If you’re in the US, chances are you’re getting ready for Thanksgiving this week—whether that means hosting, traveling, or just hiding out and eating ice cream straight from the carton (don’t worry, we don’t judge). I’m not sure how any of us ever cooked before the Internet, but nowadays, any sort of event means turning to various resources online to figure out your food.
Or, um, maybe that’s just me. Let’s pretend it’s you, too. Go with me, here. If you find yourself looking at recipes online, keep these helpful tips in mind before the big day:
Read the comments. Reading the comments on recipes can often clue you in to reviews, helpful substitutions, cooking time adjustments, and other tweaks you might find useful. On the other hand, reading the comments may incite rage. (See also: All the Comments on Every Recipe Blog.) Gauge your mood and resilience before proceeding into any comment section.
Go with old favorites. If ever there was a holiday suited to Grandma’s time-worn recipe cards, Thanksgiving is it. There’s some allure to a new recipe, of course, but one day a year, go ahead and use the butter and whatever else you “shouldn’t” be eating. There’s a reason those recipes have stood the test of time (they’re delicious). If you have a tried-and-true recipe everyone loves, go for it.
Stop worrying about perfection. There’s no such thing as a perfect meal, and fretting over making it so is a losing game. Remember—memorable meals require happiness, not perfection, and you can serve that alongside any dish.
Be realistic and call in reinforcements. If you’re not a cook, buy pre-prepared food, or ask others to help. I love to cook, but I also know lots of folks who don’t who insist on putting themselves through the paces for a big meal while hating every minute. Life is really too short for that; there’s no such thing as a perfect recipe if cooking it makes you miserable.
When all else fails, improvise. Smooth over any food issues seamlessly with a beautifully-set table. And by “beautifully-set table,” I of course mean “booze.” (Kidding! I kid! Mostly!) Any food tastes better when served on a pretty platter or at a gorgeous table or even accompanied by a good story. In other words: The food isn’t just food, and you and your style and personality are what make it great. You don’t need a recipe for that.
Ready for the big meal, or dreading it? You can cook up amazing memories either way.