As you complete your last-minute Thanksgiving grocery shopping today, you might find yourself in bewilderment over the recent released statistic that the average cost of the Thanksgiving meal for ten people is $49.04.
You may have some trouble reconciling your 8 foot long grocery receipt for a much larger amount with that very misleading number.
So for clarification for you and my husband, here is what the folks at the American Farm Bureau Federation say it costs compared to actual reality on the planet earth.
AFBF claim the average turkey cost: $21.76
Replacement sod from under the fryer….$60
New Turkey cooked in oven….$38
Average potato cost: $2.99 per 5 lb bag (*Not listed on the survey because the AFBF is going low-carb this Thanksgiving I guess)
Average cranberry sauce: .99
Can of jellied cranberries…. .99
Can of chunky………………… .99
Fresh cranberries……………. $2.42
Serving bowls for 8 different kinds of cranberries…… $58
Average cost of a box of stuffing: $2.67
Bread, sausage, onions, celery……$10
Therapy after public shaming for using boxed stuffing….$14,000
Average cost of 3 lbs of sweet potatoes: $3.36
Gym membership……..$39 per month
Average cost of 12 “Brown and Serve Rolls”: $2.18
Real Cost: $2.18 x 10 people because after product re-sizing the average size of 1 dinner roll is the same net weight as a crouton….$218.00
Average cost of 1/2 pint of whipping cream: $1.85
Real cost of whipping cream at gas station at 3:00 on Thanksgiving Day…$6.00
Average cost of a pound of green peas: $1.54
No one on the continental U.S. can get fresh peas in late November, so the cost of some other green vegetable like asparagus…..$4.99 per pound
Official Inquiry by Taxpayers as to what bizarre things the Farm Bureau eats on Thanksgiving with all of these peas and no mashed potatoes: $28 per household
Miscellaneous items not listed in the survey but real costs this Thursday nonetheless:
Pot of coffee………………$1.00
Pot of decaf……………….$1.00
Pot of “special 21+” brew……$3.50
Pepto-Bismol after eating boxed stuffing…………..$4.50
Dish soap to wash Thanksgiving dinner for 10….$1.69
Stain stick for Uncle Murray’s side of the tablecloth….$2.00
Extra batteries for the remote control to rewind the parade 10 times so everyone has had a chance to see the Snoopy float….$7
Antibiotics because that green-nosed nephew did in fact have Strep…$10 + Minute Clinic visit Thursday night
Total Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner for 10 in 2013….$14,710.23*
*Does not include my legal fees or retaliatory price-gouging for Thanksgiving 2014.
With the big holiday only a mere week away, I present to you this friendly, albeit no-so-helpful, Thanksgiving Dinner Primer.
This is the most over-thought protein in the world. There are built-in thermometers, specifically-crafted deep-fryers, brining bags the size of Samsonites and special 1-800 hotlines to cook the easiest part of the entire Thanksgiving meal. If you find yourself calling a hotline to tell you how to throw a bird in the oven and cook it until it’s 180 degrees, you’ve got bigger problems than Butterball can solve.
Here’s where a hotline is actually needed because it’s the most complex component on the menu. Caller: Hello? My gravy is filled with lumps and the color of a cotton ball. Gravy expert: Sounds like you have enough flour in there to make about a dozen Parker House rolls. Please hold while I transfer you to the yeast hotline.
No matter how many pounds you bought, it’s not enough. Double, triple, square the amount you think is too much. Become Idaho. I’m talking enough starch to stiffen all the collars in Vatican City during Advent. Enough for all the sheets on Martha Stewart’s estates. So much that Dr. Atkins returns from the grave to make you a steak dinner. You must make all of the potatoes.
This is an often over-looked dish on the Thanksgiving table. That wonderful separated spread of gherkins, dill pickles and roasted peppers. You may be tempted to skip this item when you realize how many extra items you actually have to buy, but if someone isn’t trying to eat a turkey leg with ten black olives stuck on their fingers, it’s not really a family holiday.
I’m guessing that cranberry sauce has become an American Thanksgiving staple not insomuch from culinary tradition, but more to stave off bladder infections for women standing 12 hours in front of their stoves perfecting lump-less gravy with no bathroom breaks.
Now I don’t get all Chief Judging Judge and Miles StanJudgish on what people put in their Thanksgiving stuffing. Cornbread, white bread, apples, oysters–whatever you want is good by me. I can’t promise that I won’t get all Sally Salmonella on you if you cook it inside the bird instead of safely along side of it, however.
You may not think that sweet potatoes are needed if you already have mashed potatoes, but you would be wrong. Again, it just wouldn’t be a proper family holiday without a bad Popeye “I yam what I yam” impression and a fist fight over marshmallows.
This is where the meal gets dicey, and I don’t mean how to cut the carrots. There are those among us that insist on weird objects like turnips, rutabaga and creamed onions. I have no frame of reference for these things. For me, they are not just foreign items on my holiday table, but from a different century. But I assume they pair nicely with mincemeat pie and aspics.
Speaking of pies, yes to all of them. Apple, pumpkin, pecan. It’s a little known historic fact that Native Americans gave the Pilgrims diabetes on the first Thanksgiving in return for that small pox favor.
Wine and other adult beverages
I like a nice Pinot Noir with my turkey, but by the time I get a meal cooked for 18 people with 77 different @#$#% side dishes to accommodate every guest’s personal Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, peeled my weight in potatoes, and snuck in six calls to the turkey hotline; I will drink white, red, or the moonshine I accidentally made when I tried to Sous-vide the creamed corn to save oven space.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends.
For Scott Garrett, a loving man who loved to laugh. We’ll miss you, Hazel.
Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday. I love a day that focuses on what’s good in life and then serves it up with gravy and football. There are no gifts, no decorations, no shopping other than the grocery store and I’m there every day of my life anyway.
My table–like yours–is a patchwork quilt of traditional family recipes, things I’ve discovered along the way, my guest’s tasty contributions and an annual new experiment. There are sacred things–the stuffing and the pumpkin pie–in which I never stray for fear of revolt, and there’s things that can be a bit more adventuresome and no one will notice.
I’ve used this sweet potato recipe for the past 15 years and it’s one of my favorites. I’ve made it so many times I had forgotten what the original recipe looked like, but here is a link to the 1997 issue of Bon Appétit. Feel free to use more sweet potatoes (I always do) and adjust the seasonings accordingly. It can be made ahead and refrigerated, just make the topping right before baking.