Thanksgiving with family is great until someone starts talking politics. Let’s avoid that, shall we?
Here we are, less than a week before Thanksgiving, and this year everyone’s coming to your house. Sounds fun, doesn’t it, doing all that cooking, seeing the nieces and nephews, listening to Uncle Bud talk about SEC football while Grandma Marian goes on about her hip replacement surgery? I bet you can hardly wait for everyone to get there. This is when families are at their most fun. Cousins who haven’t seen each other in a year playing in the yard, brothers and sisters reminiscing about when they were kids, and more food than anyone ever needs to eat. I remember those Thanksgivings nostalgically, though we’ve not actually had one in several years.
The problem with Thanksgiving, or any family get-together, comes when someone says something, perhaps innocently, that reveals a political rift within the family. Almost every family has someone who doesn’t agree with the majority opinion. If they decide that someone’s statement is offensive to them, then the arguments begin and it doesn’t matter how good the turkey was, all anyone remembers is the year Uncle Bud bashed Aunt Noreen in the head with that lamp. I’m the liberal in a family of conservatives so I just avoid family Thanksgiving down in Wichita. I’m sure we’re all happier that way.
Not everyone shows such discretion, however, and if your family is one of those whose Thanksgivings turn into an annual knock-down, drag-out, pay-per-view event live streamed by the teenaged cousins, we’re here to help. Never mind that the first Thanksgiving almost certainly wasn’t a religious event and was probably more of a harvest festival. Ignore the fact that the alleged friendliness of the Pilgrims was little more than a prelude to murder. Let those discussions happen elsewhere. What matters is that you and your house survive Thanksgiving intact.
Preparing Your Home
Distraction is the name of the game in a politics-free Thanksgiving. What is important is that you remove as many possible reminders of the presidential election as possible. Tempers are still short. Feelings are still hurt. Forks are a weapon. So, start wth the simple things such as removing any political signs from your yard, especially if your side won. No one likes it when the other side gloats. They’ll be in a bad mood before they get out of the car if they see a Trump or Clinton sign in your yard. Instead, just don’t rake the leaves. The kids will enjoy playing in them and the adults will either reminisce about how they used to do the same, or gripe about how you’re a bad neighbor for not taking care of your lawn. Either way, it’s not politics. You’re winning so far.
Next, hide anything of value and do NOT light candles for any reason whatsoever. What you want to avoid is giving anyone an easy weapon. Rather than using the fine china handed down from your great-great-grandmother, use paper plates. By all means, use plastic utensils rather than the silverware that’s been in the family for generations. You certainly don’t want to risk Aunt Josephine’s hair getting too close to an open flame, either. The woman uses a full can of Aqua-Net on that beehive of judgment. One little spark and she’s the flambé. This, of course, will get your relatives talking about the fact you wouldn’t let them use the family relics and that your house smells like dog poop. Again, better than politics.
Worst-case-scenario, should you get wind that Uncle Bud just can’t wait to light into his Hillary-supporting sister-in-law, you can take preventative measures by connecting a small electrical charge to the doorknob on the front door. The relatives you like can be told to use the backdoor. Everyone else gets a shocking greeting. Don’t make the shock too hard, mind you. You don’t want to spend the day at the hospital after Grandma’s pacemaker gives her an unexpected jolt. Just make it enough to hurt like fucking hell and send a clear message that their hate is not wanted in your house. They’ll be talking about you for years.
I’ve always been an advocate of attending family events naked. This is especially true if you’re male because, no matter how good you look, no one in your family wants to see that. Open the door in your birthday suit and watch how quickly everyone suddenly remembers that they promised to spend this Thanksgiving with the other side of the family. The only problem with this approach is that Thanksgiving day often turns out to be on the chilly side. While one can turn up the heat to a comfortable temperature inside, the frequent blasts of cold air that come with greeting your guests is going to make matters all the more uncomfortable for everyone.
An alternative to being naked would be to dress otherwise inappropriately. Pajamas come to mind, especially the kind with feet in them. Dress your entire immediate family that way so that when extended family arrives they think they missed an email or something, which is probably cousin Jennifer’s fault because she always was a stuck-up sort of brat who never let anyone play with her dolls. No pajamas? Go with something sheer or low-cut, something that shows some side boob. Again, this is much more effective if one is male. If you’re female it just makes cousin Horace’s drooling problem that much worse.
Hair and makeup also come into play here. Specifically, if you’re female don’t wear any and, by all means, don’t bother brushing your hair. You want everyone to know how hard you’ve been slaving over this dinner, staying up late to bake pies every night this week, and wrestling with those homemade rolls. Just make sure you’ve hidden all the boxes from the store before you do so. If you’re male, though, you need to go the opposite direction. Open the door with a full face of makeup AND a full beard and everyone immediately forgets that there even was an election this year. Arguably, one has to have a rather thick skin to actually use any of these tactics. Family is going to be telling stories about you for generations. It’s worth it, though, to avoid the uncivil political discussions that tear a family apart.
Prepare Your Food
Everyone shows up for Thanksgiving expecting the regular menu, which Uncle Bob is sure was ordained by God and handed down from the Pilgrims themselves. There has to be roast turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, homemade rolls, cranberry sauce, and enough green bean casserole to last until Christmas. This is what they’re expecting when they come to your house. This, however, is not what you’re going to give them. Trust me, altering the menu is the quickest and easiest way to direct the conversation away from politics and toward the food.
What’s critical here, though, is that the food has to actually be good. If you’re going to go altering the same Thanksgiving menu the family has had since great-grandma crossed the plains in her bare feet, you have to get it right. Consider trying a Moroccan-Spiced Turkey with Aromatic Orange Pan Jus instead of the traditional shove-it-in-the-oven-and-pray turkey. This blend of spices is going to catch everyone by surprise and leaves a pleasant yet lively taste in your mouth. Then, to really throw everyone off, replace the green bean casserole of death with something like Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Currants or maybe even Whole Roasted Carrots with Black Lentils and Green Harissa. In place of all those starchy potatoes that no one really needs, try Honey-Roasted Butternut Squash or Acorn Squash with Pomegranate and Kale Tabbouleh. Top all that with something along the lines of Grapefruit Granita with Pear-and-Pom Relish and Cherry-Port Cranberry Sauce and tongues should be wagging when their mouths aren’t full.
Disclaimer: I haven’t actually tried any of those recipes. There will only be five of us at our Thanksgiving dinner and two of those are well-indoctrinated children. I did look over all the recipes, though, and don’t find anything that seems horribly unrealistic, depending upon one’s personal tastes. I may try something along the lines of the Moroccan-spaced turkey and honey-roasted butternut squash just sounds amazing. No one here is going to be upset about messing with any tradition, though.
I also heartily recommend spiking everything possible. The punch. The tea. The coffee. The cranberry sauce. Getting everyone a little bit tipsy without getting them quite drunk puts everyone more at ease, especially if your family doesn’t normally drink. Then, in states where it is legal, adding a fair amount of a certain green herb to your dishes is not a bad idea, either. No one is going to argue if they’re all passed out on the couch. Mind you, we’re not advocating anyone break any laws (much), but if you live in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, or some other weed-friendly locale, you can find some herb-based recipes here.
We all know the holidays are stressful and arguments about politics just make everything that much worse. When you’re the one hosting, it’s not like you can gather up the kids and just leave when matters get heated. So, take my advice and prepare for a holiday where there is so many other things to talk about that no one gives a second thought to politics.