The dim glow of a microwave. A meager meal of previously frozen turkey and mashed potatoes.
Thanksgiving for one conjures isolating imagery such as this. Or not?
I say being solo for the season doesn’t have to mean a dinner devoid of delicious dishes.
Buttery mounds of mashed potatoes, succulent slices of roast turkey and whopping wedges of pumpkin pie are delicious whether eaten in the company of 90 or no one.
And so I — a recent college graduate who is living in a state away from his family and will not be returning home for Thanksgiving — set out to frugally craft the complete Thanksgiving for one.
With a fistful of dollars, I entered the local Aldi, chosen because it is a grocery store that boasts bargain prices and could maximize my budget.
My list was long: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables, stuffing, rolls, cranberries, wine and dessert.
My confidence was equally sizable. However, I quickly discovered the world is not made for one.
Stuffing for one, rolls for one and cranberries for one, this is not a cost-effective way to sell and package food. So I was forced to bend my rules and buy a box of stuffing and full cans of rolls and cranberries.
However, I found a fiscally responsible and hopefully delicious poultry option in the form of two-behemoth turkey legs for just $7.67.
I was also able to snag just two potatoes. So my mashed potato would be a reality.
The total damage was a reasonable $22.83. But, I still had to cook it all. And, cooking for one, I learned, is much like cooking for a table full of guests.
Whether you are making potatoes for one or four, you still need the pot for boiling, the mixer for beating and a serving tray for plating. So while the final output may have been humble, every inch of the kitchen was called to duty.
Burners sparked alive, while I simultaneously cooked potatoes, stuffing and corn. The oven was a constant carousel of pie, rolls and turkey.
Then, after a whirlwind few hours, my spread was complete.
Molehills of potatoes and stuffing sat alongside a glistening halved cob of corn and solo steaming crescent roll. The piece de resistance, the gargantuan turkey leg, towered amid the other holiday offerings.
I sat down to the long weathered wood table, knife and fork in hand, and ventured forth. My fork darted from potatoes to stuffing, paused for a sliver of cranberry sauce, then doubled back for a slice of turkey. Quickly I whittled away at the bounty on my plate. The food never stood a chance.
This is what Thanksgiving is all about. Thanksgiving is friends and family, too, but it is also food. So if you can’t surround yourself with the former two, at least have the food.
Did I miss the friendly conversations or the occasional familial row? Yes.
It was quiet at my table set for one. But it was delicious there as well. And that counts for something.