Photo by Gourmet
By Max Silvestri, GQ
If you've thrown a few drunken potlucks or impressed a date with a recipe you read in the New York Times Magazine, you may find yourself emboldened with unwarranted hosting confidence. Heck, you skim Bon Appetit in the airport and sometimes watch Good Eats: your parents ain't got nothing on you. Sure, they spent their entire lives putting great home-cooked food on the table for their family and friends, but they have never even read a blog! That arrogance may be how you end up inviting your parents to come spend Thanksgiving with YOU. A big mistake. You are in over your head, but I've compiled a simple guide to make your parents think you've got it figured out, even though your roommate breeds snakes and the novel you're working on is just a Word doc with 45 page breaks, chapter numbers, and no sentences. (If you start it after the first of the year and write 800 words a day, you'll be done by Labor Day. Why rush into it now?)
I've tried to make this easy. First, remember The Three Bs.
Related: The GQ Guide to Thanksgiving
Booze: I can't stress this one enough. A glass of champagne as they walk in the door, a pre-made batch of strong liquor cocktails during appetizers, and a firm supper policy of filling any wine glass less than two-thirds full to the brim without asking. Moms love wine but they also love keeping count, so a loose refill style (plus all the earlier drinks) will keep your mom's tally confused.
I remember once hearing myself say "I think our relationship really improved once my parents calmed down after I graduated college." Wrong, my parents did not relax at all. We just started getting drunk together.
(If you or your parents do not drink, I am sorry this advice is not applicable to you. May I suggest cold medicine? Also from what I hear GHB is easy to manufacture if you have access to wood varnishing chemicals, so maybe a drop in all three of your ciders to mellow the vibe out?)
Brining: I am not trying to tell you what to cook or how to cook it. While the technical merits of brining meat are still up for debate (Does it make meat less tender? Does it prevent crisp skin? Will exposing toddlers to brined meat negatively affect their SAT verbal scores?), what is not up for debate is that dads love talking about brining. "Have you seen the Chew?" That was the second thing out of my dad's mouth when I saw him last week. (The first was him noticing dirt on my floor.) Parents watch morning shows and Rachael Ray and Lydia and all those people love talking about brining. "Oh, you are brining the bird? Oh, you do sugar and salt and lemons? Interesting, I am very interested."
If you have a small home, may I suggest brining the bird outside? A big turkey takes a day, it's November, and it's probably cold enough to leave your giant turkey bucket out on the fire escape. Imagine that: Keeping meat outside, just like the Native Americans did! You will have to buzz your parents's LifeAlert because their minds will be blown all over your IKEA sofa. (If you live in New York, I don't recommend brining on your roof, unless you want your turkey also marinating in cigarette butts and empty coke bags.)
Babies: A key ingredient to hosting your parents on Thanksgiving is distracting them. Football or documentaries about fighter planes work, but those often end or have commercials and, depending on how heteronormative you or your parents are, it may not work at all. But a baby! Nothing distracts a parent like a toddler. I am assuming you don't have your own. Do you? There is definitely not enough time to make and hatch your own before the holiday, and from what I understand about the adoption process, which is admittedly very little, one business day is probably not enough lead time to adopt a kid either. (Admittedly Very Little is also a good name for an adoption service.) Invite friends with a newborn! I don't know why they would come to your house for this extremely family-centric holiday, but their kid will keep your parents occupied and, as it's not your own, you don't have to constantly worry about your mom dropping it in the toilet.
Those three will go a long way, but as you probably know by your age, your parents are obsessed with the details. Remember these little things:
See also: The 2011 Gift Guide
A Plant: I honestly didn't realize all those plants and flowers at my corner deli were even for sale until very recently. But they will just sell you those plants for just a few dollars. "Oh, is that a succulent?" I don't know what a succulent is, but your mom will. (I think it's a plant that's salty, or maybe looks salty to animals? One of the two.) Your mom will lose her mind.
Cloth napkins: If you are serving your parents alcohol, don't make them wipe their mouths with folded-up paper towels. Spend the $9 and buy a clutch napkin. Get any color but white, so you can get them disgusting (you will get them disgusting). For example, I recently bought some black napkins. I will agree that black napkins are a little weird. Yes, they make me and my guests feel like we are in Beetlejuice about to sing "The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)" together, but they don't show the grease I constantly cover them in.
Coat rack: Only rich people have coat closets, but that doesn't mean you should make your parents put their coats on your bed, like you're throwing a frat party. When's the last time you washed that comforter? Even your innocent parents know what happens on that bed, and they don't have great imaginations because our generation invented sex and being in our 20s.
Excedrin Extra Strength: "It belongs in a museum." Dr. Indiana Jones once said that about a Pope's necklace or something, but it is easily applied to the equally valuable Excedrin Extra Strength. It is an incredibly strong pain reliever, plus it has so much caffeine. It fixes everything. You will probably be hungover on Thanksgiving, from staying up late and trying to clean up the beer cans from under the couch, so take it before your parents arrive. Then while they are there. And after they leave. I think you are supposed to pay attention to combining it with alcohol, but you have a young liver-you'll be fine.
And that's the most important thing to remember: You'll be fine. They are your parents. They love you! However the big day goes, they'll drive back to the hotel confident they raised an impressive and mature adult. Or at least a mildly confident one. It doesn't matter. They have known you since you were making a mess in your shorts at Disneyland and they also cleaned your room and found all the old T-shirts and socks under your bed when you moved out. They know what you were up to. They have never brought it up, but they have also never forgotten.
Max Silvestri is a comedian and writer living in Brooklyn. He can be found on Twitter, and his mother is currently "very" into margaritas.
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Photo by Gourmet