The Thanksgiving Spreadsheet

Wait. So you’ve never heard of a Thanksgiving spreadsheet?

As a vegetarian on a food-centric holiday, Thanksgiving historically offered little to me. That is, until I was able to host my own. Not only did it guarantee me food I actually like to eat, but it really let my inner Julia Child shine. Now, Thanksgiving is the Big Show. Step aside, bitches; I am a kitchen diva and this is my day.

You all know Charles M. Schultz, right?

Rolls are made from scratch. The turkey is moist and tender. My mashed potatoes are the creamiest you’ll eat. (Got spoon?) Stick with me, kid, and you’ll have your choice of homemade pie.

All of this, pulled off in a two-bedroom in Albany Park, doesn’t happen without planning. I’m a nerd, so of course I make a spreadsheet. I’ll tell you how it’s done.

I gather my dishes–good little soldiers that work hard, look hot, and make the perfect team. Once I have the lineup complete, I catalog the dishes in a spreadsheet. For every one, I list each ingredient and required quantity. Next, I sort the ingredients in alphabetical order.

Finally, the coup de grâce, I program the spreadsheet to calculate the total amount of each ingredient I’ll need for the entire meal. Sure, I need flour for my rolls, pie crust, and the gravy. But how much do I need overall? I use the calculations to generate my grocery shopping list, which is, of course, organized by store and section.

You think I’m done? Not a chance.

Next up is mapping out my time the week of the big day. Dishes are color-coded by day they will be prepared. For the night before and the big day, I break down the time table to an hour-by-hour accounting of prep work, oven space, reheating requirements, and cooling time.

Perhaps this all makes me a spreadsheet nerd. But days of planning and shopping also makes for weeks of anticipation. You may think of Thanksgiving the week it happens, but it lives in my heart for much longer.

Bring it, Thanksgiving 2014.

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