Cousin Shapiro and Grandaddy Sanders having a polite political conversation over mashed potatoes. graphic by Conner Maggio

How to make Thanksgiving dinner the calmest ever

Don’t worry about upsetting the relatives again with these hot tips.

Fall Break is right around the corner, and with it comes everyone’s favorite meal: Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone knows that Thanksgiving can be a bit of a minefield, so I have a few tips that will help keep your supper as calm and pleasant as possible.

Tip #1: Mention the midterms
Now if you’ve read advice in the past on how to navigate Thanksgiving dinner (your first mistake), you might have heard that it’s best to avoid talking about politics. For some reason, it seems to be a bit of a polarizing subject. Still scratching our heads about that, honestly.
This year’s midterms can actually make relatives on both sides of the aisle happy. Since the Democrats took the House and the Republicans took the Senate, everyone is happy about how the results turned out. This means that for once, politics is a topic that won’t anger relatives at the dinner table.

Tip #2: Bring up family drama
This might seem like another odd suggestion, but everyone loves tea (all the way back to the American Revolution!), so Thanksgiving dinner is the perfect time to talk about that time Aunt Sally slept with Great-Uncle Joe. It’s important to show your concern for how the situation turned out and comfort whichever party is necessary.
Don’t forget, it’s not just the recent drama, either. You can’t forget to talk about the old stuff. Remember way back in ‘05 when Grandma Helen got that DUI? Some people might’ve forgotten, and some of the younger kiddos might not know, so this is the perfect time to inform them. Grandma Helen has her license again now, so no harm done by bringing it up.

Tip #3: Recommend recipes to try next year
Everyone knows that sometimes the person who’s cooking is just missing that one little thing that will take their Thanksgiving dinner to the next level. It’s only common courtesy to bring it up to the chef. Honestly, all their pumpkin pie needs is a little bit of nutmeg to make it as good as yours.
It doesn’t just have to be little things either. Maybe you think having sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes would have rounded out the meal better. Let the chef know. It’s important that you use your skills as an amateur food critic to make sure that the menu for next year is the best it can possibly be. It’s always worked for me (besides that one disagreement with the knife, but I think that cousin hated me already), and after a long day in the kitchen, every chef is at their most receptive to any comments you may have.

Tip #4: Ask about everyone’s relationships
Okay, this one might seem rude or even prying at first, but honestly, you have a good reason! It’s really important to know how much you have to budget for traveling to weddings and buying baby shower gifts for the year. Even attending one destination wedding could cost more than buying textbooks for one of your classes ($1,000 – $2,000, minimum), and you know how parents are about not paying for things but making you go anyway.

It’s also important to know if there are any divorces on the horizon. If Cousin Jimmy and his three kids are not going to be in the picture much longer, you don’t have to buy them birthday gifts anymore, and that’s a lab fee or two! As a college student, these are important questions.

Now just remember, these are only tips, so there might be a bit of variance on how well they work for you— but since they worked so well last year for me, I don’t think there should be any issues. Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Post Author: Hannah Robbins