Making the Thanksgiving feast can be stressful for anyone and having RSD doesn't make it any easier. I have always liked making the holiday dinner and have a strict everything from scratch rule. I mean everything from the stuffing to the challah bread, my daughter loves challah bread so it has turned into a must for all holiday celebrations. My mother always made everything herself and it just doesn't seem like Thanksgiving if I don't do the same. I use to be able to make everything in one very long day and since it is a labor of love it has never seemed like work to me, I know not everyone feels the same. Unfortunately, my RSD has changed my ability to crank out an elaborate Thanksgiving meal so I have to plan better and I was going to focus on just that aspect but really this is a plan that can help anyone. Entertaining and serving a multi course meal can be daunting but if you plan right you can manage to get everything done without having to miss out on the social aspect.
Put your menu together a week prior so you can make a schedule on what to make and when to make it. Three days before I go through my menu, the recipes and make sure I have everything I need, this is also when you should go through what needs to be done. There are a some things you can make the day or two ahead of time like desserts, bread or appetizers. You can also prep the night before by cutting, portioning and getting all of the ingredients together which will take a big chunk of the stress off of your shoulders. I like to set the table the day before that way if I am missing anything I can figure it out without the 'day off' panic. I even get all of the serving dishes and spoons together, which just helps everything move smoothly and effortlessly. It is all about avoiding stress so get the family together and give them a list of assigned chores to help get the house in order
Yesterday I made the cranberry sauce and cleaned up the living room, now I have learned that I just can't do everything so I try not to worry about the little stuff. Five years ago I would cleaning the baseboards, fans, vents and every corner of my house and I just can't do that anymore. It really isn't that important, no one really notices it but me and it's not that important. It's all about prioritizing. I have also pared the menu down which honestly I always made too much, seriously I could feed the entire neighborhood. I use to put out a tray of Christmas cookies (10 to 15 different kinds) and breads but it is one of those things that I have decided to let go of because it's more important that I can be with my family then having a plate of cookies. I also went through the china, linens and silverware to make sure they were clean and ready to be used.
Today I made the desserts and prepped other dishes. Since it will only be Jim, my daughter and myself this holiday I only made two desserts. I could have gotten away with only making one but I love pumpkin pie, I only get it once a year and I am the only one that will eat it. My step daughter also shares my love of pumpkin pie but she will be at her mothers this year. So I made Tiger Cake for Jim and Eilish, it is one of Eilish's favorite desserts because it is not overly sweet. I like to have several courses for holiday meals or entertaining because it keeps everyone together and engaged for several hours. One of my traditional appetizers is Aricini Balls which again is one of my daughters favorite. It's actually an easy dish to make but has looks impressive. It is just a risotto ball filled with fresh mozerella that is breaded and fried. It works better if the risotto is cold so it is stickier. I make the risotto the day before, typically I make risotto on the stove top making additions of the stock which can be labor intensive involving constant stirring which my RSD does not like. Since I am only using it for the Aricini I cheated and made it in the oven.
It's still a lot of work and I will have my daughter here to help with some of the prep and Jim is happy to do some cooking on the day. Even though it is just the three of us we will have a formal table and everyone will dress for dinner. This is a holiday meal that was prepared with tradition, love and to honor what the holiday's are all about, family. We will drink a Brandy Alexander in honor of my grandfather, every holiday he made these and doing it makes me feel like he is here, even if just in spirit. The cooking is 90% of what I love about Thanksgiving and although I can't do as much as I use to I am finding a way to adjust and work around RSD. It is possible to host a holiday or dinner party and still be able to enjoy the occasion.
Create a menu and when you do try to find items that can be made ahead of time. It does not have to be complicated, if you don't typically cook choose dishes that are easy to make. You don't need to turn into a gourmet chef over night.
If you are having a large family/friends gathering assign them a dish to bring, it is not rude but a necessity.
Make a schedule of what will be done each day leading up to the holiday/dinner
Get the family together and make a chore list/schedule that way you will have everything done before the day of the event. Also the kids should have to help.
Cook/bake what you can the day or two ahead of time
Prep and portion ingredients the night before
I like to set up a bar the night before if I am having several people over so they can serve themselves
Set the table the night before
Get all of the serving dishes and utensils together the night before
I create a schedule for the day of so I can plan when I start making everything to make sure it is all ready when it needs to be. It also helps to make sure I don't forget anything which I have done before.
Most important, this is suppose to be fun so if something doesn't turn out like you planned just let it go chances are no one will even notice.
One of the issues with RSD, not really an issue but we don't look sick It isn't like having cancer were you can visually see they are sick The more I do, any activity the more pain I will be in later in the day like most RSD survivors As the day goes on the pain increases along with my dystonia (crazy leg/arm) but as this is the last Thanksgiving with my daughter before she starts college it is important to me to honor this holiday so as I lay here in a great deal of pain I am not regretting anything Life is short and the time we have with our loved ones is not long enough so do what you can today