I’m the type of person who likes the ideas of holidays in theory. But in application, I find them full of stress, panic, and the unwanted interaction with people with whom, if it were July, would deign it inappropriate to interact with me (and vice-versa). It’s one of the major reasons I like to travel around the holidays, as it gets me out of social obligations that I would like to avoid otherwise. This makes me sound Scrooge-ish, I know, but as I get older, but if you’re going to ask me to choose between having the day off, going out to eat with my partner, and reading a good book, versus heading to a meal with 15 other people, only 3 of which I know well, I’m going to choose the restaurant, my partner, and a book.
This leads me to talk about the joys of the restaurant Thanksgiving meal, a tradition in the Hopkins household. As a treat for all of the good meals I’ve cooked during the year, I’ve decided many years ago that the best thing I could do during the holidays is avoid socially obligated holiday cooking. It’s a tradition that started back in my twenties, when I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving, but was far enough away from family that I couldn’t make an easy trip, and too financially strapped to afford the long-distance travel. So, I looked in the newspaper, found a place that was open, and headed out to a turkey dinner. I enjoyed the time to myself immensely and did it again the next year. A tradition was born.
As I grew older and the holiday season approached, I saw more and more people caught up in the activities surrounding these meals, and become stressed at the thought of making the dinner perfect, or dealing with this one relative, or having to start the kitchen work at 6 am and not be done until 7 pm. These only cemented by belief that my choice was the way to go. I vowed to share the restaurant Thanksgiving with anyone who wanted to, but I would not go back to the tradition instilled activities of backing, broiling, and trying to find the best way to roast the best turkey. I now leave that entirely to the professionals.
There’s often more variety at the restaurants, and while the traditional foods are great, seeing a new take on the old classics does wonders for my palate. The service is typically top notch (at least the places I go), and the management of the places I frequent understand that many of their crew also want to spend time with their family, so they offer holiday pay to those who choose to work.
And now I’m spending these moments with my loved ones, who see the beauty of this arrangement. For me, it’s the best possible option. It’s also one I recognize doesn’t fit well on others. That’s okay.
But for some? Let me say this: Try it once. Do some research, see which of your family and friends would be up to it, and make early reservations (late September, early October). If you find the right place, it will change your look on Thanksgiving dinner.