Article posted Tuesday, November 6, 2012 2:54pm

Dear Mary Pat,

My husband of five months just sent me into a full on panic attack with these seven words, “I invited my family over for Thanksgiving.” Not only is the group large (23 altogether), but I’m not much of a cook.

I wish my mom was still here, but she’s been gone for three years and my sisters live hundreds of miles away. I don’t know how to make a turkey or any of the sides that go along with it. And as much as I love my husband, I want to strangle him for not asking me first. He’s at the same culinary level as I am and how he thinks we can pull this off, I’ll never know.

Please help me! Where do I even start?!


Flying Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Sturgeon Bay, WI

Dear Flying Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,

The first thing you need to do is calm down. You have several weeks to plan and I’m sure you’re up to the challenge. Here are some things I’d like you to remember and do:

1) The holidays are meant to celebrate with family and friends. The most important thing is that you, your husband, and his whole family will be together. (Unless they are unhinged, then that would be a whole other column. There are people who should not get together for the holidays, but I’ll address that at another time. For the sake of this answer, I’m going to assume you like your husband’s family since you didn’t say otherwise.)

2) This is not a test, although I’m sure that it feels like it. Chances are good that your husband’s family is not expecting perfection. Millions and millions of women (and possibly 15 – 19 men) had to start somewhere and all prepared their first turkey dinner at some point and have all lived to tell about it.

3) Put your menu down on paper. Start this week by looking for recipes, nailing down your menu and coming up with a grocery list. In order to not feel additional pressure, try to do most of your shopping the weekend before hand.

When coming up with your menu, look for recipes that can be prepared ahead of time and simply reheated on Thanksgiving. Also, keep it simple. Don’t try to take on too much this time. Stick with the basics and celebrate just how easy it is to open a can of cranberry sauce. Also, one stop at a local florist for an autumnal arrangement can quickly transform your table.

4) There are many resources online for you on how to prepare the turkey, which is probably the most difficult part. Enlist your husband’s help too. Two heads are better than one. One of the best things to do is to call 1.800.Butterball (or 1.800.288.8372).

This time of year, Butterball fields thousands of calls from people just like you. Apparently one of the most popular questions is, “I just bought the bird. Now what?” They will be more than equipped to talk you through this.

Some websites to look up include,, and These are just a few of hundreds you’ll find.

Cooking a Thanksgiving meal can be very hard work and very time consuming, but in the end, I hope you’ll find it rewarding. Let me know how it goes.

Good luck,

Mary Pat