On Thursday, I'm having 12 people over for dinner. And I'm not at all stressed. The reason? I'm not cooking the turkey.
I went back and forth.
A fresh turkey costs $5/pound. The rule of thumb is one pound per person without leftovers, so at a minimum, the turkey would cost $60. Gravy, made with the drippings, would be more or less free.
On the other hand, the catering department of my local gourmet market will do sliced, roasted turkey for $12/pound. They say to allocate three-quarters of a pound per person. I say one-half pound, since half the the diners are young kids. The price? $72, plus another $10 for gravy.
If I felt like spending twice the amount, I could properly fake it, and have the caterer cook the whole thing, then pull it out of the oven and have my husband carve it, old school like. But I'm not ashamed of wanting to make my life easier by opting out of the turkey.
My mother, of course, had her opinion. "Sarah, it's so easy to roast a turkey. In fact, it's the easiest part of Thanksgiving Dinner."
"But it's stressful and not fun," I replied. "You have to handle that big, clammy bird, clean it, and then clean the cleaning area. Then you need to prep it, worry about it, overcook it AND have dinner run an hour late because it took longer than expected."
I told my dad about my dilemma, and my decision to order six pounds of sliced, roasted turkey from Summerhill Market.
"Oh!" he said, "I just heard an NPR program called The Splendid Table about someone doing this. I think it was Isaac Mizrahi — whenever he does Thanksgiving, he does everything but the turkey. He has that brought in. He says it's because the turkey is all work and no fun. Great idea."
Yes! I've been validated! Not to mention turkey is totally boring next to the cranberry sauce, dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and green beans. (Never mind the pumpkin and pecan pies.)
So do you even need the turkey at Thanksgiving Dinner? Yes, definitely. Something solid needs to provide the foundation for a bite with dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy. But do you need to cook it yourself?
I think we all know the answer to that.