Monday, November 25, 2013

Do You Suffer From Norman Rockwell Syndrome?

 Do you suffer from "Norman Rockwell Syndrome?"
You know, the image in your head of the perfect holiday that you try to create, only to fall short because you either lack culinary skills, a proper dining table, your dishes and silverware are mis-matched and you have no idea how to pull it all together!

Although I'm culinary challenged, Thanksgiving dinner is the one meal that I always say I can cook with my eyes closed!  However I have lots of help these days from my husband who loves to cook and two children who are chefs, so I can concentrate on the important stuff like how it all looks, and facilitating the presentation.
Here are a few tips to help pull your holiday together without the stress of "Norman Rockwell Syndrome."

The Table:

Don't let mis-matched dishes or silverware deter you.
I think mixing up patterns actually makes for a more interesting table.
And gone are the days of white tablecloths that our grandmothers used.
Simple and casual is better and easier too.  (No ironing involved!)

A fun, seasonal decoration, mini pumpkins not only say Thanksgiving, but can be used as name tags.
Just get out your magic marker!

For the centerpiece, think low and long like this succulent arrangement I made a few years ago.
Just add candles!

Carving out a pumpkin and filling it with a grocery store bouquet is a wow factor.
Believe me, it looks hard, but it's so easy to do.
See how to here.

Or a simple centerpiece can be made using little potted culinary herbs.
The good news is you can use them to brine your bird!

The Food:

Brining the turkey overnight in a salt water bath draws water into the cells so that it stays moist when cooked.
I know this looks complicated, and it is totally optional, but I've found that it does add to the juiciness and flavor of the turkey.  Recipe here.

If brining is too much, then cook your bird the way our grandmothers did.
Just salt and pepper it, toss on some herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme (from your centerpiece!) and throw it in the oven.
Use a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh and when the temperature reads 165 degrees, pull it out.
Do not rely on that little pop-up button because by the time it pops up, your turkey is too done.
Just saying, Butterball people!

Don't feel like you have to prepare the entire meal by yourself!
Give your guests a dish that matches their skill set that they can bring, like sautéed brussel sprouts, an easy pumpkin pie--or you can make them the day before.

The less skilled can bring drinks or hors d'oeuvres.

Be sure to designate the turkey carver ahead of time too.
This is where the Norman Rockwell picture just doesn't work.
It makes for a beautiful picture carrying the turkey to the table, but it should be carved ahead of time.
In fact, I don't like serving the food on the table, but prefer setting up a buffet instead.

The Buffet:

I no longer have a buffet in my dining room, so I use the center island in the kitchen as a buffet.
Here's how it works:

I have my guests sit for grace followed by salad.
After the salad is finished, I have someone help clear their salad plates while I announce that dinner is served.  They pick up their dinner plate which sits on a charger and carry it to the buffet to serve themselves.

After dinner, dessert is brought to the table and served to the guests who wish to partake, along with coffee or tea.

This is a system that works for me.  
I find that offering grace or a toast to begin the meal followed by soup or salad, then serving the main course buffet style keeps the mess and confusion away from the table.  It helps if a guest offers to help with the clearing of dishes too!  

Just remember that the whole point of Thanksgiving dinner is to be with friends and family in a state of gratitude.  
And that's why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, even if I can never achieve that Norman Rockwell picture of perfection!  

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laney said... always post the most interesting...and beautiful thoughts...may i add something about the "norman rockwell" idea of a perfect thanksgining...close your eyes and picture the famous the food...look at the table in your look again...the food is so minimal...a turkey...some celery...some fruit...and look at the people...they are all looking at one another...the true bounty of the the and friends...there is one person looking back at us...rockwell i think...hoping that we get it...the table can be made beautiful...the food can be plentiful and delicious...(and oh!i am all for thise!)but nothing can compare to the blessings around the table...those we love...may we ever remember this...blessings laney

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice, Delores. Beautiful images too.

We had our Thanksgiving yesterday. That is more good advice. We've taken a day other than Thanksgiving, for several years, to get together to celebrate with our kids and grandkids. That gives them one less stop on the actual day. Less stress for a family with 4 or 5 Thanksgiving stops.:-)
We do buffet from the kitchen island at our house too.

cindy hattersley design said...

Delores I love the idea of serving the salad first. I use my kitchen island as a buffet and it always seems to be a big mess at the last minute. I am going to try your suggestion!

Lori E said...

Good advice for any large dinner. I realized a long time ago that if I am a stress case about a dinner then my guests will not enjoy themselves. The key to it is to have them remember the good times and not the forgotten dish of pickles.

Sherry Yoder said...

I love your blog & your lovely & warm ideas. When I read this post, something popped out at me "I have my guest sit for grace". That really puts everything in perspective ... & the other details ARE just details that add to the truly important part - the many blessings we have & the "being together". Thanks again for taking time to share with us.

designchic said...

Such great ideas and I must say this year will be a stress free for us as we are going to our daughter and son in laws - hoping to help them so it will be stress free for them!


Even better than Norman Rockwell! I love all your images and tips. One thing I could never do is carve the turkey in front of everyone,'s kind of messy, really. I separate white breast meat from the dark cause there are some that don't like, but breast and some like me, who likes dark meat, lol. The centerpieces are gorgeous all of them. Wishing you and all your helpers a lovely Tksgiving.

Terri~terrileeauthor said...

Very nicely put Delores. I think you've managed to hit all the right notes. I have learned over the many years that I've been creating my own Rockwell Holiday that things just naturally come together in the end. There is no need to stress over every little mishap. And there is always a mishap!! But I love Thanksgiving for its simplicity.
Lovely post.

Leslie said...

Hi Dolores,

I have a Cinderella pumpkin that I plan to use as a centerpiece. I also like the idea of using the fresh herbs in place of flowers:) I've not committed to how I plan to bake my turkey this year.. It's been years since I have have soaked it in a brine solution. Thanks for the link for your recipe. I think I'll try it!

Sarah said...

Delores, this is a perfect post as we all begin the week of preparations for Thanksgiving Day. Your tables are always gorgeous. I have dish envy every time I see those majolica plates. Good advice on the serving. We do the same, but normally I don't begin with a salad. I think I will follow your example and try that this year. Tweaking my table settings today. It's winter here this year, so I will have two tables set inside on the sun porch. No alfresco dining this year. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. ~ Sarah

Libby said...

Oh so true, so true. It's very easy to get caught up in all the fixings and preparation..when really it's all about the people! It's my favorite meal of the year to prepare; and, of course, the left overs are one of the best parts!
P.S. Thanks for your bday wish on FB!

Melanie said...

I'm all for keeping things as simple as they need to be. A tired, frantic hostess is not a good one! Though this year, I'll be going to my mom's house, so I don't have much to do - I'm the designated veggie person and will be making and bringing 3 different veggie dishes as well as a homemade cranberry sauce.

Pinky at Designs by Pinky said...

You are so correct, Delores. The Thanksgiving resposibilities have been taken over by our daughter and SIL now, with some cooking help from me. I did it all for over 40 years so it is nice to have a break but truthfully I miss doing it and having the family HERE. But the torch has to pass, I guess. Wishing you and your beautiful family a happy and blessed Thanksginving!

Sandie said...

Thank you for this post, Delores! It really reminds your readers what the holiday is truly about! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

vicki archer said...

Sounds like a fabulous way to celebrate! Enjoy Thanksgiving :)…xv

Linda (More Fun Less Laundry) said...

Hi Delores, We do our feast in a very similar way--grace then a toast and then salad, then we have buffet on the kitchen island, but then we take a break, maybe walk outside, before the coffee, tea and dessert. Then games, naps and football! The important thing is that we are all together. Our sit down time at the table is usually quite long and full of laughter and cheer. I'm looking forward to having everyone home this year! Thanks for your wonderful post. Linda

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