Alas! The holiday season is no longer upon us, friends. It is here. As the colors of the scenery, along with air change, our hearts may be filled with glee or melancholy (perhaps both). Regardless of your feelings surrounding the holidays, one constant thing is that we all enjoy food, and the holidays are the time of the year when we love to show off our best dishes.
I grew up seeing lots of food every year during the holidays. My mother, Mrs. Rebecca Lynn Alford, cooks amazing dishes ranging from chicken and dumplings to sweet potato pie to green bean casserole (I am pretty sure she makes this only for me). She knows exactly what it takes to make a Thanksgiving meal come to life.
Because of this, I asked if she would share her secrets with us. Although she makes it look effortless, it turns out that there’s surely a method to the madness.
Establish a Menu
This was honestly one of my favorite childhood memories. Mom asking everyone what they wanted to eat made Thanksgiving even more special knowing that intentionality was put into the special dish that you wanted.
One of the worst things is being in the middle of cooking and running out of something you thought you had enough of. My mom always says “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”
We have all seen how quickly cranberry sauce and pumpkin purée can fly off a shelf. The sooner you shop for those non-perishable foods, the better!
Catch Sales and Discounts
Who doesn’t love a good deal? There are currently many retailers all over the state with sales just in time for the holiday season.
Chop Up Your Food the Day Before
My mom is the queen of chopping veggies. I’ve never seen anyone cut an onion and not shed a single tear. She states this is a great way to cut back on time. By making sure your veggies or nuts are chopped up the day before, you can come in and start cooking them on Thanksgiving without spending so much time on that step.
Set Up Your Tablescape
A beautiful tablescape is the cherry on top for Thanksgiving. There’s nothing like eating delicious food with your loved ones while admiring the beautiful table decor. My mother’s tablescapes are always gorgeous!
Cook the Main Courses First
According to my mom, cook foods such as chicken and dumplings and stuffing first. Because these things take longer to cook, you want to get a head start on cooking them.
Establish a Time to Eat (and stick to it)
Let’s face it, most of us don’t eat the morning of Thanksgiving (and we totally should). However, everyone is super hungry on Thanksgiving, so you want to ensure that you’re eating at a reasonable time. My mom is great at ensuring we all eat at a reasonable time, and she believes this is important to making sure Thanksgiving is enjoyable.
Always Get Help From Your Family
This is probably my mom’s favorite tip. I will speak for her and say that she loves getting help from all of us in the kitchen. Whether it’s chopping up pecans for the pecan pie or peeling sweet potatoes, my mom never hesitates to get extra hands on deck. She also lets everyone pitch in and make their own special dish.
The Meaning of Thanksgiving (according to Mom)
Thanksgiving is such a special occasion for my mom. As special as it is to her, she has no idea that she is the reason why Thanksgiving has been special for so many years. I asked my mom about what her thoughts were about Thanksgiving. Here is what she had to say:
“Thanksgiving, to me, is a time of gratitude and gratefulness in thanking God for the bountiful blessings that he gives me daily. It is a reminder of how blessed I am. I am looking forward to a family gathering where everyone gets their favorite dish prepared— alongside a slew of desserts! We come together to enjoy the fellowship on the day of the feast. Each family member is asked to share some of the things they are thankful for individually. We take none of it for granted. A prayer is offered for the less fortunate and occasionally people come by to eat, and I get the opportunity to share what I’ve prepared which gives me such a warm feeling on the inside. Thanksgiving also reminds me of seasonal change where temperatures are slightly cooler and the colors of the plants change and I can see God’s handy work in all of it. It also makes me think of my favorite holiday, which is Christmas, when the greatest gift was given to mankind, Jesus! Every day is Thanksgiving to me!”
The Final Bite
Cooking for Thanksgiving can be fun; however, it takes practice, time, and patience. Years of watching my mother cook for Thanksgiving have shown me that the ultimate ingredient that goes into making Thanksgiving dinner is love. What tips do you plan to incorporate for your Thanksgiving dinner this year? Tell us on the Our Mississippi Home Facebook page.