19 Stages of Cooking Your First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’m pretty sure it’s almost everyone’s favorite holiday, because all that is required of you is to eat and watch TV with your family while your body tries to process the several kilos of turkey and sweet potatoes you just inhaled for three straight hours. As long as you ignore the whole "This Holiday Is One Big Fat Lie And Our American Ancestors Were Terrible People" part, Thanksgiving is relatively stress free. If you’re not the one cooking, that is. Make Thanksgiving dinner by yourself for the first time, and you will realize how much work it actually is.

Up until now, it always seemed like the turkey just kind of cooked itself, but that’s so not what happens. And making food for more than four people is actually kind of daunting. You have to like, make sure there is a lot of food. You have to make sure your recipes are doubled or tripled so you don’t end up with a brownie pan-sized portion of green bean casserole. You need to know that instant mashed potatoes are disgusting, so don’t even think about it. You also just need to know how to keep your chill when you’re making more than three things that require the oven.

So, this is for all my baby grown-ups who are, for the first time, too far away from their families to depend on their homes and kitchens and collective culinary prowess for Thanksgiving. If you're forced to cook your first turkey dinner in a couple weeks, just know that it’s going to be amazing. And rewarding. And delicious. But be prepared for the emotional havoc it brings, because it most likely will bring some. Here are the 19 stages you will encounter while cooking up your very first Thanksgiving:

First, the cockiness.

PSH. Thanksgiving. That’s just like, glorified comfort food. Mashed potatoes and a turkey and something mushy and creamy. No. Big. Deal. If pilgrims were able to pull it off, then so can you and your KitchenAid, amirite?

And you have all these grandiose plans.

The more and more you start thinking about it and planning it in your head, the more excited you become about Thanksgiving. You’re going to bake the turkey in apple cider! You’ll recreate Cranberry Bliss Bars like a Starbucks magician! You’ll host the most majestic Thanksgiving dinner, ever. People will talk about it for years and take pictures on Instagram and Facebook.

You enter a Pinterest black hole.

You find vegan recipes for Brussels sprout hummus and pumpkin-carrot-apple soup. You consider making turkey-shaped candles from scratch, because some lifestyle blog makes it look really easy. Cranberry from a can? Over your dead body. You discover like five DIY cranberry sauces that will blow everyone’s minds. You're going ELITE this Thanksgiving.

Because Thanksgiving always seems so far away, you put off buying a turkey out of sheer arrogance.

Your judgment is clouded with Thanksgiving hubris. It’s November 15th, I mean, you’ve got over a week to get a silly frozen bird. People buy these things in like, October. You don’t get it. You probably couldn’t even fit it in your freezer at this point (too many frozen Dino chicken nuggets and tubs of Cookie Butter ice-cream).

So you end up buying a turkey the day before for 60 dollars. You cry a little bit.

Sixty dollars for a bird? A bird that can't even fly? This better be the BEST, juiciest, most flavorful bird.

You get another 300 dollars worth of groceries. More crying ensues.

Well, there goes a quarter of your paycheck. It's OK. This is only once a year. You'll have leftovers for like three months. Consider it an investment.

The morning of: Becoming acquainted with your 60 dollar turkey.

It’s still kind of frozen. You didn’t really think about that part. It’s too big for your kitchen sink, so you let it soak in the tub. Unconventional, yes. But it MUST BE DONE.

You look at the clock and notice it’s 9 a.m. already. You feel overwhelmed.

The turkey is thawing and you haven’t even started boiling the potatoes. That’s the first step, right? Boiling potatoes? But wait, you have to peel them first. Do you even own a peeler? Alright, it's settled: skin-on mashed potatoes. Rustic.


Oh god. You will never get all this food ready in time. There’s just so much of it to make. You’re only one human. How did your mom do this all these years? *Downs three Redbulls*

You finally place the turkey in the oven, and feel a little bit better.

OK, now that the turkey is baking, everything will come together. It just has to. And if everything else falls apart, then screw it. Let ‘em eat turkey.

A terrible epiphany occurs: Oh shit, the pie. You forgot the pie.

Even though you found the PERFECT gluten-free boysenberry pie recipe, you somehow forgot the ingredients. There is NO WAY IN HELL people are going to just be OK with not having pie on Thanksgiving. Maybe you have leftover Halloween candy? You can just like, melt them all together and call it a chocolate tart.

Go to the store, it’s a madhouse. All the pre-made pies are gone.

The boysenberries are gone, too. You want to scream at the gods. How could they have forsaken you like this?

You buy three cans of pumpkin and flour, google how to make pumpkin pie.

The pumpkins are gone too, save for a few sad, dented cans of pumpkin puree. You buy all of them.

You start putting pie ingredients together, realizing this isn’t so bad.

Pumpkin pie is basically like baby food. You’re just putting baby food in the oven. No big deal. You'll even make whipped cream from scratch like Ina Garten.

You enter a new emotional realm: The whatever happens, happens realm.

You know what? Everyone should be THANKFUL you are taking this project on. If they don’t like it, they can go to Denny’s.

Watch as everything comes together magically, like a wizard cleaning a house in a Disney movie.

How is this even happening? How are you pulling this off? Just three hours ago, you had a raw turkey in the oven and 20 boiling, un-peeled Russet potatoes. You are a boss. You should get a trophy for this.

People call, and they’re going to be a little late. Your relief turns into elation.

Now you can make your Pinterest-y cranberry sauce everyone is going to obsess over for the next decade. Perfect.

Pure, unadulterated joy: the turkey is done and actually smells good.

And it looks beautiful. Like really, really beautiful. You want to cry it’s so beautiful. God bless America.

Everything looks kind of amazing. Take that Martha Stewart. That wasn’t even that hard.

As you sit at the kitchen table with a glass of wine and heaps of meat and side salads, you watch as others eat the food you made, single-handedly. And you feel proud. You’re a good grown-up. A+ self. Next year, though? Applebee's.

Images: Fox; Giphy (10)