Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet, Part 1: Why It's Okay to Potluck It

Thanksgiving is about tradition. Everyone has expectations about the day, the food, what time the dinner should happen, whether there should be copious amounts of drinking...

The fastest way to find out what your expectations are is to go to someone else's house for thanksgiving and experience all the things they do wrong.

I once went to a Thanksgiving meal with a friend whose mother-in-law was a skinny, mean French lady. We ate at 3 p.m. and THAT WAS ALL FOR THE NIGHT. No dipping in for extra turkey, no revisiting the stuffing at 8 p.m. It was a total downer.
And while many may find it a relief to have someone else do the cooking, for passionate cooks like me, it's hard not to want to pitch in and represent my own family's traditions even when I'm celebrating at someone else's house.

One friend copes by just adding dishes to her dad's traditional menu of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing in order to keep the creative juices flowing, and so the table just gets more and more crowded.

The moral of the story is that, if you happen to be hosting this year, your guests probably want to pitch in and bring a traditional family dish or a dish that suits their preferences or dietary restrictions. So don't be shy! Ask people to pitch in.

Ask them to bring the dish that brings to mind their best holiday memories. (who cares if there are four kinds of stuffing? Who doesn’t love stuffing?). And then ask them about the dish during the meal. No doubt it'll get the reminiscing started in the best possible way.

Your guests will enjoy themselves more, you’ll get to hear the story behind the dish, and the bonus is that you'll have an easier time of cooking. A happy Thanksgiving for all.

Over the next several days, our food editor will advise on how to make your holiday meal planning a little easier - and tastier. Follow along on the Restaurant Insider blog at