Planning for (recovering from) Thanksgiving: food and family

What to do with yourself, your family, and your feelings of sleepiness slash boredom.

Originally published on November 25th, 2011.

Thanksgiving is a great time for feasting and fellowship. One without the other would render the holiday incomplete. This year, we decided to bring you a series that covered the topics of both family and food as it relates to Thanksgiving in the hopes that it may provide you with a little help in making the time special.

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The leftovers are in the fridge, the football games are over, the kitchen is all cleaned up, and the turkey sandwiches are just waiting to be eaten. Yep, it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving–Black Friday, as the shopping malls call it. So how do we keep it from being a black day? How do we hold on to the spirit of Thanksgiving? And how do we enter the Christmas season and come out on the other side of it joyful?

I have great memories of the Friday after Thanksgiving. I would meet my mom at Toys R Us (at a normal hour, mind you, not dark o’clock), and we would do our Santa shopping for the kids. I would have my list and she would have hers, and we would fill our carts and debate and decide who would get what for which child. The morning was not a chore for us. Neither of us functions very well at the last minute, so we had the pleasure of buying gifts for the kids and finishing the Santa list. It was a win/win. But the memory I love is just being with her. I can close my eyes and see us going up and down the aisles, our lists in our hands, complete with notes and prices, dodging the other shoppers, talking about the ridiculous amount of money we were spending as we added more and more to the cart. She always wore her white tennis shoes and a Christmas sweater, and she smelled like a lovely combination of Oil of Olay and Downy. We ended the shopping trip with lunch at the neighboring Arbys, now affectionately referred to by her eight grandchildren as “Granny’s Arbys.”

I don’t think it really matters what you do the day after Thanksgiving, as long as you can do it with a smile on your face. In fact, that’s a pretty good test for the whole holiday season. Can you do whatever it is you are doing and keep on smiling? I have memories of both smiles and frowns, and the memories that made me frown are all things that were not really necessary: self-imposed deadlines and activities that took more away from the season than added to it. But my memories of being with my mom, those are priceless and still make me smile. If you have the choice, always choose the smile and make good memories for yourself and your family.


If you were in the kitchen on Thursday, Friday needs to be about restoration. I don’t care how much you enjoy cooking, putting on a feast will wear you out. PLAN TO NOT SPEND FRIDAY IN THE KITCHEN.

So how do you make sure you or your family doesn’t starve?

If you’re a planner, you can plan ahead. My family would always have lasagna on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Grandma would put it together earlier in the week, keep it cold, and heat it up on Friday and serve with a simple tossed salad. This is a relaxed meal, just like you would have on any normal day. This meal should even be served on paper plates in order to minimize dishes needing to be washed.

If you aren’t a planner, there are always the leftovers, but I like being strategic with leftovers* and making something good with them. It seems like a waste to watch promising leftovers slowly dwindling as soon as people get the munchies.

No matter what you do for dinner, go out for lunch–and make it a good one. The mall restaurants will be crazy, and they are mostly chains anyway. Find a place in a slower part of town, call ahead to make sure they are open, make reservations if necessary, and enjoy a couple hours away with a good friend or family member. This is not a meal with the kids. This is your decompression.

Remember that you have two more days left with family and friends. Use Black Friday to do the things that will keep you energized for the remainder of the weekend. Because you know, “when the cook is not happy, no one is happy.”

*Strategic Use of Leftovers: Buy some nice hearty bread and slice it thick. Take two pieces of it and pile it high with heated turkey, gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes. Spread some cranberry sauce across the top and you have that wonderful Turkey Day special sandwich.

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photo by joebeone

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Matt Sadler

In the hopes of experiencing the perfect meal, Matt “The Marinara” Sadler searches the foothills of Manakin, the barrios of Chesterfield, and the corners of Oregon Hill only to realize that he is easily satisfied.

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