How Can I Slow the Consuming of Thanksgiving Dinner?

Good Questions

Q: Last year my wife and I hosted Thanksgiving. We really enjoyed preparing the meal for the entire family (about 14 people total). However, I was disappointed that 12 minutes after sitting down to eat the meal people began to ask what they could do to help clean up. I'd been in the kitchen for most of the morning and afternoon with hopes that people would take their time to enjoy the meal. But there was a football game to watch (or something).

Since then I've toyed with the idea of serving Thanksgiving in three or four courses but can't figure out the logistics in my head. Any suggestions or ideas on slowing down the actual consuming of the meal?

Sent by AdamEditor: Adam, I sympathize. We spend hours (days!) to prepare this feast of food, and then it's gone in in a momentary flurry of forks. Besides the social anticlimax, I also don't like feeling so stuffed so fast.

Last year I played with the idea of serving the traditional Thanksgiving meal in courses, and I really loved the way it turned out. Here's how it went:

• We started with plated salads, which were set up and on the table before the guests even arrived. A plated salad can look so pretty — it's practically a table decoration!

• After salad with rolls we moved on to Brussels sprouts, which I finished off between courses, and a sweet potato dish (already prepared in individual ramekins and waiting in the oven).

• We served a small dish of sorbet as a palate cleanser...

• ...and after that we served the main course family-style: Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and stuffing — all left to warm in the oven until they were wanted.

Then everyone took a break, and then we had dessert. The meal closed down hours after we began with digestivi and little nibbles of nuts and chocolates.

I actually found this approach less stressful than trying to have the entire meal ready at once, and it helped that Emma and I threw it together, so we traded off on bringing out plates.

Some other caveats and tips: We had 12 people at dinner (a large group, but not huge — say, 20) and there were no kids. The main key to all of it was really precise planning, and doing a lot ahead of time.

Here's more on the meal:

Smoked Turkey & Dinner for 12: Our Thanksgiving Report

Readers, what else would you suggest to Adam? Any good ideas for slowing down his Thanksgiving meal and helping people really linger over it?


Related: Consider This! A Multi-Course Plated Thanksgiving Dinner

(Image: Faith Durand)

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