Whether you make a traditional or nontraditional meal, there may be a tip or two here that you find helpful:

  • Keep flowers and other centerpieces lower than 8 inches so that everyone at the table can see each other.
  • Don’t use packaged bread crumbs or cubes for dressing. Use fresh sourdough bread, torn into pieces and set out to dry overnight.
  • Do not overcook the turkey. When the thigh meat is 180 degrees, the breast meat is unpleasantly dry. Pull your turkey out of the oven when the thigh muscle has reached 160 degrees. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for at least 30 minutes, during which time the temperature will rise several degrees (which means that the meat is still cooking). Both breast and thigh meat will be fully cooked yet tender and moist.
  • For perfect mashed potatoes, put the potatoes through a ricer and use plenty of good butter.
  • Make something — relish, sauce, soup, anything — with fresh cranberries.
  • Save marshmallows to make Rice Krispies treats. Top sweet potatoes with butter and good black pepper.
  • Serve at least one fresh green vegetable, such as green beans or spinach. It will both visually and physically pleasing.
  • Serve pumpkin pie with cream that you whip yourself — it’s easy, I promise; all you do is pour cream into a stainless steel bowl and beat it with a large whisk until it doubles in volume — or add some ginger ice-cream alongside instead.
  • Above all, remember: It’s just one meal. And sharing good time with family and friends is always more important than what is on the table, so if something goes wrong, don’t worry about it.