Last year, the night before Thanksgiving, our oven exploded. That was not in the recipe.

This year, as preparation for the big day, I’ve developed a terrible November cold which has exploded all over my nose and lungs. This, too, was not in the recipe we saw in “Joy of Cooking” nor did we see it in “Joy of Coughing.”

Because, of course, there is no joy in coughing. There is only joy in following a traditional Thanksgiving recipe. Here’s ours.

8 guests, finely shredded by holiday stress

60 years of family history, still stewing

6 cups of procrastination (but if you wait, you might find out that you can make do with 5 cups and stretch it with leftover olives stuck in the back of the fridge.)

4 cups of free-range stalling

2 pints of low-fat dithering

3 pounds of gluten-free complaining

1 gallon of milk, spilled

½ gallon of carpet cleaner, useless

2 pounds of reduced-sodium arguments (it’s OK to use instant — say, over who gets the good cutting knife — but long-simmering arguments are always more flavorful.)

3 liters of recipes that use ingredients and measurements you don’t have.

1 pound of cure (since you forgot the ounce of prevention)

5 tablespoons of mild frustration

3 tablespoons of minced irritation, which is convertible to half a cup of spite.

2 teaspoons of exasperation extract

½ teaspoon of bad timing

¼ teaspoon of frustration

A dash of annoyance

A pinch of reality


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees if it hasn’t exploded yet. Watch out for flames. Mix dry ingredients with torrential rain as everybody arrives. Blend during cocktail hour with an innocuous discussion that doesn’t include politics, religion, sports or the French.

Tell stories about the time Carol’s sister Joan foolishly left the other plastic bag in the turkey and desperately hope that this time you remembered to take the extra plastic bag out.

Test the smoke alarm by sautéing seasonings until they are nice and smoky. If the smoke alarm doesn’t work, leave quickly after calling the fire department.

If it does work, combine the remaining ingredients in a large zipper top bag with cornstarch until you discover you don’t have any cornstarch. Substitute whatever you have that’s white. Beige could work, too.

After 20 minutes, put it all through the food processor. Cook until tender or until you burn yourself trying to read the oven thermometer.

Or call for pizza.