Let’s Talk Turkey – Seven Rules From My Thanksgiving Table

Ah, Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for so many things.

One of them is good writing, like Wall Street Journal writer Jason Gay’s Rules for Thanksgiving Football.

Hilarious stuff, even if you didn’t grow up playing touch football on
Turkey Day (I didn’t) and openly resist being cajoled into playing as an adult (I do).


Personally I’d rather skip the football and stay in the kitchen, preparing the inevitable buffet of ice packs and Advil for when the “athletes” return triumphant (or not).  But Mr. Gay’s writing has inspired me to make my own list of rules.

The dinner table on Thanksgiving Day has been my training ground; it’s what I know and where I can win. Follow my Seven Rules and you’ll emerge unscathed from this Thanksgiving.

1.      Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.

Thanksgiving is a mastication Olympics which requires complex navigation of the obstacle course of family drama.  Don’t go into it cold.

If you’re commuting, spend the drive briefing your family so everyone’s ready.  Identify dangerous territory (your cousin’s divorce) and rough terrain (the last election).  Establish rules of engagement (“You will help with the dishes and not migrate to the living room after dinner!”).  And most important – have an exit strategy.  Doctors with pagers figured this one out years ago.

If you’re hosting, don’t wait until the first overloaded minivan pulls into your driveway to remind everyone to graciously accept the sloppy casserole dishes.  Make sure they know not to gag on the obligatory sip of your uncle’s homemade wine. And don’t let anyone mention your sister’s tattoo in front of Grandma.Face Tattoos For Girls

2.     No Personal Announcements Regarding Foods You Don’t Eat / Can’t Eat / Choose Not to Eat for Political or Other Reasons.

This is not an AA meeting; no one will welcome your standing proudly to declare your allegiance to raw foods or your preference for white meat.  While it may be gossip fodder after you leave, the rest of the table isn’t interested in your Paleolithic diet or what gluten does to your stools.

If you can’t see your way to an honest plate of turkey, stuffing, and gravy (mmm…gravy), shut up and pick at the cranberry sauce.  It’s vegan.

3.     There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Butter.

Or garlic.  Or pie.

This rule obviously speaks for itself.

4.     Keep a Sharp Eye On The Pets.

You aren’t the only one who noticed the olfactory opium that is Roasting Turkey (thanks in no small part to the butter and the garlic).  Your dog has been drooling on the floor all day.  During dinner, you’ll notice him clumsily circumnavigating the table, waiting for someone, anyone, to drop something.


Cats are another story.  They’ve been silently plotting for hours, watching and waiting for the right time to strike.  Don’t underestimate them.  One year my blissfully ignorant family enjoyed a leisurely meal in the dining room in while the cat gorged himself on the carcass, which had been left unattended on the kitchen counter.

Cat – 1.  Turkey Soup – 0.

5.     Regarding the Consumption of Beer, Wine and Spirits – It’s All Good.

Whatever charming little rules you normally live by (no cocktails before 5:00, no liquor on weekdays, no more than one case of beer during a football game), throw them out the window on Thanksgiving.  If you have your hand up a turkey’s butt before the sun is fully up, anything can happen.  Plus, you have relatives coming. Bottom’s up!

6.     Politics and Religion are Fair Game.

Do you really expect everyone will limit conversation to the weather and the smoothness of the gravy, all day long?  At some point, even the richest gossip about The Family Member Who Isn’t There will fizzle out, and someone will quote Fox News.  Someone else will mention Politico.  Go with it.  Make sure there’s plenty of wine.

This rule is not for amateurs.

7.     The TV Stays On.

Yes, it’s dinnertime.  Yes, you’re using the good china.  But the Lions are still on.

This might be the year they win, and do you want to be responsible for making everyone miss it?  Someday posterity will ask your kids, “Do you remember where you were when the Lions won on Thanksgiving?” Do you want them to shuffle their feet, hang their heads in shame, and admit that during that momentous event they were instead listening to Aunt Betty list every ingredient in her grandmother’s stuffing?

I didn’t think so.


If you decide to leave the house and play a little football of your own (say the Lions are down 31-3 with 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter and Matt Stafford just left the field with a concussion), good luck.  Stay safe.  Read more of Jason Gay’s rules.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Turkey – Seven Rules From My Thanksgiving Table

  1. Beth Sholl Purdy

    Very good post, Laura! Hey – you’re good at this! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! My mom and dad say hi, and Happy Thanksgiving, too!

    1. lmctaggart2013 Post author

      Thanks, Beth! Say hi to your mom and dad, too. And enjoy your Thanksgiving! Maybe, because you live in the South, you’ll get to enjoy a fried turkey. Northerners don’t know what they’re missing.


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