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on the table  
tips for planning your thanksgiving menu 

by Yee-Fan Sun |
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For the last few weeks, my friends Kim and Margaret and I have been plotting: exchanging emails back and forth as we gear up to meet in Paris over Thanksgiving. Yes, that would be Paris, France; and yeah, as my boy has already pointed out, it's hard to think of a less patriotic place in the world that we could choose to celebrate this quintessential American holiday. I don't care; I'm pretty excited. And besides, Paris is actually a semi-logical choice for all of us right now -- Margaret's boyfriend lives there, the boy and I are here in Edinburgh, and Kim and her guy figure now is as a good a time as any to take advantage of the fact that they have friends living in Europe with whom they can visit while they play tourist. It's not my first Thanksgiving away from home by any stretch, but it's the first turkey day dinner I've ever co-planned with friends, and as the emails about menu options have been whizzing back and forth amongst the three of us, I'm learning how complicated it can be to coordinate a Thanksgiving dinner that meets everyone's needs. There have been turkey dilemmas (can you even get them in France?) and mushroom issues (truffles yea or nay?); there have been practical matters to consider, like the feasibility of producing a full-on traditional turkey day extravaganza with less than 24 hours prep time available to us, and in a tiny European-scale kitchen to boot.

The basic must-have components to a classic Thanksgiving meal seem fairly straightforward. You have your turkey and gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce; you accompany with the requisite potatoes and sweet potatoes and side dishes galore. You might offer soup if you're doing a sit-down meal, maybe a salad. You end the meal, of course, with a smorgasbord of pies. Yes, part of the beauty of a Thanksgiving meal is that you pretty much know what sort of goodies are going to be greeting you when you sit down at the table on that last Thursday in November. Figuring out the menu itself should be the easiest part of the Thanksgiving preparations, right?

As I've discovered: not exactly. See, when it comes time to actually plan a Thanksgiving meal, you suddenly realize that while you have a general idea of what foods you'd like to feature in your feast, you haven't a clue as to the specific dishes you will reasonably be able to cook. If you're hosting alongside friends, you discover that everyone has their own different ideas about what components make or break a perfect Thanksgiving meal. You scale back; you make concessions. Still, reconciling your turkey feast dreams with reality doesn't have to feel like a sacrifice. Keep a few things in mind as you plan your meal, and you'll be able to get a fabulous spread on the table that makes everyone happy -- and have fun putting it all together at the same time.

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