The Non-Expert

Credit: Green Mountain Girls Farm

The Two-Week Guide to Thanksgiving

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week, to help a young woman prepare her Thanksgiving, we assemble a day-by-day plan for cooking turkey for nine people and managing sibling relations, plus all the fixings.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


Question: I realize that this may be way too late for asking you, but I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year for my whole family at my house (nine people) and I have not started to prepare much of anything at all. Can you recommend a good schedule for getting ready because I think I should probably be shopping by now, right? —Susan S.

Answer: Susan, you wrote just in time. With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, you have barely avoided total holiday meltdown. Help has arrived! Follow this schedule to the letter and you’ll survive with your nerves intact.

Thirteen Days Remaining

  • If you haven’t ordered your turkey yet, call up your grocery or butcher. Rule of thumb says a pound and a half of turkey per person at the table, excluding any younger sisters in college, who would prefer a Diet Coke, or whatever, nothing, ew leave me alone.
  • Begin knitting your Thanksgiving sweater.

Twelve Days Remaining

  • Email driving directions to siblings and cousins, and include rules of engagement (“no mentioning Bill’s divorce at the table”; “still no mentioning Bill’s cosmetic surgery at the table”).
  • Politely turn down your parents’ offer to arrive a week early.
  • Set the table—it can’t hurt to be too prepared! Each person should have the exact amount of knives they can handle responsibly when drunk. For some, this may be two or three. For others, a spoon.

Eleven Days Remaining

  • Assuming you’ll be making four kinds of pie: Roll out the dough, stretch it around your pie dishes, load everything into the freezer.
  • Assuming you’ll be making three types of bread and two types of rolls: Bake all loaves and rolls, wrap them with plastic warp once they’ve cooled, freeze.
  • Assuming you have a job: Quit. Assuming you have kids: Sell. Distractions are not part of a sensible Thanksgiving plan.

Ten Days Remaining

  • Get laid. Honestly, you won’t have time again until after New Year’s.
  • Polish the silver.
  • Knit that sweater!

Nine Days Remaining

  • Prepare the entire meal while timing yourself. Remember to stretch. If you don’t make your hoped-for time, force yourself to eat the turkey and all the sides as punishment. If you do make your goal, drive the leftover food to a local homeless shelter, and dump it in the alley out back with a good coat of bleach—those bums can wait the nine days to be thankful.

Eight Days Remaining

  • Drop off linens for dry cleaning.
  • Purchase all beverages: champagne, some pinot noir, sodas, scotch. Go double on the scotch—go triple. Throw in some mini bagel pizzas, just in case.

Seven Days Remaining

  • Pick up your “Happy Turkey-Day Surprise!” at the airport. Remind your parents you were sure you said “No way” to their invitation to come early.
  • Drink on the drive home.

Six Days Remaining

  • Allow your mother to reorganize the kitchen.
  • Allow your father to begin programming the VCR for football.
  • Allow your husband to divorce you.

Five Days Remaining

  • Pray for a terrorist strike.
  • Buy a set of those darling pumpkin soup tureens.

Four Days Remaining

  • Have you planned your special Thanksgiving tableau yet?
  • You haven’t?
  • Continue knitting the Thanksgiving sweater.

Three Days Remaining

  • Prepare and refrigerate the cranberry sauce.
  • Fold the Sunday newspaper into pilgrim hats.
  • Preempt your father’s Thanksgiving refrain about no-tax-paying-Injuns with a libel suit. Don’t be surprised when your parents leave in a fit of outrage—it’s all about being thankful.

Two Days Remaining

  • Shop for perishables: eggs, milk, hope.

One Day Remaining

  • Prepare (but don’t stuff) the turkey and try to cram it in the fridge. When it doesn’t fit, stick it on a pike in the front lawn as a warning to your enemies.
  • Prepare turkey stock and desserts.
  • Prop your eyelids open with toothpicks—you think that sweater’s going to finish itself?


  • Wear your beautifully knitted Thanksgiving sleeve-set.
  • Thaw out your bread and rolls.
  • Roast the turkey.
  • Make your vegetables, mashed potatoes, and whatever other remaining side dishes.
  • Lay out a beautiful Thanksgiving spread, and say a private grace.
  • Watch from the window as your brothers, sisters, and cousins follow your directions to the house down the street, while you eat all the food before they find out they’ve been duped.
  • Loosen sleeves. Pat stomach. Fall asleep watching TV, with visions of Christmas dancing around your head.

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