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Guys, why don’t you take over Thanksgiving?

credit: William Berry/staff

credit: William Berry/staff

For many years as a food writer I’ve helped perpetuate the notion that the Thanksgiving dinner is something that requires much in the way of advanced planning. All those shopping and to-do lists. All those schedules for making pie crust and peeling potatoes. All those containers of make-ahead food that find their way to the recesses of the fridge and freezer, only to reemerge after the big day. (So that’s what happened to the Brussels sprouts! Behind the iced tea all along!)

Forgive the gender stereotype, but I think this approach hews more to the way women cook than men. In my experience, women tend to be more detail-oriented and focus on the big picture of timing and serving the meal. The turkey is important but, then, so is the presence of clean towels in the bathroom and the bowl of nuts on the coffee table. Men, on the other hand, more often get swept up in a big cooking project — pit-roasting a whole pig, say — and let the details fall where they may, confident that everyone will get fed and leave happy.

With this in mind, I’d like to propose that guys take over the making of the Thanksgiving meal. Hear me out on this. Depending on the cook, you may risk the possibility the meal won’t start until midnight. But it could work. Here’s how:

So you, Mr. Sunday Chef, will go into this thinking of nothing but the big project, i.e. the turkey. Should you order a special heritage breed 24-pounder, look for a naturally raised fresh one or simply get one of those massive frozen lumps? Next, you will start researching all the possible ways to cook this turkey. You may decide to deep-fry it because that means you get to buy a turkey fryer, a gas ring and any other gear the guy at the hardware store recommends. You can also get your wife to flip out by carrying one of the kids around in the turkey fryer for days beforehand.

Then again, you may likely opt to brine the turkey and so you will take over the fridge with your big, sloshy bucket of dead bird. Everything else — eggs, milk, mustard — will have to find a temporary home elsewhere. If not a brine, then you can at least get one of those huge, honking syringes and use it to inject brine right into the turkey’s raw flesh before roasting.

As the turkey hogs all of your attention, continue to tell your wife you’ve got the whole meal planned out. Say that you’ve found a cranberry relish from Bon Appetit or Saveur and that you noticed a terrifically trendy vegetable (broccolini, parsnips, Tuscan kale) at the farmers market. When she asks why you didn’t buy it, and in fact, haven’t yet bought anything for Thanksgiving, which is ONLY TWO DAYS AWAY, remind her that the turkey has commandeered the refrigerator. Also mention that a famous television personality (Ina Garten, perhaps, or Martha Stewart) says that the vegetables for Thanksgiving have to be “market fresh” and do you want them freaking market fresh or not?

At this point, you’ve had your disagreement, and your wife will note that you’re impossible to talk to. She will also silently begin larding the cupboard with cans of cranberry sauce and chicken broth. A bakery pie or three might show up on a counter.

Thanksgiving Day will dawn, and you realize that you still have all day to get dinner ready. So enjoy a bowl game or two! Once you’ve satisfied that need, it might be a good idea to start shopping. The farmers market may be closed, but there’s always a supermarket open somewhere. You should go nuts: Buy $4.69 packages of fresh sage, enough potatoes to feed Ireland, a mountain of fresh beans, all the ingredients for making cornbread from scratch. A case of wine. Bring all these bags home and spread them all over every free inch of counter space in the kitchen. They’ll get put away, particularly once you move that graying, waterlogged turkey and its baptismal font out of the fridge.

You’ve got about five hours before guests start arriving, so now would be a good time to pour every ounce of your energy into making a turkey that is going to rock people’s faces! And, uh, stuffing…right…

Not a problem. You’ve got bread, onions, celery and — look — chicken broth. You can wing something that looks more or less like stuffing in 10 minutes flat. And, see, that fresh sage came in handy. Once the turkey’s in the oven, you have time to catch part of another game. When you get back to the kitchen, you may discover the potatoes already cut up and boiling on the stove and the green beans trimmed. Your wife will give you a little half-smile and pat on the arm. “Thanks for getting the vegetables started,” you say. “No problem,” she responds.

Your guests start arriving, and instead of wine and beer, they bring all kinds of odd add-ons to the meal: nuts, guac and chips, nice cheeses and crackers, cut-up raw vegetables. You’re not sure how it happened, but it’s all kind of perfect because that turkey needs another hour, and you didn’t think of anything to nosh on beforehand. Boy, they must have read your mind.

So, finally, the turkey is ready to carve. Did you make gravy? No, but your wife has placed cans of broth and some of that special fine flour for gravy next to the roasting pan, and as your guests stand around the kitchen like spectators in a gallery, you get to make a nice show of stirring together your famous pan gravy. Everyone applauds and, hey, it’s only 9 p.m.

Thanksgiving is a roaring success.

Trust me on this. Thanksgiving in our house has worked this way for years.

And, guys, you know what the best part is? Because you did all the cooking, you don’t have to wash the dishes.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

25 comments Add your comment

Alabama Man

November 20th, 2011
11:39 pm

Us take over Thanksgiving?



November 21st, 2011
7:06 am

I’ve actually been the guy cooking Thanksgiving for the last 5 years since my dad passed away and I’m the one, not my mom, who worries about timing!

I have everything planned and prepped in advance, timings written down, everything in place…and then she comes in with, “Oh, I forgot I wanted to do this shrimp and artichoke dip. I just need to slide this casserole into the oven. Oh, you need to baste the turkey,” etc., etc., despite my having told her 5 times not to open the oven, what time stuff was needed, etc. And then she disappears to take a nap while I cook all the things she said she’d take of…but she reappears just in time to tell me how to make the giblet gravy, to remind me that she likes crisp skin, and that I shouldn’t get worried since everything is fine.

Usually I’m sweating a storm and still wearing a t-shirt and shorts when guests arrive, who all exclaim, “It all looks so good!” And as my mom hovers about and plays the hostess and receives the praise, I sit in the kitchen, nibbling on turkey skin and drinking a beer in a glass smeared with gravy, and think, “Next year will be different…”


November 21st, 2011
7:46 am

Seems like stupid advice.

Martha Stewart

November 21st, 2011
7:56 am

Even I know there are no Bowl Games on Thanksgiving!


November 21st, 2011
8:29 am

LOL @ Mrmambo. Good man. You do your mama proud. ;)

This past Easter (we have turkey dinner on Easter too) Mom got the turkey in, and the stuffing made… and then started having chest pains and went to the ER. We were all so worried, but she wouldn’t let anyone come to the hospital with her except Dad, and she wanted dinner to be ready “when she got back”. So it gave us something to do. We banded together and my sisters and I cooked the meal. It was amazing how even though we had only helped with turkey dinner before, we knew what to do, from the timing, to the way that dad takes the skin off the breast off to throw under the broiler to make what I call “cholesterol chip” and then slices the turkey. Luckily, it wasnt a heart attack like we thought, and Mom will be cooking Thursday. But I have a feeling that we will appreciate it more this year. She got mad at us when she found that we served the gravy out of the pan. We were all anxious to get the meal finished and cleaned up so we could go to visit her.

I know I’m a chick, so it doesnt really pertain to the “dude take over dinner” article, but, after having done it without planning to, I can tell you that there is nothing better than having the person who normally cooks it, continue doing that. But I will be helping out more this year, I have a feeling. :) Someone will have to take the torch eventually.

johnny fontane

November 21st, 2011
9:10 am

I already do all of the cooking for Thanksgiving. I fry 2 turkeys, make the dressing, sweet potato cass., hash brown cass.. green bean cass, giblet gravy and cranberry sauce, pecan pie and lemon pie. This big daddy rules the day on Thanksgiving.


November 21st, 2011
9:51 am

I handle the preperations for all the turkey/hams, etc at my home for Thanksgiving. Smoked turkey, smoked turkey breast and a ham.

IMHO turkey must be brined to be at its best.

Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all.

carla roqs

November 21st, 2011
10:35 am

@toby-family issues?


November 21st, 2011
11:38 am

Really….well my guy called me this morning begging me to cook. So NO, he’s not planning on doing anything different this year…either.


November 21st, 2011
12:29 pm

Does anyone else think that turkey in the pictures looks purple, raw on the bottom half with some French’s mustard spread on the top? Must have been a dude who cooked that one. ;)


November 21st, 2011
1:01 pm

No Colly, no one else thinks that.


November 21st, 2011
3:46 pm

In my extended family, the women (and me) toiled in the kitchen while all the other menfolk hovered around the television watching bowl games. Thankfully, we kitchen wenches had ample supply of Grandma’s eggnog with the “privately produced” alcohol that she would procure from an unknown source every year.

Monday November 21st, 2011 | Edible News

November 21st, 2011
4:11 pm

[...] Guys, Why Don’t You Take Over Thanksgiving? (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) Mark Bittman: No Turkeys Here (New York Times) Cheap and Healthy Foods for Cold Weather (Seattle Times) Boudin, Gumbo, Turduckens Can Add a Cajun Spirit to Your Thanksgiving Meal (Austin American-Statesman) What’s To Love And Loathe About Chocolate Milk? (NPR) The Power of Nostalgia at Thanksgiving (CNN) Home for the Holidays, Chefs Stick (Mostly) to the Sidelines (Chicago Sun-Times) Toad in the Hole (BBC Food) ‘Organic’ Certification Gives Farmers a Tough Row to Hoe (USA Today) 14M Will Eat Out on Thanksgiving Day (Orlando Sentinel) Pickled Octopus (Sydney Morning Herald) London’s Best Chef, Brett Graham (The Daily Beast) Butternut Squash Risotto (Williams-Sonoma) Mulled Cider Recipe (Jamie Oliver) Doing good at Thanksgiving (Variety) Food Banks Seek Low-Sugar, Low-Salt, Whole Wheat And Otherwise Health Donations for Holidays (Washington Post) Wines That Rock Debuts Grateful Dead-Inspired Red Wine for the Holidays (NY Daily News) Tweet Posted in Headlines | Comments Off [...]


November 21st, 2011
6:12 pm

I had to teach my wife how to cook a Thanksgiving dinner. About 2 years ago I was shooed out of the kitchen. She was so happy that she was able to cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner by herself for the first time. (We have been married 30+ years) You can guess who does the majority of cooking at our house.

I'm Hungry

November 21st, 2011
9:16 pm

Hats off to MRMAMBO, PTC Dawg, johnny fontane, John Kessler and other guys that at least help on this big day. I believe a cooperative effort is the most effective approach and that is what John shows happening in his article… It’s a big job and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Hey…..I’m Hungry…


November 21st, 2011
9:43 pm

It’s not that difficult to do. It’s just time consuming. I’ve always helped my mom in the kitchen on holidays. And the last Thanksgiving we had my grandmother with us, my mom had to take her to the ER so I ended up doing the entire meal by myself. But I guess I might find it easy to do since I love to cook. :)

capn obvious

November 21st, 2011
9:43 pm

The AJC needs to quit its guy bashing. One article says boys shouldn’t babysit…Then I see that the women can’t “trust” the man in the kitchen?

What the heck. Find some real news.

And women.. quit thinking you’re so frickin valuable.


November 21st, 2011
9:45 pm

Hey, I’ve got a smart son. He went right over to Kroger and ordered the super deluxe turkey ‘n’stuff. Added a few items and said to the family, “Ya’ll come!” ! We, the rest of us, are going to do just that. And his happy mom (me) ;won’t lift a tired finger while singing praises of a lovely dinner.

Go for it, gentlemen. We the women applaud you (while we snap up those salted nuts and relax in the recliner)!! Happy Thanksgiving. I’ll save you a wing and a prayer for the day after..


November 22nd, 2011
12:41 am

My Brother and I have been handling holidays for several years and we do pretty well. I guess the big difference is that we don’t seem to stress over stuff quite as much as some folks have in the past I mean it is just a meal. We usually just divide up the duties and start cooking early that morning. Funny once we started doing everything I kind of began to wonder what all the fuss was about.


November 22nd, 2011
9:40 am

Johnny boy – you nailed it! That exact scenario has played out at my house for a couple of Thanksgivings and Christmases. Elaborate plans for turkeys and expensive roasts? Yes. Any semblance of a plan for actually getting it all together before 9 o’clock? Not so much. The funny thing is, my wife has the same advanced planning issues that I do, so if we’re hosting, you best plan on staying late!

carla roqs

November 22nd, 2011
10:58 am

colly, time for a new computer//monitor for you. my brother and son both can cook their butts off. and john and jon apparently. now–that pic may be doctored up, i do not know, but you obviously have quite an imagination.


November 23rd, 2011
1:46 pm

The hubby is smoking a heritage bird on the Egg, it will be amazing………..


November 23rd, 2011
5:14 pm

Most men say “its womens work”. Well i work a full time job too. This days there is no such thing as womens work. Now get in the kitchen and help.

Walter LIttle

November 23rd, 2011
7:20 pm

I’m a guy and I always cook Thanksgiving dinner . . . as a matter of fact, I already have my turkey cooked and will put my ham in the oven as soon as I return from volunteering at the Atlanta Half-Marathon in the morning! I will also prepare a green bean casserole, dressing, and a desert of some kind! :)


November 27th, 2011
4:07 pm

Oh so perfect – even down to the bowl games! I might have to send this to a few people. As a side note (not dish), my husband has been cooking your dry brine turkey for three years now. The only addition to your story that I would add for our purposes, is the traditional “Oh why didn’t I thaw this turkey earlier” late night evening where he takes over the kitchen trying to thaw raw bird in our sink, grumbling that no one bought beer and he’s just going to have to move to liquor to get this thing thawed.