11 Non-Turkey Related Tips for Thanksgiving
The traditional star of Thanksgiving is the turkey, and there are lots of tips out there for making the most of the noble bird, including ours. But what about all the other components of the holiday? Don’t they deserve their time in the spotlight, too, with a few tips of their own from the CIA deans, faculty, and staff? We think so.
1. Buy local
When planning your menu, source what you can close to home—it’s a great way to support your local farmers and your local economy. This time of year, think root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and onions, as well as local meats, dairy, eggs, and grains.
—Anthony DiBenedetto, manager of food purchasing
2. Think pink
When it comes to Thanksgiving, you want to pair your wine with the sides rather than the turkey. Try a dry rosé, which goes with pretty much everything. Sparkling wines, a Finger Lakes Riesling, or a Zinfandel also play well with the Thanksgiving feast.
—John Fischer, professor of wines and beverages
3. Get fresh
Baking ahead of the big day? Make sure to store your baked goods in a covered, airtight container. Your rolls, quick breads, and desserts all start losing moisture (and, therefore, freshness) as soon as they come out of the oven.
—Tom Vaccaro ’85
4. Be bold
Traditional sides are great, but don’t be afraid to try something a little unexpected, too. I like adding ginger juice to mashed sweet potatoes to introduce a little zing. It’s simple to make in your juicer or by grating fresh ginger root.
—Brendan Walsh, dean of culinary arts
5. But stay safe
Nobody wants to send their guests homesick, so to avoid cross-contamination, keep a container of bleach water (1 quart water with 1 capful of bleach) and a disposable cleaning cloth handy. In between tasks, wipe down your work area and wash your hands. And change the bleach water every hour or two.
—David Kamen, manager of consulting projects
6. Plate strategically
When plating for a large group of eight to ten people, pre-warm your plates to ensure that the food is very hot. Place the densest component—such as stuffing, mashed potatoes, or candied sweet potatoes—on the plate first. Then add your slices of turkey, slightly overlapping each other but pretty tightly stacked to hold their heat, preferably over the stuffing. Place green vegetables such as broccoli or green beans on the plate last as they cool more rapidly.
—Bruce Mattel, senior associate dean of culinary arts
7. Bake a lot
Holiday baked goods often rely on “warm” spices (like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, anise seeds, and coriander), which are known to improve circulation. It’s nice to know that your Thanksgiving desserts just might make you a little bit healthier (at least that’s what I tell myself!).
—Stephen Durfee, professor of baking and pastry arts
8. But be mindful
If you’re watching your sweets this Thanksgiving, try slicing your desserts into smaller portions. Then enjoy and savor each bite, mindfully. You may discover that just a small bit is all you need to curb your craving.
—Allison Righter, RDN, lecturing instructor of nutrition
9. Offer appreciation
The Bhagavad Gita states, “Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you give, whatever you practice, do so as an offering…”. As hectic as preparing for holiday gatherings can be, remember that the food and the table are offerings to our guests. If guests have different food preferences, seek to offer them something they will enjoy. If you’re the guest, show gratitude for the food by trying what your host has created, even if it’s not your preference. Help wash the dishes, play with the kids, listen to varying opinions without argument. By showing our appreciation of others, be it through service or expression of gratitude, we can put the “thanks” back into Thanksgiving.
—Ron Hayes, associate director, Center for Career and Academic Advising and yoga instructor
10. Be true to you
Thanksgiving is about celebrating your traditions. Feel free to change it up from turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. If your family likes to barbecue, make that part of your feast. If they’d rather go out to dinner, focus on celebrating the time together rather than stressing out about not making a home-cooked meal.
—Dr. Willa Zhen, professor of liberal arts
11. Do a post-game analysis
If you do prepare and host the Thanksgiving meal, it’s a good idea to keep records of your purchases and how much food, drink, and supplies you and your guests enjoyed. That way, when next November rolls around, you can just whip out your plan and make your shopping list. Easy!
—Brad Barnes, CMC, senior director, CIA Consulting