedly, some things that were fine in the past should not automatically keep going — just look at Facebook or Dave Chappelle comedy specials — but proponents of holidays will tell you that they are times to get together and show one another how much we care, and doesn’t that sound sort of nice?

Con: It’s going to be expensive.
The Times reports this week that “nearly every component of the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner … will cost more this year, according to agricultural economists, farmers, and grocery executives.” (And the Times should know; you’ll remember from the first paragraph of this story that these people are already prepping.) High demand, inflation, something or other about the “supply chain”: Multiple factors are conspiring to ensure this year’s Thanksgiving feasts will not be cheap. Is that a reason to skip it entirely? Possibly. Or maybe it’s just another reason to try and get invited to someone else’s house so your only responsibility is to bring some bottles of wine and maybe a pie.

Pro: How many other days of the year do you get to eat stuffing?
Cranberry sauce can go jump in a cold lake, in Grub Street’s opinion, but the rest of the traditional Thanksgiving spread — sweet potatoes, gravy, stuffing, buttery rolls, roasted veggies, even turkey as long as you stick to the dark meat — is pretty good, and it’s the kind of food you don’t really get to eat any other time of the year. (Unless you live in New England, where “leftovers sandwiches” are, unfathomably, available to purchase year-round.) And you might not want to miss out on the one day where, for some reason, everyone decides to eat dinner at like four in the afternoon.

Con: Who among us has the energy, really?
Doesn’t a day or two off from everything sound … wonderful? Necessary? Like one thing you can actually look forward to enjoying? Instead, you may end up spending your day off cooking a bunch of turkey and gravy and potatoes and cranberry sauce (no!) and maybe a wild-rice thing that nobody will touch but which feels nice to have. Really ask yourself: Do you want to do that? It is entirely understandable if you do not. Do not let yourself be bullied by Butterball into thinking you have to care about any of this if you’d rather spend the day wearing an Oodie and watching the new Cowboy Bebop.

You could also outsource the cooking and order from a restaurant, but that feels like cheating, somehow. And yet, nobody will be upset if they see one of those Popeyes Cajun turkeys on the table.

Pro: Friends and family!
Maybe you miss your loved ones and have not been able to spend nearly enough time with them over the past two years. It could be lovely to get together …

Con: Friends and family? (😬)
… on the other hand, maybe your family is stressful, or you’re related to anti-vaxxers who are concerned about “freedom” and are still doing their own research. “Pandemic weirdness” is a fine excuse to avoid these maniacs.

The Verdict
So where does this exercise leave us? Clearly, your “prep strategy” at this point should only be deciding what will make you happiest — then you can worry about the food. But also: Maybe grab a pack of fried onions next time you’re at the store so you have them on hand in a few weeks. You never know if they’ll run out, and those things last forever.

Should You Care About Thanksgiving This Year?