One Thanksgiving, soon after I married, I brought my new husband to my grandmother's house for the big holiday meal. Grandma Eve was in her 80s, and while she was never a gourmet, she'd always been an avid cook and genuinely enjoyed spending time in the kitchen.
One dish from that meal still stands out, all these years later. Not the turkey, the gravy, the creamy green beans. Not the cranberry sauce or Parker house rolls.
What I remember most from that year was her mashed sweet potatoes, which I'd talked up to my husband on our way to her house. She always capped them with pouffy, giant, snow-colored marshmallows, broiled in the oven's fiery heat just so.
That year, when she brought them to the table, I was shocked.
The store, she explained, had run out of big, pouffy, pearlescent marshmallows; all they'd had left were the mini kind, in riotous hues.
Reader: This was hard for me. Seeing those potatoes, the ones I so loved, so craved, bastardized by a kaleidoscope of teeny, pastel-y marshmallows nearly did me in. My eyes went wide as I took in the Technicolor scene.
My grandma, though, brushed the swap off for what it was: no big deal. She'd made us a feast. So what if the sweet potatoes looked like they'd coughed up confetti? She offered no apology.
There's a lesson here, of course. For me as well as for you.
If your oven dies, if your turkey burns, if your cranberry sauce has more bourbon than berries, it's still Thanksgiving. No matter what all the perfect pictures say, something will always go awry, and You're Still Doing It Right.
If you're cooking for others, keep perspective. If you're a guest, be patient, forgiving, and kind. Real life never, ever, ever looks like a magazine. Bear in mind, too, that minor glitches, mid-level mishaps, and full-on kitchen disasters have a very real upside: they create stories for years. My husband and I retell the tale of the colored marshmallows each Thanksgiving, and the memory is still one of my fondest of my long-gone grandmother. I honestly don't remember those meals when things went … normally.
So, a toast to all of you hosting this year, perhaps for the first time — I'm sure you'll do great. Just be sure to cut yourself some slack, along with a big, fat slice of pecan pie.