Boston — It’s Thanksgiving week and if you’re not spending time in the kitchen for the holiday, this is your sign to get to it!
And I don’t mean by asking when the food will be ready, wanting to sample things before the table is set or serving as a distraction.
When I was growing up, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon were comfort channels for most kids, but the Food Network was mine. Novels and chapter books were some of my peers’ favorite things to read, but I took pride in joy in my cookbook collection.
I credit a lot of that to my family, who got me involved in the kitchen at a young age and taught me that food was about more than just eating. It represented culture, skill and love. My parents and other relatives supported me in learning the fundamentals of cooking and baking so that I could grasp a basic skill. Without their hard work, I don’t think I would feel prepared enough today to run a kitchen during the holidays.
A lot about the dinner is prepping and planning, which can help you avoid a Thanksgiving Day disaster. Having years of experience making various dishes for the holidays, I know that research can help you become more efficient in your preparation and it teaches you new skills to incorporate into your future meals.
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind before you get started.
You absolutely belong in the kitchen.
Surely, there will be moments when you wonder if you're supposed to be doing this or if you're in the appropriate place as opposed to someone else who may have more experience with Thanksgiving meal preparation, and the answer is absolutely yes.
There’s a first time for everything and everyone — and it’s yours! As you bask in your kitchen’s sweet and savory aromas alike, bask in your special milestone.
Collect the recipe(s) for dishes you want to make.
You can do this by searching on the internet or on social media platforms like YouTube or TikTok for recipes that you are interested in making so that you have a plethora of options.
Depending on your style, you can find a recipe with written instructions or you can find some with both written and video tutorials on YouTube or Tik Tok. The Food Network app is my favorite as they have a plethora of tutorials for almost any dish you can think of, especially the Thanksgiving classics.
Following a recipe can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Look at it as following exact measurements to create something flavorful, something you’re already used to doing whether that’s at school, at work or in leisure.
Consider prep times and cook times for dishes you want to make.
If certain dishes on your menu like pies, side dishes and other items can be made beforehand, do it. Some things need their flavors to settle and require sitting time anyway. Do as much prep work in the days leading up to Thursday night, giving you time to pace yourself in the kitchen during this major task.
If you don’t understand a specific cooking technique that may take longer prep time, use your resources before Thursday to perfect your skills. There isn’t usually time to waste, but don’t let that scare you away.
Shop as early as you can.
In efforts to ensure you have adequate ingredients for what you’re making, shop for ingredients as early as possible because the grocery stores tend to look scarce as early as a few weeks before the holiday because people know to plan ahead.
Enlist the help of a sous chef.
Cooking is all about having fun and learning as you go and doing the best you can do is all you can ask of yourself. You may feel intimidated playing such an important role for the holiday, but it’s perfectly okay to enlist the help of a trusted sous chef. Experimenting in the kitchen can be a hit or miss, but it’s safe to experiment with someone a little more seasoned (pun intended).
If you have people around asking what they can do to help, accept their offer! My parents did a really good job having my younger siblings and I serve as their sous chefs over the years, and now I find that it helps with my kitchen confidence. I’m glad to have been able to get those skills long before my adulthood started, but it’s never too late to learn and put your skills into practice.
Find a good playlist, reminiscent of the season.
While you’re cooking, get the music going! During the holidays, my family will turn on a collectively curated Gospel, old school R&B and Christmas music playlist all the way up. The grooves and aromas fill the house, bringing people together and making the kitchen the place to be. Put on the tunes that are traditional for you and your family this time of year to stay inspired.
There are many things to be thankful for and to have the opportunity to get involved in Thanksgiving dinner preparation is nothing short of an honor. You got this!