Monday, November 17, 2008

The Hostess With the Mostest...

At least that's how the saying goes. In my case, though, it should say, "The hostess with the hostessing anxiety." But see how it doesn't quite flow as well?

When Husband and I decided to haul our lives out to the left coast, I declared, in a moment of indignence and poutiness (at least I can admit it, right?) that if we were going to make a go of being Californians, we had to create roots and traditions as a family. I suggested (read: demanded) that all holidays for the first year be held in our new "home", to foster a sense of "home" in a place that, at the time, I couldn't imagine ever feeling like "home".

Husband agreed without much of a fuss. Perhaps it was the added bonus that making Los Angeles into Holiday Central for us meant that we did not have to deal with a two and a half year old repeatedly kicking the seat-back of some poor sap's airplane seat for six hours straight. Never underestimate the power of avoiding having to hold a toddler's legs still for 1/4 of a day.

Now, that first holiday is swiftly approaching (as are the in-laws), and I'm starting to realize exactly what I've gotten myself into. These people aren't going to want spaghetti and meatballs for Thanksgiving, which is a shame, because I kick some serious culinary ass with spaghetti and meatballs (or so I've been told, and yes, I realize that's not really a difficult dish, which is kind of my point). Turkey? Not so much.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not regretting the decision to host Thanksgiving. I am actually really looking forward to it, in a browse through cooking magazines to find the perfect recipe for mashed potatoes and spend way more than is reasonable on things like table runners, gold chargers and napkin rings (none of which go with our china pattern, which is decidedly UNThanksgiving-y, which means we need new plates). And of course I'm looking forward to it in a visit-with-the-family-and-show-them-where-we-live-our-lives kind of way. I am blessed not to have the type of relationship with my inlaws that makes one need to borrow a week's worth of Xanax from a friend (and I don't say that only because they read this...), so that's not the issue. I cannot wait to see Ethan get reacquainted with Grandma Judy and Grandpa Harry as well as his Tia Emi and Tio Pete and baby Sofia. And I can't wait to have the house full of family, telling stories and watching movies and having meals together.

My source of stress comes from the "oh my god, what if something is undercooked and I make everyone sick," kind of anxiety (i.e. Frank Costanza giving food poisoning to his entire battalion in Korea and suffering flashbacks into his old age, anyone? "No good!!! No good!!").

I am also sure that this brand new experience is going to dredge up some awesome control issues. I am learning that I have a serious problem asking for help and I tend to interpret someone's attempt at help as an indication of my own incompetence (please feel free to spin your finger around your ear in a traditional "koo koo! she's koo koo!" motion. I accept that). So I am anticipating that by next Tuesday I'll be swirling in an whirlpool of self-doubt and defensiveness, and hey, who doesn't LOVE that in a hostess?

Husband is very familiar with this self-doubt and defensiveness maelstrom; it's a wonder to me that he agrees to let me host a play date, let alone Thanksgiving (again, the seduction of avoiding the airplane/toddler equation is almost unbeatable). He knows that my craziness will probably extend from shopping for ingredients to chopping vegetables to finding room in the refrigerator to reheating the ordered turkey (see, I will have an opportunity to muck that up!) to setting the table. And it will probably involve me drinking quite a bit of red wine.

So to my wonderful family traveling great distances to spend the holidays with us--if I seem like a bit of a whackadoo in the day or two leading up to Thanksgiving, please don't take it as a sign that I don't want you around or that I don't want you to help. It will just be me grappling with my inner perfectionist (which we all know from my lack of housekeeping and culinary skills lies dormant for the better part of the year--she's got a LOT of work to do to get all that Martha Stewart out in those 48 hours). But take heart, only a few weeks after Thanksgiving, my side of the family will be arriving for Hannukah, so I will try my very best to keep some of the crazy for them, too.

9 comments:

Sarah said...

Whole Foods. My contributions to all holiday meals this year will come from Whole Foods to my kitchen, where they will be re-plated and passed off as homemade. I think you could do that with a whole meal if you really wanted to. Sounds super fun to host the holiday, though-- good luck!

Anonymous said...

First of all, I agree with Sarah's comment. I went through years of hostessing anxiety before reading the foreward to Barefoot Contessa's Parties cookbook in which she states that buying prepared food and being in a happy mindset is doing more for your guests than giving them gourmet food but crying through the whole meal from the stress you have caused yourself.

All that said, I have insisted every dish served at Thanksgiving when I was hosting(and this was for 16 ppl mind you!) be homemade and typically from Gourmet or Bon Appetit, therefore, I have some very yummy recipies I am happy to share. One caveat, however: I did host all those Thanksgiving dinners while childfree so I had a lot more time and energy to do the work!!

And yes, we hostesses pay dearly for the convenience of not traveling!!

Karen

Cubby's Mom said...

Last Thanksgiving, I was put in charge of my first dish: green bean casserole. It was my introduction to grown-up-hood, and I figured it couldn't be too hard if the recipe is on the back of a can. Turns out, the recipe should mention that the green beans need to be PRE-COOKED. Our green bean casserole was really, really crunchy. Let this be a lesson to you, and good luck!

Becca said...

I do the exact same thing, but you will do great!!

Kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate said...

http://tinyurl.com/69ypld

Best damn turkey that you and your in-laws will ever have.

(sorry I deleted earlier post)

Monica said...

You'll be fine. Stick the bird in one of those oven bags, and it does all the cooking for you. The bird comes out nice and brown and juicy. You can't go wrong, it's idiot proof =) (not implying that you're an idiot, that came out wrong)

AJU5's Mom said...

First - what is costing more- hosting or traveling? My guess is traveling...

Second, can you pass off some of the cooking to your guests? We do this at my parents now - each of us takes a dish so my mom isn't cooking everything (plus some of us are better cooks than my mom). It could cut down on a lot of the stress too!

Tress said...

Um, you're LEARNING that you have a problem asking for help? Hello, kettle, this is the pot speaking!

Seriously, listen to Monica. Get the oven bags. So. So. Easy.