Please Don’t Feel Guilty About Dropping Out Of the Thanksgiving Cooking Olympics

There it was, in my in box. The email from Zabar’s, offering to send me a complete Thanksgiving dinner, no muss, no fuss.

And that wasn’t the only enticement I got. Lunching at Zingerman’s Roadhouse here in Ann Arbor last week, one of the hosts handed me a flyer for different sizes of pre-made Thanksgiving feasts, including pie.

Then, during a Google search, I stumbled upon Martha Stewart’s offer of Thanksgiving dinner in a box.

Think of it. After all those years of glossy Martha Stewart Living spreads of glistening turkeys and complicated side dishes, she could just send me the whole shebang

But I wondered whether it wasn’t, well, a little pathetic to have someone else handle Thanksgiving cooking.

After all, Thanksgiving has turned into a Cooking Olympics, if you believe everything you read.

The New York Times published a special section of Thanksgiving recipes, even though some of its readers live in apartments so small they couldn’t fit a turkey through their kitchen door.

One story promised techniques to get the whole thing done in eight hours, which prompted a hilarious Twitter response from legendary food writer Mimi Sheraton: “8 min. can reserve for that day at Wallse, Loring Place, Rotisserie Georgette, Coq Rico, Grunauer Bistro.”

Southern Living’s November issue focused on Thanksgiving pie recipes, and honestly, I’d go to any dinner where the complete menu was just pie.

I did a little research, and it turns out that nobody has any reason to feel guilty about sitting out the kitchen competition.

As I reported for, it turns out that about 10 percent of American diners plan to eat in restaurants on Thanksgiving this year, according to the National Restaurant Association.

That’s about the same as 2016 — but it’s way up from six years ago. In 2011, only six percent of diners surveyed planned to eat out, or at least they were the only ones who would admit they planned to eat out.

Even more interesting is the number of people who plan to purchase a complete meal, plus the number who are going to buy at least part of the Thanksgiving dinner they serve at home.

If you add it all together, about one in four people is going to let someone else do all, or some of the work.

Well, that’s a much different picture than the conventional wisdom of us collectively getting up at 5 am on Thanksgiving morning, on top of all the time we’re supposed to be putting in during the days before hand.

It means that a goodly number of us are just saying no to the stress of the cooking Olympics. And, I hope more people will do so in the years ahead.

I love to cook and I’ve been doing so since I was a child. But, I want my hours in the kitchen to be voluntary.

I don’t want to feel compelled to cook the same things because we’ve always eaten them — or to introduce new, trendy recipes to keep up with the in crowd.

I also don’t want to feel compelled to fill my plate with multiple offerings, so that I get mini-tastes of everything, but never enough of anything to really savor it.

You might get the impression that I also dislike buffets, and I do. Even when I dine at one, I usually end up with one appetizer and a plate with a main and a couple of sides, replicating what I’d get if I was being waited on.

Of course, my sentiment is not in vogue with American tradition, or the trends that you supposed to observe in food land.

But, I don’t really care, and neither should you.

I couldn’t help laughing this week when my friend Dan Pashman recorded what he promises will be The Last Sporkful Thanksgiving Special Ever, on his wonderful podcast, The Sporkful.

On it, Sheraton says she doesn’t think there’s a need to keep re-inventing Thanksgiving every year. She got a little pushback from Christopher Kimball, the television cooking guru, who so far has come up with 34 different ways of cooking a turkey.

You don’t have to do that.

If you’re Thanksgiving-cooking averse, call up while there’s still time and have a box from Martha Stewart or Zabar’s arrive at your door.

Make a reservation at someplace special — if you can still get in, because many places are probably already filled up with people who decided a while back that they don’t want to cook.

And, if you don’t like turkey and the traditional trimmings, listen up: it’s okay. You can have a burger. Or pizza. My friend Luke Song, the hat designer, who came to the States as a boy, says his family makes all their favorite Korean foods.

Thanksgiving, after all, isn’t only about competition, and stress, and falling into a food coma. It’s supposed to be about being grateful.

I, for one, am grateful for the choices I have, to dine with family, dial up for delivery, or simply spend the day in my pajamas. (I’ve done all three.)

Excuse me while I see if Frank Brigtsen can ship me a sweet potato pecan pie from New Orleans.

Micheline Maynard tweets @mickimaynard and her food tweets are @culinarywoman



Journalist. Author. The Check blog on NPR and NYT alum

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